GAY TIMES 89, February 1986

Realising that he has latched onto an easy source of cheap publicity, Bernard Manning has renewed his attack on gays. A report in THE SUN told us that he had appeared on the Joan Rivers Show, which is being made by the BBC for transmission in April. Manning is reported to have made crude and cruel jokes about Aids and said that “The idea of homosexuals sticking their tongues down each other’s throats is disgusting.” A member of the studio audience told THE SUN: “Manning turned the air blue. If it had not been a TV show, I would have got up and walked out.”

A few days later THE STAR picked up the story and, after asking Joan Rivers for a comment, made it the front-page lead. She obliged by calling Manning a “fat pig … tremendous hypocrite … and even a secret homosexual.”

Manning didn’t like that last one. “To say I’m a secret homosexual is going too far. That makes me very angry. My mother is 85 and that sort of thing could really upset her.”

Oh deary me. Diddums do it. But you can’t have it all ways, Porky darling, if you’re in the insults game, you’ve got to be prepared to get as good as you give.

Jean Rook, who is not ashamed to designate herself The First Lady of Fleet Street, commented on the spat between Manning and Rivers in THE DAILY EXPRESS. “The ugly-tongued pair were made for each other,” she said. “They should walk off hand-in-trotter. Into their bloody sunset.”

Given her own dexterity with the poison pen, it might well be a case of the kettle-calling-the-frying-pan-calling-the-dish-rag smelly.


Another moaning minny (if I might borrow a phrase from a well-known megalomaniac) is Geoffrey Dickens, Tory MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth. He’s the one formulating plans to get Britain’s gay clubs and pubs closed down, ostensibly to “stop the spread of Aids”. Now, according to THE SUN, he’s had a “death threat” from someone in Amsterdam. The letter said: “Educate yourself about Aids before pursuing the closedown. You drive the gay community underground and we’ll take you with it.”

It ended with a Latin phrase roughly translated as “watch out for the hangman’s rope.”

But if Mr Dickens makes such dire threats at a whole community can he really complain if they hit back – even if it’s only with a letter? I understand that Mrs Thatcher averages ten death threats a week – and that’s only from Michael Heseltine.

Dreary Dickens goes on to say: “I haven’t got it in for the gay community.” The question is: has someone got it in for him?

Let’s face it, Geoffrey Dickens is one of those pathetic politicians (Peter Bruinvels is another) who think that by having their names in the papers all the time they can fool their constituents into believing that it’s the same as actually doing something useful. They rush at each opportunity to an ever-eager SUN with an extreme quote about Aids or gays or child sex or prostitution or whatever the latest media craze is. Because journalists describe them as “raging” “angry” or “furious” it gives the impression that they actually give a toss about the issues they’re blabbing about.

I’m afraid that like Bernard Manning, these men are just cynical media manipulators.


“London rape duo ‘homosexual’ link” was the nonsensical headline in the LONDON STANDARD over an equally silly story. According to police who are hunting two men responsible for 27 rapes of women in the capital, the perpetrators “could be homosexual”. The police don’t explain why two gay men should be involved.

Donning my Holmesian deerstalker I have done a spot of deduction on this case. Because these men are obviously callous, brutish, insensitive, amoral and as cunning as sin, it leads me to conclude that one is a policeman and the other is a journalist.


Channel Four’s BROTHERS achieved one ambition for the gay community. At last we have a sit-com with gay characters you can like and admire. Although American in origin, it has tried to tackle the issues without fudging too much. The gay angles are sympathetic and strongly drawn. The gay characters are as rounded as can reasonably be expected in such a setting.

Individual episodes walked a tightrope of bad taste, pulling back at the last minute from being offensive in order to let the gays win in the end. Naturally it is necessary to introduce the bigotry for it to be knocked it down.

The only thing that fails to convince is the fact that the gay brother, Clifford (Paul Regina), moons around making out he can’t find a “special (man) friend”. And yet he is handsome, well-built, charming, witty and everything anybody could want. His older, heterosexual brother, Joe, on the other hand, has managed to get himself several girlfriends during the course of the first series—one of whom made such violent love to him that the pictures trembled on the walls.

Never mind, I’m told that another fifty episodes have been commissioned and surely such a divine creature as Paul Regina cannot retain his virginity for that long. I’d make the pictures tremble with him any day.


The attitudes of the medical profession to gays is becoming increasingly important as the Aids crisis deepens. The idea of doctors displaying Manning-type tendencies when Aids is on the agenda is frightening. It was interesting, therefore, to see a comment in The BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL on the subject. “When Oscar Wilde was sentenced to a prison term for a homosexual offence it is said that the harlots danced for joy in the streets—while when he was travelling to Reading Goal bystanders on a station platform spat in his face. Since then the attitudes of the public in general and of doctors in particulars have changed—or have they?”

