GAY TIMES 101, February 1987

There can be little doubt that The Sun now has a settled and co-ordinated anti-gay campaign under way. Their coverage of gay issues is so relentless, so grindingly negative that no-one can avoid the conclusion that at some stage the reporters must have been briefed to dig as much gay dirt as they can. And if they can’t find any dirt, then they should soil the truth. Let’s look at some of this month’s offerings from the pages of that ghastly rag. To start with, I have mixed feelings about the question-and-answer interview with Jimmy Somerville which appeared in THE SUN (22 Dec). One half of me says it’s good that Jimmy should be asked questions which some of his fans must long to know the answers to. (“How bothered are you about Aids”, “Have you ever made love to a woman?” “Have you ever dressed up in women’s clothes?”). But the other half of me wonders what the purpose of these prurient questions were. Do they raise consciousness or do they just reinforce misunderstandings and misconceptions? I don’t know, but I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable about it. Especially given some of the other stories that the Sun has carried over the past month.

For instance, Rock Hudson’s house was the star of another of another of the Sun’s Aids misinformation pieces. Apparently the dead actor’s house is still up for sale and no-one will by it. Hudson’s butler is quoted as saying: “They seem petrified of touching any of Rock’s belongings. They won’t even have a glass of water or a cup of tea because they have to drink from Rock’s glasses or crockery…” The whole tone of the story gives credence to the superstition that Aids somehow something more than just a disease that it has supernatural powers that allow it to linger in wait for the unwary. Some hope for the Government’s weedy education campaign in the face of such powerful misinformation.

29 December and THE SUN treated us to quotes from “tough guy” rock singer Gary Moore. “I don’t know how people can like the Communards. That guy Somerville has done for gays what Sam Fox did for feminism. He’s not exactly the acceptable face of gayness, is he? If anyone was undecided in their attitude to homosexuals, Jimmy Somerville would make your mind up for you – against them. He’s an ugly, no-talent creep.”

On 30 December, Jimmy was in THE SUN again, this time chiding The Pet Shop Boys for not coming out of the closet. “They have to be more upfront. It’s their duty to other gays. I don’t associate myself with the Pet Shop Boys because they still won’t publicly admit they’re gay. It really annoys me that they call their album Disco but don’t admit its relationship to gayness.”

On 6 January The Sun treated us to “What Fowler will see in Gay City where one in 15 has Aids”. The story by classic scab journo Neil Wallis began: “Health Secretary Norman Fowler is going on an Aids fact-finding mission to San Francisco later this month.” What Mr Fowler will see is a Sun reader’s nightmare come true. “Gays wear one of 14 different coloured handkerchiefs in the back pocket of their Levis. That signals to the world the particular perversion they prefer… It’s claimed that promiscuity among gays has stopped, but it’s only a claim! ,,, In Frisco today freak means old-fashioned, long-haired hippies advocating love between the sexes. It doesn’t mean out-of-the-ordinary. Well, it couldn’t, could it?”

And so it goes on. I’d just like Mr Wallis to know that if he goes to San Franciso and the powerful gay community gets to hear about it, he’s likely to leave more than his heart there.


On 12 Jan we were regaled with a silly (even by The Sun’s standards) non-story about a group of very minor TV stars going out for a “night on the town” in Manchester and ending up in Napoleon’s gay club. “Burley telly Sergeant Major Windsor Davies didn’t care much for the company of “the lovely boys” and did “a quick about turn”. The Sun tells us that the rest of them “brazened it out for a while. If The Sun is trying to tell us that these showbiz innocent had “accidentally” went to Napoleon’s with no previous knowledge of its style, they can go and tell it to the Marines.

More worrying though is the nasty twisting of a story about a gay group in Cambridge (18 Jan.)  advising its members not to be tested for HIV infection. Anyone who has heard the whole story will know that this is sound advice, but in the hands of The Sun leader writer gay groups become “an evil force in the land” and gay activists “deserve to be treated as pariahs. They deserve to be locked away where they can do no more harm.”

On another page in the same issue there was a story about a police swoop on a cottage in Victoria Station in which, according to THE SUN, “police have arrested 68 gays in a massive anti-vice swoop.” An un-named “commuter” was quoted as saying: “It was a degrading sight to see evil middle aged men preying on young boys.”

The Sun has also told us over the past month that nasty lesbians are tormenting poor, innocent drug-pusher Rosie Johnston in prison, they also called for the shooting of the Barlinnie jail protestors and asserted that the National Union of Journalists was trying to create a totalitarian state for daring to fine their wonderful reporters. Talk about seeing the world through a looking glass—it seems The Sun has this wonderful facility for turning everything inside out and making it into the opposite of what it really is.


But who are the people behind The Sun? I ask this question because I am genuinely curious to know what sort of men they are. Are they really as nasty, greedy, violent, treacherous and downright rotten as their writings suggest?

Over the past few months The Sun has pursued the gay community and gay individuals with the ferocity of a shark in a feeding frenzy. Their editorial condemnations of us become more and more extreme—whether it be exhortations to James Anderton to “treat the perverts with the contempt they deserve” or calling for the locking up of gay rights activists because they are an “evil threat to society.” Some of their news items wouldn’t disgrace the pages of the National Front’s organ Bulldog.

