Gay Times, August 1996

WHEN I saw The Sun’s headline “Loony Lottery”,  I thought, yes, betting at odds of 16 million-to-one is certainly loony. But the story turned out not to be about the impossible dream but about how the Charities Board spends the money set aside by the Lottery for “good causes”.

In tabloid-speak the Loony Lottery is simply a variation of the Loony Left – spending all its ill-gotten gains on gays, prostitutes, foreigners and other dissolutes.

The papers were. of course, taking their lead from that nice Mr Major who was said to have “thumped the table” in anger when he heard that some of the Lottery cash was being given to organisations like the Leicester Lesbian. Gay and Bisexual Centre and the Gay London Policing Project.

Could this be the same Mr Major who once invited Sir Ian McKellen round for tea and to wish him well his gay rights campaign?’ What on earth could have brought on such a violent volte face? It couldn’t have had anything to do with keeping another of his Euro-embarrassments off thefront pages, could it?

“Major Fury at Lottery Payout – charity cash goes to gay groups and a prostitutes centre” was the Mail’s obliging front-page lead. The tabloids were grateful to the Prime Minister for handing them a whole new area of “political correctness” to bang on about, and they constantly railed about the Charities Board, which was suddenly portrayed as a bunch do-gooding left-wingers.

The Chanties Board in its turn was defiant. In fact, it gave a rather vigorous response to the posturings of the Tories and their tabloid lapdogs. The Board’s head, David Sieff, said: “All groups offered grants sent excellent applications and were assessed thoroughly against our criteria.” 

That cut no ice with the publicity-seekers on the Tory backbenches Peter Butler, the MP for North East Milton Keynes, was quoted in The London Evening Standard as saying that he thought it was “a disgrace that public money should be spent on those sort of people” The Sun said. “When the Lottery was started we were told our pounds would help good causes like The Scouts, youth clubs, medical research, old people and the needy. We never dreamt that hundreds of millions would go to opera, ballet and a host of politically-correct schemes while boys clubs and groups giving holidays to child cancer victims were turned away without a penny.”

The Daily Express thought it “was wrong to use cash from the public to support groups that encourage perverted or immoral behaviour, or help foreigners slide round our immigration controls . What if £10,000 had been given to, say, a group campaigning to win acceptance for sex with children or a National Front youth summer camp?” 

But despite this sanctimony from the Tory press, Mr Major’s little ploy backfired on him, in the way that everything seems to these days. The Guardian said “The protest could not have been more confected. It was badly planned poorly executed and ended, deservedly, with egg all over the protesters’ faces. A Prime Minister who once claimed he wanted to create a classless society showed himself ready to attack even the most vulnerable minority charities for narrow party advantage. Ministers did not just look foolish, they looked cheap.” 

The Independent editorialised that had our grotesque Home Secretary, Michael Howard, made these homophobic remarks at a party conference, no-one would have noticed. But the fact that supposed moderates like John Major and Virginia Bottomley had said it was different “These are supposed to be the balanced, mature, sensible and tolerant members of the Cabinet. Probably they look in the mirror and see that liberals are smiling back They should look again. Their remarks this week were not only illiberal, they were vile” 

Alex Falconer, MEP, wrote to The Guardian saying that he thought that small minority charities are the only ones deserving of lottery grants. “All the other so-called good causes should be properly resourced from national taxation. The Charities Board is a substitute for a well-regulated and fair taxation system. It takes money from those people least able to afford to subsidise these areas of public life which are rightly the province of public funding.”

These remarks cam to mind a few days later when The Sun reported that an old folks home had changed its name to the Gay Gnome Club to give it a better chance of getting a lottery grant

The chairman of the Club said that “the lottery people ignored our request, most probably because we are straight and normal.”

But what the hell is an old folks home appealing for charity money anyway? What did they pay all those National insurance stamps and taxes for over the years? Surely the state should be caring for them, they shouldn’t need to depend on the whim of a Chanty Board. This ail has the whiff of those Victorian Values so beloved of the Tories.  If they aren’t careful, the Gay Gnomes Club will shortly find that their Old Folks Home has been redesignated as a workhouse, and then it’ll be too late for them to realise they’ve been shooting at the wrong target. 

The whole business has pointed up a disgraceful aspect to our national life. It shows just how the nation is being conned by the Lottery and how the Government is using it as a way to wash its hands of its proper responsibilities. The point has been made, of course, that it there really is widespread disgust at the way “good causes” money is being spent. Lottery players have an option which is not open to them with taxation They can refuse to buy tickets. 

Try suggesting that to the Great Bntish public when there’s a £20,000,000 roll-over. 

***

THE DAILY MAIL returned to the theme of Aids funding last month. Apparently, gay activists working in the “Aids lobby” (or “Aids industry or “Aids Mafia”, depending on the paper you read) have said that the “we are all at risk” education campaigns have been a “deceit” and that “experts, doctors and politicians created a myth wasting £1 5bn of your money.” 

Quintessential Mail journalist Anne Leslie patted herself on the back saying she had the foresight to resist the “deliberate deception on the part of the gay lobby” that had cost so much and achieved so little. “I stressed that Aids was not simply a tragic and incurable disease it was a boom industry,” she wrote. The money being siphoned out of taxpayers’ pockets was enriching the ad-men, the hucksters, carpet-baggers who were swarming on the Aids gravy train, all shrieking Gimme, gimme, gimme.” 