The question was prompted because for the past three years the BMJ has been carrying a small, discreetly-worded advertisement for the Gay Medical Association. Nothing unusual you might say, but the editors were shocked by the vituperative letters they received, demanding the ad’s withdrawal. “Am I to construe that the BMA and the editorial committee support the activities of such a band of homosexual perverts?” said one,  while another ranted: “… you may well be condoning and facilitating behaviour that … is wrong in that it is both perverted and immoral.”

A debate was forced at the Annual Representative Meeting of the BMA, with a motion demanding the removal of the advertisement. I’m pleased to say it was rejected—but one wonders just how representative of the medical profession in general these letter-writers were?


Paranoia bloomed briefly last month when Dr John Seale (“a Harley Street specialist” according to THE GUARDIAN) put forward the theory that the Aids virus was man-made for use in germ warfare. The Guardian could find no evidence to support such a theory. However, the London listings magazine CITY LIMITS took the story up and revealed that “More home-grown CIA ‘plant’ theories were mooted by some in the US gay movement itself … In Christopher Street, New York, the most serious ‘conspiracy’ theory has been researched by a team of journalists working on The New York Native—a gay newspaper … Their theory is not that the virus was ‘manufactured’ but that the State Department has been involved in a massive cover-up about the nature of the disease. They suggest this is because it involves the possible infestation of US cattle and any speculation along these lines would threaten the whole US agricultural budget.”

Well, it’s food for thought.


On the Aids front again, sombre features were included in THE SUNDAY TIMES and the NEWS OF THE WORLD. The NoW two-page spread reported on the work of “New York specialist in the disease” Dr Joseph Sonnabend. He told horrific tales of cases he had treated and the rejection and vilification of the victims. “This disease has brought out the very worst in human beings. A complete lack of compassion. Sufferers are just walking the streets in total despair. People are terrified to be in the same room as them.”

Sonnabend puts some of the blame for the panic on the powerful Aids Medical Foundation which he helped to launch and from which he has now resigned. “It started spreading social messages I found horrendous,” he said. “It suggested the disease could be passed on by prostitutes and was going to eventually wipe everyone out. The truth is there is no sign of the disease spreading outside the groups at risk—homosexuals, drug addicts and people who had transfusions with infected blood.”

Dr Sonnabend assures us he is not anti-gay but, he says, there can be no doubt that Aids has “spread amongst homosexuals because of the promiscuous lifestyle of some.” The NoW made much of this with a banner across the top of the feature reading “Promiscuity and depravity have spread this.” However, the paper admits that things are changing and Sonnabend says: “Aids in America is beginning to decrease. Homosexuals are being more careful. …I believe Aids will eventually disappear.”

I sincerely hope he’s right. But in the meantime the people who’ve fallen victim already are dying in terrible circumstances. THE SUNDAY TIMES did a follow-up report on the story of John Coffee, a young American haemophiliac who, when he discovered he had Aids, offered himself as a guinea pig for research. He endured all kinds of treatments and therapies, some of them extremely painful. His wife continued to kiss and cuddle him until the end proving, as she said, that “Aids is a difficult disease to catch.”

GAY TIMES 97, October 1986

This month’s award to gross disservice to British journalism goes to The Star. Step forward Lloyd Taylor editor of that detestable organ, and claim the honour of managing to achieve the impossible—becoming even more squalid than The Sun.

The scene was set by The Star’s gossip columnist Peter Tory who still subscribes to the “gay plague” interpretation of Aids and therefore considers it a suitable topic for jollity. On two days this month (3rd and 5th Sept) he made bad taste and vicious “jokes” at the expense of people who are suffering from the disease. A more despicable use of newspaper space would be difficult to imagine until you come to The Star’s new columnist “Mills”.

He was introduced to us on 2 Sept under the heading “The Angry Voice”. We were told we could expect yet another semi-fascist ranter. “Mills will often find himself sharing a political bed of nails with… the National Front … ‘patriots’ … and all those whose political philosophy is entirely encompassed by the four-point plan: ‘Hang ‘em, flog ‘em, castrate ‘em and send ‘em home.” He would, he promised us, also rail against “Wooftahs, pooftahs, nancy boys, queers, lezzies—the perverts whose moral sin is to so abuse the delightful word ‘gay’ as to render it unfit for human consumption.”

“Mills” assured us that he would be an original and refreshing voice, but from this introduction he sounded to me just like all the other raving right-wingers who pollute the pages of our press: George Gale, Jean Rook, Paul Johnson, Peregrine Worsthorne, Richard Ingrams—any of them could have described themselves as Mills did.