They are very fond of calling anyone in public life who is vaguely ‘liberal’ “enemies of the nation” and “fifth columnists”. Indeed, anyone to the left of Mussolini is considered a communist infiltrator. And although The Sun has become something of a music hall joke, it is far from funny for those who are its victims. It won’t do any more to write it off as a silly comic not to be taken seriously. Four million people in this country take it seriously enough to shell out good money day after day to read the filth that mad Murdoch’s running dogs churn out. The Sun is a serious threat not only to the quality of our lives but now to our very existence, because the Sun’s baleful influence extends far beyond its own pages. Its complete lack of ethical standards has ensured that the other papers have had to follow it down into the gutter in order to survive the vicious circulation war.

I am not alone in my fear of the uncheckable abuses perpetrated by The Sun and its imitators. Jeremy Seabrook wrote in THE GUARDIAN (22 Dec) of the sinister purposes behind The Sun’s apparently cheerful populism. “What we are living through is a sustained attempt to resurrect the mob. The newspapers and the junk videos portray people, in the language of The Sun, as dirty rats and filthy swine, as animals and beasts; a vast human bestiary has been reinvented which systematically represents people as corrupt, treacherous and venal in contrast to whom, in this simple Manichean world, the good is represented by money.”

Seabrook tells us that papers like The Sun are creating an atmosphere that will pave the way, after Thatcherism has failed, for something far worse. He says that as the country disintegrates financially and socially the door will be open for the fascists to take over. This is where the frightening picture of life in this country presented by the popular press comes in. If Joe Public can be convinced that the country they love has become a “cesspit” of degradation then the new Fuhrer will have an easy cruise to power. Aids is providing the terrible tool for this end to be achieved. “Britain which is increasingly unrecognisable as the familiar and loved home place has become more and more like the future site of the second coming of those brutalities which we went to war to defeat less than half a century ago,” wrote Seabrook.

We have to recognise that the real enemy of the people is The Sun newspaper and all the others that aspire to be its clones. And yet we are powerless to stop this wilful distortion. The freedom of the press was once sacred, but Rupert Murdoch and his evil crew have made the concept of a free press into a sick joke. Press freedom in the hands of the seekers after wealth has become an insidious 1icence to distort, persecute, incite hatred and generally brutalise readers. If any attempt is made to stop this undemocratic abuse of their enormous power the papers instantly cry “censorship. The ruthless and unscrupulous men behind The Sun are the real fifth columnists in our country, undermining all traditions of tolerance and debate. They must be curbed—for all our sakes.


Newspaper correspondence columns are fairly predictable, each paper having its own style. THE MAIL and THE EXPRESS voice the opinion of middle-England, the retired middle-classes and the aspiring working classes. The letters pages in these papers have an unhealthy preoccupation with the death penalty, with ‘dole scroungers’ and ‘teenage layabouts’. They write in endlessly about how disastrous Labour is and how utterly heavenly they consider Maggie to be. They have simple and painless answers to all the world’s most complex problems—painless for themselves, that is. For other people it usually involves death or imprisonment.

It was not surprising, then, to find the correspondence columns filled, day after day, with letters supporting James Anderton, the only chief constable with a hotline to God. And this particular crop of letters was even more bloodthirsty than usual. So much hatred poured from them that I eventually became too depressed to read any more. It began to seem that if Margaret Thatcher were to legalise lynching for homosexuals tomorrow, her opinion poll rating would race ahead.

Then, suddenly, cracks began to appear in what had seemed almost unanimous support for the Mancunian Prophet. Even old John Junor in The SUNDAY EXPRESS (21 Dec) was moved to write, during one of his weekly diatribes against gays: “There is about him (Anderton) an unctuous self-righteousness which makes me wince. Nor do I warm to his pronouncement that he said what he did because he had received guidance from God …In view of everything that has happened, would not Manchester be a better place from a police point of view if Mr Anderton were to receive further guidance from God to hand in his resignation, too?”

Dennis Hackett, the new editor of TODAY wrote (23 Dec): “I have now begun to wonder whether it could be that Mr Anderton is not, after all, on a direct line to the Supreme Being, but is in fact talking to himself and mistaking his alter ego for the Almighty?”

Even THE NEWS OF THE WORLD (21 Dec) managed a critical editorial (although it was in unusually small print, and looked strangely out of place, as though it had wandered into the wrong paper). “The Aids and gays debate is a POLITICAL issue, not a CRIMINAL issue, except where the law of the land is broken,” said the NoW. “Parliament, in its wisdom, decides what those laws should be. If Anderton wants to talk about what offends the LAW, that is one thing. What offends HIM should be kept to himself. It is right to wonder whether the people of Greater Manchester … are best served by a chief whose behaviour is not so much eccentric as plain daft, Stalker is going, Anderton is staying. Perhaps it would be better if BOTH went.”

The Archbishop of York criticised Anderton for his unhelpfulness in the face of the crisis and even the right-wing Police Federation rebuked him for “pontificating on moral issues”. According to THE GUARDIAN (15 Jan), Tony Judge, editor of the federation’s magazine, accused Anderton of “dragging the police into a moral debate that should not concern them.”

And so, perhaps, the most cheering headline of the month was in THE INDEPENDENT (13 Jan) “Police Feeling Mounts that Anderton Must Go”.

