Friday, January 27, 2006

Sex, scandal and Simon Hughes

As ever, italicised text is the Nameless Tories.

Right, what are we going to debate this week?

Sexuality in politics – Oaten, Hughes and the Gordon Brown is gay rumours. Should it matter, and should it being a resigning issue?

Now I hate Simon Hughes, I hate him with a passion. I hate his undeserved piety, his sanctimonious television style, I hate the way he talks and the way he looks. I used to live in his constituency and I hate the lack of pedestrian crossings on Southwark Bridge Road just metres away from a primary school, I hate the stench of poverty that pervades the air in spite of his supposed principles and how long he has been MP in that area. I actively campaigned against him in the last general election. I take a lot of satisfaction that he lost 9.8% in 2005, with the Tory vote increasing by 4.9%.

But I have some sympathy for him this week. The Evening Standard headline of “Hughes – I’m Gay” really is not telling the story at all. He said he has had affairs with men and women, which surely makes him bisexual. And the concept that he should stand down because he is a single man who has had relations with both sexes is farcical. Particularly given he is running for the leadership of a left wing party that claims, in its title, to be liberal. He’s not Mark Oaten, there is no evidence he has broken any laws. He has also not cheated on anyone. He is a single man who has slept with other people. Shock Horror.

There is the argument that he lied. Yes, he did repeatedly say he is not gay (although, semantically, he’s not. He’s bi-sexual, so he could argue he has been asked the wrong question). And admitting you’ve been lying is never good for any politician, particularly one as preachy as Hughes. But why should he come out before he is ready? It can take people a long time to reveal to their families that they are gay or bi, and they often lie about it before they admit to it. And this is 100 times worse for Hughes, as he is announcing to the nation (and the world) rather than just his peers. Yes, he lied about his private life. He didn’t lie about the reason for going to war, and there is no evidence that this lie has prevented him from fulfilling his duties as an MP.

There you go, me defending Simon Hughes. And I genuinely thought I would be in my grave before I ever did that.

Your thoughts?

The issue here, as is so often the case, is about our view on morality. You are right that his admissions in no way hinder fulfillment of his duty as an MP, and one could even argue that everybody (even politicians) has the right to some form of private life.

Let us suppose he has breached some form of morality, whether by lying or by being bisexual (and let's be honest, that does offend a lot of people.) What interests me is that we expect high moral standards from politicians. Why do we expect them to live lives of total moral probity, even behind closed doors? I propose it could be because they are so willing to sell their personal lives as part of the package - Gordon, the cuddly family man! Dave, the plan-speaking ex-SAS soldier! Also, it may have something to do with the fact that the decisions they make impinge on our private lives, so we feel they owe it to us to 'do as I do.'

There is also the argument that it is easier - far easier - to dismiss a politician for being immoral than it is to dismiss him following a lengthy and cool-headed assessment of his policies. Why think, when outraged morality provides instantaneous answers for you? Many people hold Alan Clark in contempt for example, but I am willing to bet most of those people who dislike him do so beacase of his 'colourful' private life, not because they have studied his tenure as employment secretary and concluded that he was useless.

Ignoring the obvious problems of having a large number of people in this country still regarding any form of homosexual activity as immoral, the point about personal lives is interesting. Certainly some politicians advertise their private lives as a reason to vote for them. And if you are advertising on something then you also have to deliver on it. Oaten is an excellent example of this – he publicised himself as a family man, even doing family based photo shoots, at the same time as paying a rent boy for sex. But Hughes does not run on the basis of his private life, it is not part of the “Hughes package” so to speak. Even if you do see homosexuality as immoral Hughes has not made his private life public, others have done it for him.

I have got to stop defending Hughes, it feels unnatural.


Blogger Oscar Wildebeest said...

Couldn't find your email address, old chap, but I have tagged you for a meme. Enjoy.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Stussy88 said...

Had Hughes simply said "My private life is just that" then this is a non-issue. When however, you lie about it, (and campaign against Tatchell as "the straight choice") then you are a hypocrite.

Similarly if a leading member of the cabinet, with leadership ambitions recently married to make himself seem all family man, but was in fact gay, well that would make him a hyopcrite as well.

5:47 AM  

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