Needless to say, his lack of anything new to say about gays was proved in the following column (9 Sept) which was headed: “Get back in the closet!” He wrote: “Insidiously, almost imperceptibly, the perverts have got the heterosexual majority with their backs against the wall (the safest place, actually …)” (Yawn) “The freaks proclaim their twisted morality almost nightly on TV … where will it ever end? Where it may end, of course, is by natural causes. The woofters have had a dreadful plague visited upon them, which we call Aids, and which threatens to decimate their ranks. Since the perverts offend the laws of God and nature, is it fanciful to suppose that one or both is striking back? … Little queers or big queers, Mills has had enough of them all—the lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, the hermaphrodites and the catamites and the gender benders who brazenly flaunt their sexual failings to the disgust and grave offence of the silent majority. A blight on them all says Mills.”

Sound familiar? “Mills” hadn’t finished, though, and continued to cram in every cliché, myth, lie and prejudice that has ever been invented by the anti-gay lobby. At any other time I would have written all this off as a sad example of the lamentable state of our press, but taken in conjunction with the other things that are happening all around us I can only describe it as an incitement to hatred and violence. It made a mockery of the NUJ’s “Campaign for Real People”, flaunting all the union’s codes of conduct. I have complained to the NUJ’s Ethics Council, but I hold little hope that there will be any check on the way the press are orchestrating this vicious campaign of anti-gay propaganda.

Campaign for Real People? Perhaps the NUJ would be better engaged in a Campaign for Real Newspapers,


When is a disease not a disease? Answer: when it’s associated with homosexuals. Then, apparently, it becomes “a straightforward moral issue.” This is the opinion of the Scottish Health Minister, Mr John McKay as quoted in The Guardian (5 Sept). Letting us know that he “did not think the public would expect him to make extra resources available to combat Aids”, he is quoted as saying: “I’m afraid it will just have to be treated as one of the problems of the health service. The only other payround is for people who get it to pay themselves, or someone else is always going to have to pay.”

So where does the “morality” come into such an argument when human misery and suffering has to take second place to money, and gay lives have a significantly lower price than heterosexual ones. If Mrs Thatcher and her insane back benchers share these values then I fear greatly for the future.


Thelma Holt “a middle-aged, heterosexual Christian” wrote a passionate, and compassionate letter to The GuardIian (12 Sept) in reply to the Minister’s comments. She spoke of her horror at the insidious idea that gay victims of Aids should be regarded differently to others. She also made the point that Aids is no more “self-inflicted” than those diseases caused by excessive alcohol, tobacco or rich food. Indeed, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the hoo-ha if it was suggested that lung cancer victims or those with hardened arteries should be compelled to pay for their own treatment.

“Psychiatrists,” Ms Holt wrote, “point out that those who agitated vociferously or hysterically to prevent the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in private were often fighting their own sexual proclivities; we were to understand that such a theory held good however many children such campaigners had fathered. We need to recall this theory…”

She also chided “some newspaper commentators who have for years incited the public to harry and despise: homosexuals” and reminded them that theirs was a “line of argument which Adolf Hitler pursued and took to its ghastly conclusion in the death camps.”

Is anybody listening?


The Sunday Mirror carried another of its interminably boring Royal Gossip features of 14 Sept. It started with the old story about the Queen Mother wanting a drink. “She simply shouted down to the kitchen ‘Is there an old queen down there who can bring an old Queen up here a gin and tonic?’”

In a single moment Britain’s best-loved royal had shown how many of the family feel about the known homosexuals working in their service.

Shock! Horror! Scandal! A “Gay Mafia” operating at the palace! But the royal family don’t seem unduly perturbed even though these pernicious gays have “brought the Royal Family some of its darkest moments”. Like what? “There was the time for instance,” says The Sunday Mirror, “when nine members of the Royal yacht Britannia’s crew were jailed for forming a homosexual vice ring.” Now just a minute—what the Sunday Mirror perceives as a “vice ring” ordinary people simply call “affairs” or “loving relationships.” In the bizarre world of the tabloids, of course, homosexuals are incapable of such things.

The truth of the matter is that all the “gay scandals” that have been attached to the royal family have been entirely contrived by the tabloids. Their two favourite subjects, homosexuality and royalty, can’t often be linked, but when they can… well, batten down the hatches your Majesty.

I hold no brief for royalty, but my estimation would rise if once-just once—they would repay the loyalty of their gay staff in standing by them when they are being hounded and vilified by the press.


The whole confused cocktail of Aids, homophobia, sex education and Tory “morality” was given another outing in a ludicrously contradictory editorial in The Daily Telegraph (16 Sept). While the leader writer accepted that “education” was essential to stop the spread of the virus the good old Telegraph couldn’t just say “OK get on with it” – there had to be ‘controls’. “Councils which insist on instruction on homosexuality cannot be prevented; but they can be sensibly countered… If the medical message on Aids is as serious as many believe, a campaign to instruct, to counsel and to warn – in which, dare we add, a moral undertone, would not come amiss – is the first priority.”