The Bible tells us that God reserves his greatest wrath for false prophets, so if I were James Anderton, I’d be seriously thinking of fixing a lightning conductor to the roof of Greater Manchester police Headquarters.


Until now, most straight people have avoided thinking very much about gay lifestyles, preferring to consider them rather exotic and not really to do with the real world. Aids has changed all that and gays have taken centre stage. There is no way that the Government, the press or the public can remain indifferent to our presence any more.

Naturally the long-held and deep-rooted prejudices needed to be expressed – and they have been, mostly in intemperate, vulgar and abusive terms. The bigots were first on the scene with “didn’t we tell you this would happen?” Our old enemies in the press have had a field day too. But now more reasoned debate is beginning. Religious leaders and politicians have realised that the screaming hysteria doesn’t very far towards solving problems.

It was good, therefore, to see an opinion piece in THE INDEPENDENT (9 Jan) written by Christina Baron, president of the Liberal Women’s Federation. She made the point that criticising gay men for being ‘promiscuous’ was unfair given society’s disapproval of gay relationships. “It is often not easy for heterosexual couples, even when married to society’s approval, to stay together. How much harder, then, for a homosexual couple? Is a colleague’s gay or lesbian partner as welcome as a spouse at the firm’s Christmas dance, the office party or the staff room? The heterosexual community wants it both ways – promiscuity is not acceptable, stable partnerships are not acceptable. If much of our society still cannot accept a homosexual couple then we shouldn’t be surprised if it is harder for them to stay together.”


One male gay couple who managed to stay together for 27 years are Saxon Lucas and Rodney Madden. Their relationship was examined in NEW SOCIETY (2 Jan). These two men are Christians, they consider their partnership to be, to all intents and purposes, a “marriage”. What they had promised each other – total sexual fidelity – would have seemed ridiculous and unrealistic to most gay people a few short years ago. Now it seems to be something that a lot of gay couples are striving for.

The structure of their relationship (“Rod is the boss-man, what Rod says goes. And when he says ‘no’, no it is,” says Saxon) may seem questionable to many. Surely marriages – or any other ostensibly exclusive relationship – can work without these dubious power-structures. Indeed, much of what these two men espouse as essential components of a successful long-term relationship would be anathema to the majority of people, gay or straight. The two of them have, apparently, embraced all the worst aspects of “marriage” along with the good bits. Women in particular have been trying to shrug off these negative elements for years.

If gays are going to go in for marriage (and it seems like a good idea at the moment), surely we can start at an advantage by learning from the mistakes of all those thousands of straight couples who’ve failed in the past.

By the way, the Marriage Guidance Council welcomes gay people to its counselling sessions – and has done for years.


Prime hate figure Jean Rook turned up on the Terry Wogan Show (BBC1) and showed herself to be a prize arsehole. Not only did she talk a lot of snobbish, sexist twaddle, she looked like Tutankhamen’s mother with the bandages off. And this is the woman who has the cheek to criticise other people for being ‘ugly’ and gays for being ‘fanatical’.

Seeing Mrs Rook in the (rather shrivelled) flesh robs her of some of her power to annoy. I’ll never be able to take her Daily Express jibes seriously gain. Yuch! She’s enough to put you off your cocoa.

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.

GAY TIMES 104, May 1987

Elton John didn’t cross my palm with silver three years ago when he got married, but all the same I made a prediction in this very column (Gay Times 68) saying: “When … the marriage ends, Elton is going to reap a nasty harvest from the sick publicity machine he is courting.” Well, lo and behold, the marriage is ended and right on cue the frighteningly vindictive SUN moves in for the kill. “Elton Ends Sham Marriage” was the front page on 27th March, while inside a two-page spread (“Marriage Built on Lies”) dragged up the dirt from a “dossier” that the brave hacks of Wapping had cobbled together “going back to the early seventies”. Even multi-millionaires are helpless in the face of Murdoch’s unstoppable spite machine.

The Star (27 March) was a little less vicious, but the tone of its story was in equally bad taste—and it managed to score a double. Not only did it repeatedly point out Elton’s gayness, but also suggested that his wife Renate was having a lesbian relationship, too. “Many said it was the perfect marriage of convenience,” said The Star. “HE preferred the company of men. SHE preferred the company of women.”

Meanwhile the same paper was carrying excerpts from Lee Everett Alkin’s book Kinds of Loving (March 24-27), describing her marriage to Kenny Everett. It chronicled a classic case of a gay man trying to run away from the truth of his sexuality, only to find it eventually catching up with him again. Kenny Everett was lucky to have chosen Lee as his partner for she was more accommodating than many women would have been in that situation, and even though their marriage is ended she obviously still loves her “Ev”.

And now we extend a warm welcome to Tina Turner as the latest addition to Murdoch’s ever-growing list of dragged-out public figures. It was the rock star’s turn for The Sun treatment on 31st March, when the front page was taken up with the headline: “Gay Loves of Tina Turner.”