Andrew Neil made much the same point, saying that The Sunday Times under his editorship was the most prominent paper to argue that heterosexual Aids was a myth, and the latest statistics “totally vindicated’ the paper’s stance.

Princess Diana then came under attack for continuing to associate herself with those affected by HIV and Aids. Mary Kenny, The Daily Express ‘s “Christian” columnist, counselled the Princess to abandon her efforts to raise awareness of the disease “She must not be fooled by those lobbies which spread the propaganda that everyone is at risk when knows that it is a specific behaviour that puts specific people at risk”. 

But what is the real message of these journalists and many others of their ilk on the right-wing press? Did they think money had been “wasted” because only gay mens’ lives had been saved? That it should have been spent on “real people” with “real” problems? Perhaps the most honest spokesman for these people is extreme right-wing Tory MP Terry Dicks who said in a letter to The Daily Mail “It’s only people with dirty needles and filthy habits who stand any real risk of catching Aids” The unspoken conclusion to that is: “And they deserve it,”

One of the “disciples of doom” that The Daily Mail named as being instrumental in “spreading lies” was Baroness Jay. She was allowed a forlorn comment at the bottom of one of the many pages devoted to this issue and said: “If there had been no great awareness campaign and there had been high levels of infection there would have been the most terrible fuss. It’s one of those things that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” 

Indeed, over in The Independent, Tom Wilkie was warning against those who preach that HIV is not a potential danger for everyone. “By logic that defeats rational dissection, the very success of the safe sex campaign has now been transmuted into evidence that it was never needed at all. Globally in 1996, Aids is a disease of heterosexuals, although gay men remain the most affected group in Western countries and the death toll among them is terrible.” Mr Wilkie reported that in the UK something like 9,000 people have died from Aids, whereas in the United States, with just four times our population, 318,000 have succumbed He thinks this may have something to do with the influence of that country’s strong “moral majority” which has intervened in every public education campaign about the disease. 

In France. Italy and Spain where no coherent health messages were disseminated, the incidence of new Aids cases is running at four times the British rate. So, was that money really wasted? As Tom Wilkie has said “Every case of Aids is an individual tragedy, but that the absolute numbers are so small is a cause to rejoice, not curse that the money was so well spent in the past.” 

This reasoning did not stop the Mail editorialising mightily over its great (although somewhat belated) revelation that Aids education campaigns are to be re-gayed: “At last, the truth is conceded and the Aids awareness campaign is to be targeted where it all along should have been: at members of the predominantly vulnerable gay community. They deserve compassion and help” Read that again: “They deserve compassion and help.” In the very same issue of the paper there was a news item criticising the Charities Board for awarding a small grant to a gay group called Freedom Youth 96. One of the group’s aims is to distribute vital health information to the most vulnerable section of the gay community – those under 25. And yet the Mail recruited Tory MP David Wilshire – one of the architects of Section 28 – to comment that the grant was “absolutely disgraceful”. The headline said it all: “Gay barbecues to burn Lottery cash”.

What was it the Daily Mail was saying about gays deserving “compassion and help”? The crocodile tears are sick-making

***

QUOTE – UNQUOTE

JODIE FOSTERis suing PolyGram for $10 million after, she alleges, they broke an oral agreement for her to star in the film, The Game. PolyGram, reported The Guardian, cites “creative differences”, though rumour has it that the company felt Foster wouldn’t be accepted by audiences as a romantic lead. However, The Guardian naughtily suggests another reason: “So it would be absolutely nothing to do with the rumours around Hollywood that Foster is about to come out of the closet, then.’”

IT CAME ASa bolt from the blue. Jim Davidson in his Daily Mirror comment urged for all those harassing Michael Barrymore to leave him alone. His sexuality isn’t an Issue, he said, and added: “I’m there to help him He can come and stay with me if he wants.” But ever the ‘comedian’ the cheeky Cockney added: “That’s as long as I’ve got my back against the wall, of course.“ Davidson up against a wall, now there’s an idea. 

“I WILL SMASHevery hooligan I meet, break their bones, split their skin open, and bloody them generally. They will receive no mercy from me, though I shall still pray for my attackers, once I have disabled them. Praise the Lord.” Thus spake 86-year-old Sister Leema of St Anne’s convent in Madras. She and the nuns have been receiving karate classes after several of the sisters had been attacked. (Quoted in Private Eye). 

“WE’VE BEENtogether for three years, we’ve never gone through separate entrances and we’ve never disguised the fact that we’re together. But we don’t make an issue of our relationship,.. Anyone whose life revolves around their sexuality, well, it’s boring,” Elton John’s lover David Furnish told The Radio Times while plugging his documentary about the superstar, Tantrums and Tiaras. 

THERE MAY SOON COMEa time when the one-legged Irish lesbian beloved of chroniclers of looney left lore is seen as a target voter by Conservative Central Office and courted accordingly. Sitting MPs in key marginals can be astonishingly broad-minded.” said journalist Anne McElvoy in The Spectator on the changing Tory attitude towards gays

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