This gibberish is what I think is commonly known as going round in ever-decreasing circles.


The anti-gay lobby is increasing its visibility, egged on by the political strength of its right-wing sympathisers. The Tory Government has created a perfect climate in this country for the anti-sex brigade to propagate its views. The papers are more than happy to assist in the puritan backlash, and here is a selection of quotes to illustrate just how widely the views of our potential oppressors are being disseminated:

“When it comes to aggressive promoting of homosexuality, it is wrong. There is a difference between encouraging and accepting homosexuality.”—Kenneth Baker, Education Secretary, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (14 Sept).

“I do not, of course, have anything against homosexuals and lesbians … my concern is to prevent the corruption of children who are at an impressionable age.”—Harry Greenway MP, EALING LEADER (5 Sept).

“To date there has been no public discussion about the isolation or quarantine of Aids carriers neither about recriminalisation of homosexuality … Such measures may still prove effective.”—Dr Adrian Rogers, DAILY TELEGRAPH (10 Sept).

“The only valid variety of relationship is between a man and a woman. Any other relationship is abnormality, even if – like homosexuality – it is a very common abnormality.”—Coun. Tony Young, EALING GAZETTE (12 Sept).

“If homosexuals themselves are really unashamed of their abhorrent sexuality… they should be able to emerge from behind the gaudy ‘gay’ curtain, and openly and consistently declare and confess themselves to be no more nor less than what they truly are, namely, homosexuals”.– -Dr EJ Micham, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (7 Sept).

“Man was too highly sexed for his reproductive needs. He was out of balance with nature, so nature was killing off the most highly sexed, the promiscuous. The homosexuals were being killed off first because they were more promiscuous and now the promiscuous heterosexuals were following.”—Dr Kevin Hume, DAILY TELEGRAPH (15 Sept).

“Few health officials go so far as to educate the public that homosexuality is not only biologically illogical but spiritually a sin.”—The PLAIN TRUTH (sic) (Oct).

“What next? Can we soon look forward to special TV epics for paedophiles, necrophiliacs, pyromaniacs, sado-masochists, satanists and sundry other freaks?”—WORCESTER EVENING NEWS commenting on the Channel 4 gay season (15 Aug).

“The 1967 Sexual Offences Act sought to remove the fear of blackmail from male homosexuals but did not confer approval on homosexual lifestyles. If Parliament could have foreseen Hackney Council’s Gay Pride Week things would have been very different. But how to put the genie back in the bottle? There’s the problem. – Newsletter of the Conservative Family Campaign.


George Gale was interviewed in London listings magazine City Limits (14 Sept). The interviewer found him rather an amiable chap rather than the expected ogre.

Gale insisted that when he wrote so vituperatively about gays he was really only getting at “the lunatic antics of some left-wing councils.” But George Gale writes regularly about homosexuals being responsible for Aids, and about our promiscuity (“Just as pedarests flit from boy to boy so do homosexuals flit from one to another.”). This doesn’t sound like an attack on left wing councils to me —it sounds like straightforward homophobia.

GAY TIMES 99, December 1986

AIDS is once more big news and we are subjected to the sad spectacle of the newspapers trying to convince us that at last they are taking the matter seriously. Their new-found ‘responsibility’ is quite pathetic to behold. The tabloids put on their poker faces-and then sum up an immensely complex subject in three paragraphs. The problem is that the so-called serious treatment is almost as bad as their previous disgraceful behaviour when Aids was just ‘the gay plague’.

Ben Elton, who has a column in The Daily Mirror had the courage to criticise his own paper (10 Nov) for trying to encapsulate such a complicated thing into a brief question-and-answer format. “I thought it unwise to publish such vague ‘symptoms’” wrote Mr Elton. “Apparently, Aids symptoms include dry throat, diarrhoea and fatigue. I get the same effect from six pints of lager and a few fags. Last week surgeries everywhere must have been crammed with hungover people holding The Mirror and thinking they were going to die. I’m not being flippant. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

And a little knowledge is still what the papers are giving their readers. And for all their alleged concern The Daily Mail still managed to carry a critical front page lead (Oct 30) about Manchester City Council’s planned response to Aids. The Council had said that they intended to support and help victims of the disease in their employ and do their best to try and stop ill-informed colleagues making life even more miserable for them. The Tory leader of the council Joyce Hill was given the lion’s share of space to say: “It is not fair to ask a family man to work alongside an Aids carrier without even letting him know he could be at risk. The council should get its priorities right, this is not the kind of thing it should be wasting money on.”