Meanwhile that other diseased Murdoch organ, The News of the World (22 March) was tittle-tattling to its readers about Matthew Parris, TV presenter and ex Tory MP, being gay. This is no great news to regular readers of Gay Times, but seems to be of abiding interest to NoW readers. “I am an active homosexual and I do have a lover,” is the bald quote from Mr Parris, and three cheers for it. It seems Mr Parris has found the answer to the salacious exposés practised by the tabloids—honesty. When asked about the problems his gayness caused in parliament he says: “MPs told me I’d do well to keep quiet,” but to his credit he didn’t and “revealed that the work he was most proud of as an MP was his involvement with homosexual law reform and gay rights.” He also says: “Before I left parliament I raised the matter of homosexual equality with Mrs Thatcher, but she was” (surprise! surprise!) “non-committal”.

It would be very difficult for even the News of the World to make a ‘scandal’ out of such disarming truth-telling.


The Mail on Sunday (29 March) and Daily Express (31 March) both carried features on the subject of “curing” homosexuality. “Forget the dolls, it’s better to be macho” said the headline in The Express over an unconvincing piece of wishful thinking. I almost expected them to conclude that it would be better to be The Yorkshire Ripper than gay—at least he was ‘normal’ right?

The Mail on Sunday was more worrying with its “Masters and Johnson ‘cure for gays’ shock.” In it the “sex gurus” claim that they have perfected a “therapy” which has “cured” 70 percent of their homosexual clients who were “highly motivated” to become heterosexual. This is not new, of course. Masters and Johnson have always alleged that homosexuals who wanted it badly enough could become heterosexual—it’s the 70 percent claim that has set up the shock waves.

What the feature didn’t tell us was how long this “cure” was supposed to last. Most of us know “highly motivated” homosexuals who have tried their hardest to be straight. They’ve married and had children, but the truth can always run faster than lies and it has always caught up with them in the end.

Kenny Everett, Elton John, Tina Turner … the list of those who’ve tried to please other people by pretending to be something they weren’t is endless. The only result is misery and shattered lives—not only for the gay person but for those who have become caught in the sham—the wives, husbands and children. I understand why gays do it—pressure from peers, family and society in general is almost irresistible—but the result is almost always the same.


Psychiatrists have always moved with the tide. In the fifties when homosexuality was heavily persecuted they invented cruel “aversion therapies” and psychoanalysed people in the hope of “curing” them. Then when the climate changed in the sixties and seventies to a more tolerant stance, the behaviourists started saying that the best answer was to let gay people express themselves in the manner that was natural for them. Now we’ve gone back to an anti-sex era and the psychologists obligingly start the old “cure” business again. The problem is that Masters and Johnson are so influential in their field that their findings will be taken seriously all over the world.

Malevolent politicos will embrace them as “proof” that “now there is a cure” no-one need be homosexual any more, and anybody who persists in the practice (and therefore ‘wilfully spreads Aids’) will be persecuted unmercifully. In many ways these “gurus” could be much more dangerous to our safety than any of the crazy Tory back-benchers or their fanatical religious supporters. In the end it is their intolerance that will have to be cured—not homosexuality.


Hold onto your hats, I’ve got some astounding news! There has been a spate of sympathetic newspaper coverage of gay matters in the past month. Congratulations to The Deptford and Peckham Mercury for devoting two recent front pages to supporting gay people in the area. The local religious loonies, The Ichthus Christian Fellowship, had distributed a nasty anti-gay leaflet and the paper ran a strong front-page editorial condemning the church and calling for equal treatment for gay men and lesbians.

Then on 2nd April the front page was taken up with a statement from ten local clergymen who also supported the rights of gay people. “Bless ’em all” was the headline. I had a lump in my throat as I read it.

Then Today’s TV critic, Sally Vincent, laid into the insidiously dishonest Larry Grayson (1 April): “Real, larky, outrageous camp parodies, stale institutions and rigid gender role observances. I don’t care how effeminate a master of camp dares to be, as long as the heart of his humour is in the right place and there is vitality to his mockery …Grayson’s chosen stance is to shelter behind the acceptable face of good, old honest camp, in order to put across what I can only describe as a one-man homophobe’s cheer-leading stunt … Should we become addicted to the Grayson touch, we might as well bring back the Black and White Minstrel Show, so we can remember what funny, jumping-up-and-down, palm-shimmering, sub-humans black people used to be. Well, it would make a change from playing gays, wouldn’t it?”

Pretty sophisticated thinking for a tabloid journo.


The Independent constructively explored the Labour party’s confusion over gay rights (9 April) and then allowed Peter Campbell of the Conservative Group for Homosexual Equality space to put his case. If only more Tories were as sensible as Peter Campbell I’d rest easier!


The new London Daily News (blessed relief from the insufferable Evening Standard) published an article (10 April) by Bryan Derbyshire, editor of National Gay, explaining “why London’s gay community will not retreat despite Aids and increased violence.”

Does this indicate cracks in the until-now united anti-gay stance of the British pop press?


Last month it was the massively inflated Geoffrey Dickens who was acting the part of bogeyman for gay people with his pompous talk of “recriminalising” homosexuality. I found his performance strangely reassuring, for he came over not so much as a statesman, more of a rather objectionable nut case.

And so it is with Peter Bruinvels, the other inadequate rentagob Tory who is one of the prime movers behind the Conservative Family Campaign and their efforts to get gay sex outlawed again. Polly Toynbee did a wonderfully sharp hatchet job on this mindless jerk in The Guardian (30 March). “Who is this ogre, this populist Titan, self-styled leader the moral majority?” she asks. “He is a tiny chubby fellow with damp hands and pouchy cheeks that have earned him the soubriquet ‘The Talking Hamster’. When he gets up in the House to speak, Labour back-benchers shout ‘Stand up!’ as he is if shortest MP … He is affable, chattery and as dim a one-watt bulb. He runs away at the mouth, words spilling out in a pool of contradictory nonsense … If he is the worst the ‘moral majoritarians’ can come up with, there is little to fear.”

The explanation for Mr Bruinvels’ rather sad attention-seeking is the fact that his majority at last election was only 933. If the voters of Leicester East have any sense they’ll ditch the squirt at the first opportunity and get themselves a real politician.


It seems that liberalism and tolerance are dirty words these days. Anyone espousing anything but the authoritarian philosophy of the Tories is seen as a “threat to society”. The gay couple in EastEnders were the final straw for those who favour only one kind sex for everyone (within marriage and preferably the missionary position with the lights off.)

Mary Kenny in The Daily Mail (9 April) is a classic example of this tight-arsed new morality which seeks to impose old-time religion on an unwilling population. Attacking EastEnders (as her part in the propaganda campaign to get television brought under the control of the Obscene Publications Act) she wrote of the programme: “Recently an underage homosexual man… was bemoaning the fact that he had to wait until his 21st birthday to have anal intercourse legally.” I saw the scene she was referring to and nobody mentioned anal intercourse or sodomy – but truth is not the issue with Ms Kenny when there is “moral” legislation to get through.

Kenny says that television is imposing a morality of “health-conscious secular materialism”. What she’d prefer, of course, is the “morality” of the religious fanatic – a morality that refuses to face up to life as it is and which is wickedly repressive and dictatorial.

What her article demonstrates most clearly, though, is that if the legislation gets through (and there is every likelihood if parliamentary time can be found for it), the mention of homosexuality on television in anything but critical terms will be out of the question.

However, despite the Whitehouse/Kenny axis, The Times (11 April) was able to report a Mori poll which indicated that “tolerance of homosexuality” had risen from 45 per cent in January to 50 per cent in February.


The Church of England certainly has no problem in producing gasbags. This was amply demonstrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Times 30 March) when he repeated his assertion that homosexuals are “handicapped” and blathered on interminably about “erotic homosexual genital processes”. This was after he had admitted: “I have seen homosexual couples in a stable relationship and actually providing in terms of simple human generosity, hospitality, artistic achievement and flair, what I can’t gainsay as human good.” Perhaps it would be better for the Archbishop to keep his peace until he knew what he really wanted to say.

And the same goes for the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev John Baker, who was reported in The Independent (2 April) as “condemning” gay sex. “He suggests that one can properly deduce a morality from the design of the world, which God intended. Thus, the homosexually inclined could find physical expression of their feelings ‘only in ways for which our nature is intended.’ They should not indulge in what the Bishop calls “pseudo-intercourse”, nor in actions that lead up to it …”

We know that God moves in mysterious ways, but do his representatives have to speak in similar fashion? Reassuring to know, though, that such men as these make up the very foundations of our society.

What you might call Pillocks of the Establishment


Last month’s Aids statistics prompted one of THE SUN’s filthier editorials (11 April): “They [people with Aids] have only themselves to blame for their terrible plight. But now gay campaigners are trying to turn the argument the other way round and make the whole community bear some of the guilt. This is nonsense. The term Gay Plague upsets some people but that, effectively, is exactly what it is.”

And so it goes on, citing the “innocent victims” and the “guilty” ones. It ends with a “stark message to every gay in the land”: “Homosexual intercourse spreads a killer disease. Lay off before it is too late.”

There is no mention in The Sun of the dramatic evidence that gay men have changed their sexual habits in a big way. There is no acknowledgment of the fact that the majority of Aids cases that are showing themselves now were contracted years ago before anyone even knew that HIV existed. The Sun isn’t interested in this, its only concern is scapegoating and persecution.

So, here’s a “stark message” to The Sun: why don’t you idiots learn some facts before you start shooting your mouths off?

GAY TIMES January 1988

Parliament debated the state of the British press and a report in THE INDEPENDENT (26 Nov) made it quite clear that the Government has absolutely no intention of curbing the sensationalism, sexism, racism and homophobia of the newspapers. At the same time, alarm bells are ringing in thoughtful journalistic circles about the lengths to which the Government will go to gag criticism of itself — witness Spycatcher, the Zircon affair, the BBC’s IRA film amongst others.

And so, it is a dangerous and difficult argument. I, for one, certainly don’t want to interfere with the media’s duty to expose and bring to our attention the activities of corrupt politicians and businessmen.

Newspapers and TV must have the right to look into the affairs of those who hold power when there are suspicions that that power is being abused. But equally there must be restraints when this prying serves no public interest, but is undertaken merely for the purposes of prurience and titillation. What public good has been served, for instance, by the recent cruel stories about Elton John, Russel Harty, Martina Navratilova, Jeffrey Archer and many others? The sheer misery that must have been caused to these people is incalculable — and all in the name of increased circulation.

The Press Council has repeatedly shown itself to be useless as a tool of redress. In fact, it actually serves as a stumbling block to providing an effective challenge to newspaper excesses. The NUJ’s Ethics Council has proved similarly powerless; just look at Ray Mills who has received the ultimate sanction of being expelled from the union, but continues on his racist way in The Star.