Can you believe what you are reading? Are the people who produce The Daily Mail really so heartless, so ignorant and such downright bastards that they think efforts to help sick people are wrong? Yes, I’m afraid they are. For was it not the DAILY MAIL that gave arch-Tory propagandist Paul Johnson a full page (Nov 4) to return to his favourite subject? “Aids: The danger Labour ignores at Britain’s peril” was the headline over an article which was, as you’d expect from Mr Johnson, full of distortions, unconvincing overstatements and back-to-front conclusions. According to Mr Johnson, you can forget about the conspiracy theory that Aids was created in an American laboratory —no, it is the Labour Party who are to blame for the whole Aids situation because they have supported gay people. “During the past five years, while the evidence of the Aids peril has grown, the Labour Party has step-by-step committed itself to policies which place homosexuality on a moral par with normal sex and encourage its expression.” Mr Johnson rants on and on about “homosexual militants”, “pro-homosexual propaganda” and so on. He concludes: “On the issues of Aids and the homosexual connection, Labour is playing politics with human lives. As the public grasps this fact, there could be an awesome political retribution.”

Mr Johnson might well be right. No doubt he will work day and night to make sure his prediction comes true. What he forgets is that he, too, is playing with human lives, but they are only homosexual lives so they can, in his reckoning, be discounted. Paul Johnson is a sad and cynical man. His shocking use of a terrible tragedy to score cheap and easy political points makes me feel sick.

But at least Johnson’s thinking is his own. For now we have that other right-wing columnist Woodrow Wyatt in The NEWS OF THE WORLD saying precisely the same thing. “Some Labour councils encourage Aids with grants to homosexual centres. So do Labour education authorities telling children that homosexuals living together are as stable as married couples. They also encourage children to experiment with sex. This is murder.”

It would be too much for Woodrow Wyatt and Paul Johnson to understand that unless gay people are encouraged to feel secure as members of society and able to get together occasionally for mutual support then they will become unreachable with the vital information about Aids. The reason so many gay relationships are unstable is precisely because of the bigoted attitudes of people like this. Important points such as these cannot be considered by Johnson, Wyatt et al because they are not really engaged in any kind of constructive discussion, they are engaged in propaganda. But by far the biggest tragedy—and there is overwhelming evidence of it happening already — is that Aids will become a party-political issue. Right wing puritans are already jumping on the bandwagon with their irrelevant moralising, carelessly ignoring the enormous human suffering involved. Foremost amongst these is the staggeringly obsessed Dr Adrian Rodgers of Exeter, who pops up with depressing frequency on TV and in the papers with his strident calls for the re-criminalisation of homosexuality and imprisoning of people with Aids.

If the issue is used to score cheap political points I fear that what is now a huge medical problem could turn into a social catastrophe. This is a problem for the whole human race and not one to be used by politicians as a tool to retain power. And not only are our local minor politicians using Aids like this, it is also emerging as an ideological battleground for East and West. The SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (Nov 9) said: “Whilst the rest of the world frantically endeavours to find a cure for the plague of Aids, the KGB is using the disease as a cynical campaign of disinformation against the West”.

My advice to all the Fleet Street “thinkers”, the destructive so-called moralisers and the super power plotters, is to put aside dogmatic stances and face up to Aids as a tragedy for the whole of mankind. This disease doesn’t care whether your politics are red, blue or candy-striped.


Remember Mills, The Star’s so-called “angry voice”? He’s the man who has, since his column started some months ago, managed to contravene every single article of the National Union of Journalists code of ethics. He is racist, homophobic, anti-women—in fact, if you aren’t a white, heterosexual male you are fair game for Mills’ fascist rantings. And he doesn’t hold back. Indeed, the columns are almost unbelievably crude. The fact that a national newspaper sees fit to print such stuff speaks volumes for the rapidly declining state of the British Press.

Now we discover, courtesy of the London listings magazine City Limits (Oct 30), that Mills is, in fact, Ray Mills, the deputy editor of The Star. He is known to his colleagues as “Biffo”. Mr Mills thinks this is an affectionate soubriquet after the cartoon bear but, in fact, it stands for Big Ignorant Fat Fucker from Oldham, according to an ex-member of the Star’s staff quoted in City Limits.

I suggest that Gay Times readers could make life a little more difficult for the obnoxious Mills. I already have a complaint lodged against him with the ethics council of the NUJ and I suggest others make similar complaints, either to the NUJ or the Commission for Racial Equality when appropriate.

And finally, a world to Mills’ colleagues at The Star: your silence in the face of this journalistic abomination is almost as bad as Ray Mills’ own stirring up of racial and sexual hatred. His violent words will soon incite violent action. Are you going to sit by and let innocent people take the brunt of Ray Mills’ abuse of his access to the press?