There are two proposals coming up for consideration in Parliament later this year that could help. One is an “Unfair Reporting and Right of Reply Bill” sponsored by Ann Clwyd MP, which receives a second reading on 5th February, 1988. This proposed Bill would create a Media Commission which would have the power to decide — quickly — whether a right of reply was justified, and if it was to ensure that newspapers or TV gave it equal space and prominence as the original attack in the next available edition or programme. This system is already operating successfully in other European countries and Ms Clwyd asserts that it has not led, as many opponents would say, to a dreary press, full of boring replies. Instead it has encouraged journalists to be more careful, restrained and truthful in what they write.

Also coming up is a proposal to “introduce a measure of protection of privacy”. Both proposals are worthy of our consideration and support, and Ann Clwyd welcomes comments about her proposals at the House of Commons, London SW1 from any interested party.


The London Evening Standard magazine (4 Dec) gave a right of reply to Harvey Proctor, the ‘spanking’ MP hounded from office by the tabloids last year. He tells a sorry tale of the lengths to which the press went in order to nail him — agents provocateurs, bribery, treachery and just plain lying. In fact, all the familiar tricks of the journo’s trade.

However, although I sympathise with Mr Proctor’s assertion that he “would like to see a change in the law so that people, including those in public service, were entitled to some sort of privacy and couldn’t be pursued in such a manner by the press”, I cannot agree with his analysis of why he was chosen for the treatment. “I firmly believe,” says Proctor, “that certain journalists set out to bring me down because they didn’t like my opinions on immigration and race relations.”

I wonder how closely Mr Proctor reads the tabloid press? I wonder if he realises how often The Sun has been censured by The Press Council for overtly racist articles? Far from disagreeing with his rotten racist opinions, most of the tabloid papers promote them with gusto. A far more likely reason for the persecution was the fact that Mr Proctor’s private life had all the elements that the tabloids thrive on. In their terms it was “kinky”, “sordid,” “bizarre”. It involved “perversions” galore and, as we well know, the reader of popular newspapers simply adores sex — the filthier and more outrageous the better. Not for himself, of course — he simply wants to tut-tut and shake his head before returning to his wife and voluptuous daughter in Congleton.

The fact that Harvey Proctor was building a career on creating misery for other people would have been a noble reason for the press to destroy his parliamentary career. Unfortunately, it was not the case.


Headline of the Month: “Storm over gay sex books for 2-year-olds.” (LONDON STANDARD 25 Nov). Presumably these books are available in a school for infant prodigies who can read at the age of two?

Insult of the month: “I accepted an invitation to a friend’s house for drinks even though I knew she was a lesbian:1 had far too much to drink and ended up having sex with her . . . I now feel that people can tell by just looking at me what a filthy animal I have turned out to be.” — letter to Marje Proops (DAILY MIRROR 17 Nov).

Quote of the month: “Can anyone seriously wish to return to a time when homosexuality was criminal? And if one takes on the Chief Rabbi’s hating the sin but loving the sinner, is this really possible? The Inquisitors of old argued that they were burning Jews and heretics out of love, but the expression of that love was mighty strange.” — Rabbi Julia Neuberger (TIMES 17 Nov).


The two subjects on which James Baldwin wrote most passionately were racism and homosexuality. His obituary in THE INDEPENDENT (2 Dec) managed to fill three long columns without once mentioning the writer’s gayness.

Many gay public figures still cling to the idea that their sexuality is “the love that dare not speak its name”, but James Baldwin was not one of them. It is an affront to his memory (and to the dignity of the whole gay community) for The Independent to pretend that such a strong motivating force was unworthy of mention.


Of all the unlikely papers, it was THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (6 Dec) which carried an article by Brenda Maddox arguing that “laws and taboos forbidding homosexual marriages are illogical and unfair.” The reasoning of the case put by Ms Maddox was flawless. “The advance of Aids, a disease which in the United States has spread first and fastest amongst homosexuals, has increased the general public’s awareness and dislike of homosexual promiscuity. Homosexuals are being urged to stick to stable relationships. Is it not, therefore, hypocritical and even dangerous to castigate a large section of the population for undesirable behaviour, while withholding the remedy most likely to discourage such behaviour?”

And did you know: “The European Commission on Human Rights has ruled that members of the Council of Europe may not outlaw relations between people of the same sex”? I certainly didn’t. Perhaps someone should tell Dr Adrian Rodgers and Fatso Dickens that their “recriminalisation” campaigns appear to be at odds with European law.


We know that the papers are usually obsessed with homosexuality but the tabloids were curiously silent in the days in the run-up to the debate on the notorious amendment to the Local Government Bill. [Note: This was the genesis of Section 28]. Most of what was said hinged on the Labour Party’s decision to oppose the clause.

THE GUARDIAN editorialised: “The Government’s opponents must decide whether to be popular or to be principled. There is more at stake than a single clause in a single bill.”

Julie Birchill wrote (MAIL ON SUNDAY 13 Dec): “The Labour Party’s decision to back the proposal is not only cynical and dishonest but a bad tactic. Didn’t Labour keep telling us during the election that the idea of Loony Left councils was a politically motivated myth of the Murdoch press? Now it seems the tabloids were telling the truth all the time. The Party, in its electoral anxiety, is accepting a piece of legislation totally devoid of logic. The idea that you can ‘promote’ people into being homosexual is hysterically funny.”

Meanwhile, Chris Smith, the only ‘out’ MP in the country, was interviewed by THE INDEPENDENT (12 Dec). “I’ve always been very anxious to say yes I am prepared to stand up for and work for gay people,” he was quoted as saying, “but I don’t want that to be the sole or even principal part of my Parliamentary work.”

At a time of unprecedented threat, Chris, this was not what we wanted to hear.

The final outcome of the debate on this issue is reported elsewhere in Gay Times.


Peter (‘stop hounding Nazi war criminals, they’re retired now’) Simple wrote in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (20 Nov): “A new book produced by the ‘Gay Teacher’s Group’, intended for pupils, parents and homosexual teachers, states: ‘We don’t know why some people are homosexual. We don’t know why some people are heterosexual either.’ Perhaps not. But one thing we do know is why homosexual proselytisers make fatuous statements of this kind and hope to get away with them.”

It seems nowadays that any mention of homosexuality which is not either condemnatory or intended to degrade is presented as “proselytising”. Schoolchildren, Mr Simple would have us believe, are just empty vessels waiting passively to be filled up with other people’s ideas. I wonder how it is that the vast majority of queer bashing attacks are committed by adolescents and young people? If homosexuals really are proselytising (‘converting from one creed, party or opinion to another’ — OED), then we aren’t making a very good job of it.


THE NEWS OF THE WORLD is obsessed with Aids — week after week it brings its readers some new ‘human interest’ angle to the disease. Which would be fine if the aim were to relieve the extra burden placed on sufferers by society’s cruel reactions to the infection. But there is something distastefully prurient and sensationalist about the NoW approach. On 6th December the paper reported on the first heterosexual man in this country to be identified as having contracted Aids from straight sex. While I have every sympathy with this chap, I loathed the way the story was written. It was shot through with horrible sideswipes at gay PWAs. “I shall never forget my horror when I first realised I had Aids. I always thought it was something that poofters got, not ordinary blokes like me,” he is quoted as saying. “Now we must tell the truth. We must reveal that Aids can kill anyone — even a perfectly normal bloke like me.”

Not only is this outrageously offensive to the vast majority of PWAs, the article was also factually incorrect. The man in question had revealed that his wife has also been identified as HIV positive. She says (and nobody corrects her): “I know any illness — even a cold — could give me full-blown Aids like Andy.”

In the NoW magazine of the same day another article told of the grotesque reactions of a small American town when a young gay resident revealed he had Aids. True to the American Christian tradition, the young man was persecuted mercilessly by friends, family and neighbours. Such cruelty and irrationality are hard to believe, and I fear that the News of the World’s approach to the disease will do nothing to quell it.

GAY TIMES December 2000

In the Left corner we have Michael Portillo, who was once a homosexual but now assures us that he has outgrown it. In the Right corner is Ann Widdecombe, a woman who could make one believe that the alien invasion has truly begun. And in the centre we have William Hague, the only person alive who was born middle aged.

This is the modern Conservative Party, lost in the realms of the surreal and bizarre and desperately trying to convince the electorate that it isn’t just a bunch of losers, has-beens, borderline psychos and bloodthirsty old ladies.

First attempt at salvaging the wreck came at the Party conference in October. There, Michael Portillo made a speech declaring that there was a place for us all in the new, caring, inclusive Tory party. “We are a party for the people, not against the people,” he said. “We are for all Britons: black Britons, British Asians, white Britons. Britain is a country of rich diversity… We are for people whatever their sexual orientation. The Tory party isn’t merely a party of tolerance: it’s a party willing to accord every one of its citizens respect.”

This was greeted with stony silence by the gathered multitude of blue-rinsed tricoteuses who wanted blood and retribution, not lily-livered kindness. Indeed, as The Independent commented the following day: “The Conservative Party is, as those who know it and well attest, a party that can almost be described as ‘institutionally homophobic’. Anyone who witnessed the reception given at The Independent’s fringe meeting to our columnist and former Tory MP Michael Brown, who is open about his homosexuality, will be in no doubt about the ugly prejudices all too readily displayed by some Tory activists. Too few of them would agree with Mr Portillo’s view: ‘The Conservative Party looks for things that mark people out as individual and exceptional. We are for people whatever their sexual orientation.’”

Questioned next day about Mr Portillo’s call for social tolerance, Ann Widdecombe affected not to know what the words meant. “What I believe is that the state should have a preferred model, that it should promote the traditional family,” she said, with that characteristic purse of the lips.

So, what is “official” Tory party policy towards gay people? Are we in or are we out? Well, according to Steve Norris, the Party’s vice-chairman, we should be in. In fact, we should be leading from the front. In an interview with YouGov.com, which describes itself as an “e-democracy site”, Mr Norris said: “I see no reason why in the future we might not have a prime minister who was from an ethnic minority, or for that matter gay… As the party that was the first to bring you a woman prime minister… I have no doubt that the first gay prime minister will probably be a Tory.”

Sorry Steve, but I think we have already had our first gay prime minister and probably our second one, too. Perhaps what he meant is the first “out” gay prime minister. In which case, is he trying to tell us something about somebody?