The plot of Channel Four’s gay film Consenting Adult (Oct 28) was a familiar one. Young son comes out to comfortable middle-class parents and the family goes into crisis. This was a better than average rendition of the theme, given that it was an American TV movie. Tear-jerking performances from Martin Sheen and Marlo Thomas, playing doting parents who can’t accept that their son has apparently changed overnight from the American dream to the American nightmare. There is much soul-searching before mom and pop really believe their son’s assertion that his homosexuality is “true and getting truer all the time”. Indeed, by the end of the story pop has to send the mandatory “I love you son” from beyond the grave in the form of a letter which he couldn’t bring himself to post while he was alive. Mom agonises a bit more before she decides that she might as well get on with it and invites son and lover home to dinner.

Although it was played as a weepy, the film managed to make a very important point which we’ve failed to get over in political debate. It demonstrated that there are two distinct kinds of homosexual: the gay bogeyman created by the newspapers (who appears to spend his wholetime preying on children, spreading diseases and eating up the entire rate precept) and the real flesh and blood person who has all kinds of hopes, and fears and dreams just like everyone.

GAY TIMES 102, March 1987

You open our morning paper and are horrified by some outrageously anti-gay item. Surely, you think, they can’t get away with this? You don’t want to let it pass so what can you do? The first thing that most people would think of is the Press Council. This “newspaper watchdog is supposed to be our protection against the excesses of Fleet Street, isn’t it?

But what exactly can the Press Council do? And if you decide to take your grievance to them can you expect a fair deal? The first thing you have to bear in mind is that the Press Council is financed by the newspapers themselves and cynics would say that the newspapers are happy to have such a “self-regulating body because it discourages the government of the day introducing any more stringent and effective means of recourse when journalists overstep the mark.

Why bother with legislation to curb the newspapers’ bad behaviour when you already have the Press Council—or so the argument goes.

Membership of the Press Council is made up of people from the newspaper industry and members of the general public, in about equal measure. There is no representation from the National Union of Journalists, however—they decided in 1980 that the Press Council was “wholly ineffective” and boycotted it.

To see what kind of reception complaints from gay people get, we can take a look at a few instances from the past month.

You might remember the outrageous’ front page story in THE SUN last May about the children’s book Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. “Vile Book in Schools” screamed the headline. David Northmore of North London decided to complain and on February 3rd, nine months after the event, the Press Council upheld his complaint saying that The Sun’s story was “exaggerated and misleading”.

But you would never have guessed that the judgment had gone against them from reading The Sun’s own version of the report, which began: “The Press Council has upheld The Sun’s right to report criticism of a shocking children’s book showing a little girl in bed with her homosexual father and his naked male lover.”

As is usual with Press Council reports, it was featured at the very bottom of the final news page in extremely small print. The Sun, as usual, laughs at its critics and flaunts its lies with impunity.

Then the same Mr Northmore complained about The Sunday Mirror which had carried a story about a holiday being organised by the Lesbian and Gay Youth Movement. The Sunday Mirror alleged that “children and young people were being lured into a sinister web of gay sex” by the proposed holiday. Mr Northmore maintained that the Lesbian and Gay Youth Movement was a “credible and respectable” organisation. The complaint was rejected.

Next, our old friend “Mills” of The Star attracted a complaint from T P Murphy of the Wimbledon Area Gay Society. This followed a particularly vicious attack on gays which “Mills” had couched in extreme and violent language. The Press Council agreed that the article was “crude and abusive” but accepted the paper’s explanation that the “opinions expressed in the Mills column were those of a fictitious man whose thoughts resembled those of many readers based on thousands of letters received each week.” The Council rejected the complaint saying that the article had not been “irresponsible”.

Interestingly, in its report the Press Council chose to put inverted commas around the term ‘gay community’ but left the word ‘woofter’ undecorated. This might reveal something of the thinking of the people who reached the ridiculous conclusion that Mills’ article was not meant to incite violence and hatred against gays.

So, we have to accept that, in the main, gay complaints are unlikely to get a sympathetic hearing and are only likely to be upheld if there is a factual inaccuracy in the story being complained about. If you decide to make a complaint to the Press Council on a gay-related issue, not only will you be involved in a long and time-consuming investigation (one complaint that I made took nine months to adjudicate and involved me in writing over twenty-five letters) but, in the end, there is no guarantee that the offending paper will do anything at all about it.

Permission seems to have been granted by the Press Council for Fleet Street and Wapping to abuse gay people and the gay community in whatever ways it pleases, however offensive. Dehumanising terms like “poofter”, “queer” and “lezzie” are common currency in tabloid newspapers these days.

There is also the danger of finding yourself on the receiving end of the fury and spite of papers like The Sun. This is what happened to a man called Terry McCabe who dared to complain to the Press Council about the way that paper had done a very nasty hatchet job on him after he had refused to cross the Wapping picket line.

The Press Council found that The Sun had “cobbled the story together” on very flimsy evidence in order to revenge itself on Mr McCabe. On the day that the Council’s judgment was published (9 Feb) The Sun did a further full-page character assassination on Mr McCabe, not only repeating the original allegations but elaborating on them. So, as you can see, there are definite dangers in upsetting the editor of The Sun.

So, is there anything at all we can do about it? The answer is: not much. You can try a letter to the editor or a phone call to the paper, but most people who’ve tried this approach have found it a waste of time. One other possibility is the National Union of Journalists “ethics council” which looks into breaches of journalistic ethics. They will consider complaints from members of the public. In serious cases they have the power to discipline or even expel offenders. I have a complaint pending against Ray (Biffo) Mills of The Star, which will be heard later this month. I’ll let you know how it goes, and whether this avenue will be of any more use than the Press Council.


Last month in Gay Times, the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality were anxious for us to know that Mrs Thatcher had been appalled by the infamous “gas the queers” remarks of the equally infamous Councillor Brownhill of South Staffordshire District Council. This month, however, the press wanted us to know that Mrs Thatcher supported the ‘swirling cesspit’ views of James Anderton.

The Daily Express (24 Jan) said: “Standing up for the silent moral majority, Mrs Thatcher applauded the Manchester chief constable and others who have publicised their views on the issue.” So, who are we to believe? For surely Councillor Brownhill was one of those “publicising their views on the issue.”

Harder to pin down are the opinions of Neil Kinnock. Yes, he’s sent messages of support to Gay Pride demos, but he’s hardly been in the forefront of his party’s support for gay rights. However, a glimmer of hope shone briefly in The Independent (13 Feb), when it published extracts from a private letter which had been written by the Labour leader to a party member living in his own home borough of Ealing, West London. In the letter, Mr Kinnock “vigorously defended his local council” (including its pro-gay policies) against attacks made on it by Tory MPs and the press. He said that the sex education policy (which encourages “respect” for gay relationships) had been “hideously misrepresented” so as to alarm parents. He said that there had been a lot of “prejudice-mongering”.

Can we take it from this that Neil really does believe in what his radical party colleagues are doing to help gays, but doesn’t want to play into the hands of Fleet Street by being too up-front about it in an election year?

I think I could forgive him for that, if it means we get rid of that woman and all her dubious supporters. Speaking of which, we had a taste of the Tory party of the future when the blood-curdling Young Conservatives at their conference debated whether homosexuality should be recriminalized.

If you thought the Tories under Thatcher were frightening, you should tremble at the prospect of what is to come if this bunch of young proto-fascists is the face of Toryism in the future.


The Sun had it in for Jimmy Somerville last month (and apologies to Jimmy if I gave the impression that he had granted an interview to that paper. I accept that he didn’t—they just made it look that way). This month they’ve gone to town on The Housemartins. Not satisfied with “exposing” the fact that the group doesn’t all originate from Hull as they had claimed, it then (31 Jan) went on to reveal that “the top pop stars are hiding a sad sex secret—three of the group are gay.” What the adjective “sad” is doing there is a secret known only to the journalist who wrote it. Indeed, the whole piece is peppered with similar weasel words, suggesting that the group’s gay members consider their sexuality to be some kind of tragedy, which I’m sure is not true.

Then on Feb 14, The Sun returned to the attack, criticising the group for having used a photograph of an old man on a record cover without first seeking his permission. But given The Sun’s own reputation for snoop photography and some of the despicable stunts it has pulled in that line, the burst of self-righteous anger seems laughable—or perhaps pathetic would be a better word.


Back to the execrable Mills in The Star. He continues to dispense his weekly dose of anti-gay bile. On February 27 he chided “woofter apologists” for suggesting he might be gay himself. “If Mills is such a ferocious critic of their sexual habits then he must per se and QED practice them himself. Or if he doesn’t practise them, then these tendencies must be lying dormant and his, in fact, a latent woofter himself… but the repugnant mechanics of sodomite sex fill Mills with disgust.”

Yes, yes, yes, Biffo, we’ve heard all this before. But can I remind you of the case of Roy Cohn, who was right-hand man to the ghastly Senator McCarthy in America during the fifties. You will remember that these two gents were responsible for hounding hundreds of homosexuals out of their jobs in the US Government maintaining that homosexuality was a “threat to the nation’s security” and so on. Mr Cohn was a fanatical persecutor of gays. Last year, he died of Aids contracted from one of his male lovers.

Indeed, as many gays have found to their cost, the most vicious opponents of homosexuals have come from within our own ranks. Mr Mills should bear that in mind.