Anyway, such talk didn’t please Norman Tebbit, the Tory party’s bigot-in-chief of yesteryear. He wrote, with his usual restraint, in The Sunday Telegraph: “If sodomites have a human right to marry would it not be inevitable for paedophiles to establish their right to child sex and inevitably would follow those with a taste for bestiality?”

Mr Norris retorted that: “Mr Tebbit thinks that every homosexual is a paedophile, is a closet paedophile. He is entitled to his view, but it’s not one that I or, I believe, any decent person shares.” Francis Maude, the shadow Foreign Secretary, whose brother died from Aids, is also a “tolerater”. He said: “Tolerance is not an optional addition to this party’s values: it is an absolutely vital part of it which sustains us.” The Defence spokesman Iain Duncan Smith, on the other hand, wants gays out of the army as soon as possible.

But these people are just the monkeys. It’s the organ grinder’s opinion we want. Surely the leader of the party can give us a definitive answer as to whether the Tory party is pro-gay or anti-gay?

We turn to a speech given by the great leader in Cardiff to a convention of newspaper editors. According to The Independent he “endorsed Michael Portillo’s call to show greater tolerance towards homosexuals”, and promised that the party’s new inclusive approach would not be a “one-week wonder”.

“I do not accept the false distinction that is sometimes made between respecting the lifestyle decisions of individuals and championing mainstream values,” Mr Hague explained. “Conservatives should do both, for we are neither libertarians nor authoritarians… I see no contradiction, nor do most people, in saying that we respect people of different sexual orientation, but we don’t want Section 28 repealed.”

So is that yes or no – because I certainly see a contradiction in the idea that we’re welcome but only as second-class citizens.

Having got no further with that, we then proceed to the Tory’s “Policy Forum on Britain’s Faith Communities” held in a church in Westminster. There, Mr Hague was addressing just about all the country’s religious leaders: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and just about every other deluded sect and cult you can think of. According to The Times, the speech he made to these people was “an attempt to balance the call made by Michael Portillo, the Shadow Chancellor, at the party conference for tolerance to all sections of the community whatever their sexual orientation.”

Mr Hague said: “On the subject of the family, I would like to thank those religious leaders who are fighting to retain Section 28. I am delighted that representatives of the Christian Institute and Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Great Britain are here with us today. Britain’s Muslims are standing tall in this campaign and millions of parents will be grateful for that.”

Ann Widdecombe was also at the “policy forum”, moving among her natural constituency of intolerant, narrow-minded fundamentalists. Would she consider converting to Islam, someone asked. She expressed her admiration for the “uncompromising” nature of Islam, bemoaning the fact that “They are like the Christian churches used to be.” And on the subject of homosexuality she said: “Tolerating other lifestyles doesn’t mean affording them equal validity.”

Indeed, The Independent reported that the whole forum had “a strong anti-homosexual odour.”

Dawvd Noibi, an Islamic consultant with the Muslim education charity IQRA Trusts, opined that the time for pussy-footing by leaders about homosexuality was clearly over. “If we don’t speak out now we’ll all be responsible before God,” he warned. There was a shout of ‘hear, hear’ and applause when Mr Noibi added that there was ‘no excuse’ for gay couples having children. Then a Ms Maqsood said there was compassion for gays, but many Muslims would like to see money invested in a ‘cure’ for the ‘abnormality’. Perhaps all that was needed was a simple injection, she said.

This rather pathetic crawling to the hard-line religious lobby horrified Matthew Parris. In The Times he chided Mr Hague for his unconvincing, new-found religiosity: “Voters in this deeply agnostic country know in their bones if not always in their heads that the world of faith comes not accompanied by love, devotion and service alone, but also with many hatreds, much censoriousness, and an insistent desire to punish. When we hear from an evangelical ‘support marriage’ we hear not only support for some, but disapproval for others.”

So, what do all these mixed messages mean? What is Mr Hague’s motivation in saying that there is a place for homosexuals in his new vision for Britain and then throwing in his lot with our bitterest and most implacable enemies?

Perhaps Alice Miles in The Times has the answer, and it is, in her words “breathtakingly cynical”.

“I asked a member of the Shadow Cabinet what was the strategy behind ‘governing for all’. It was, he explained, borrowed from this year’s Republican convention, where George W. Bush did all that public reaching out to black people. ‘It wasn’t because he thought they would vote for him,’ he said, ‘but in order to reassure floating voters who might vote Republican’ but were embarrassed by the right-wing image. The Tory leadership doesn’t expect the black and Asian communities, or the poor to vote for them. ‘Of course not, but if the people we do want to vote for us think we are uncaring, we must have inner-city policies to show that we’re not.”

So there you have it. Mr Hague is not courting the gay vote; he is courting the votes of decent people who are repelled by the Tory’s nastiness and narrow-mindedness. If he can really convince that mass of liberal, tolerant people out there that he is not really an irredeemable gay-basher, then they just might come back to the fold.

Now we see it. Mr Hague is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Ann Widdecombe is the Rottweiler guarding and reassuring the existing flock, while Michael Portillo is trying to tempt a few unsuspecting sheep from another fold with his touchy-feely, you-can-trust-me approach.

There’s only one answer. Run a mile.