There seems to be a widespread opinion in the press that churchmen have something useful and relevant to contribute to the Aids debate. There is a constant cry for the churches to “take a moral lead”, which seems to mean in journalese to get everybody back into chastity belts.

The Daily Mail tells us that an “anti-Aids leaflet for Roman Catholics, warning that it is wrong to use condoms, is being distributed in Scotland.” It seems these priests put their senseless dogma before the safety of their flock – or, perhaps as Mrs Currie would have it, “good Christians” have some kind of magic immunity to HIV,

Meanwhile, in Harringey, north London, where the council has the most advanced gay rights commitment in the country (and also the most virulent aggro from opponents), the extremist churches are really going to town. Not only have we got the sad spectacle of a vicar who is prepared to starve himself to death before he’ll allow other people to have a dignified life, we now have the Moonies moving in. City Limits magazine (29 Jan) reported a Moonie-front organisation called The New Patriotic Movement setting itself up. A creepier development would be hard to imagine. When asked if they thought their activities (which includes displaying banners reading “Gays = Aids = Death”) bred intolerance and intimidation of homosexuals, a spokesman for NPM said: “That is not our intention, but if it happens it is an unfortunate consequence.”

I hoped the local gay organisations in Harringey are exploiting this development for all it’s worth. “Concerned parents” should know just what sort of people are speaking on their behalf, then they might have something to genuinely worry about.

A round-up of the opinions of the mainstream religionists was reported in The Guardian (29 Jan). Responding to James Anderton’s disgusting vision of “morality”, the Bishops said their piece.

Dr John Habgood, said that “While the Church had always been clear in condemning promiscuity it had spoken with a divided voice on homosexuals in stable relationships. As a Christian I will always value stable relationships; when they are homosexual many church people not now condemn it. We shall have to work our attitudes out.”

Dr Hugh Montefiore, Bishop of Birmingham, contributed his opinion that “Mr Anderton sometimes give the impression of seeing just a wicked homosexual scene whereas the moral issue is much more complicated.”

The Bishop of Stepney, the Right Reverend James Thompson, urged: “a better understanding of the problems of homosexuals. They get pushed into cheap relationships because they have to act in secret.”

Personally, I couldn’t give a monkey’s about what the prattling prelates think of me or my style of life – their approval or disapproval is of little consequence to most gay people. But as they do seem to carry some influence in society.Perhaps they ought to use this power to make these points more widely known. If they give a stronger lead in promoting better understanding of homosexual men and women, then they might be able to avert some of the disasters which are surely coming our way. At that point I might be able to consider that they had some relevance to our lives.


The Mail on Sunday magazine sailed close to the wind with a profile of President Reagan’s son, Ron. On the cover of that edition was a photo of the man, in full theatrical make-up, embracing his mother with the headline: “Nancy’s Boy.” Of course, there have been rumours about Ron Jnr being gay for some time now – they started after he joined a ballet company. He denies the rumours and also maintains that his father is not anti-gay. But if that is so, says The Mail on Sunday, “how does one explain his alliance with fundamentalist preachers who see homosexuality as an abomination?”

“It’s a political alliance, clearly, and it’s pandering to an extent to the far right,” explains Ron Jnr.

“Scandalmongers,” says the article, “were silenced when Ron married Doria Palmieri in 1981.”

As we know, there aren’t any married homosexuals, so that’s all right. You can rest easy in your bed, Mr President.


Finally, a few quickies. An excellent article with the sub-heading “James Anderton should thank God for the gays” appeared in The New Scientist (29 Jan) and explained the invaluable service gays have done the world by being almost totally responsible for the discovery of a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B, and how we’ll probably play a similar role in the eradication of Aids.

A poll of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 published in The Sunday Mirror (15 Feb) showed that 24 per cent agreed with the statement “Gays deserve Aids” while 60 per cent disagreed. The paper concludes that young people aren’t anti-homosexual.

John Smith wrote in The People “Recently released statistics make it plain that it is the homosexual community which is almost entirely to blame for the spread of the deadly disease. It is about time the Government faced up to this fact … instead of wrongly insinuating that Aids is something which threatens every respectable family in the land.”

Does Mr Smith know that in 1981 there were only 4 known cases of Aids among gay men? And look at the situation now. There are some 20 known cases of Aids having been caught from heterosexual sex at present – but who knows what the situation will be in four or five years if people like Mr Smith continue to encourage such dangerous complacency? The man ought to be drummed out of his job as a danger to society.

Princess Diana is reported in The People (8 Feb) to be worried at the prospect of visiting a hospital ward where people with Aids are being cared for. Whether she actually expressed these fears or whether they were an invention of the press doesn’t really matter, the damage is already done.