Tut-tutting and twitching the curtain

When push comes to shove, I really couldn’t care less about William Hague’s sleeping arrangements. I don’t care whether he and his special adviser spent the night in debating the finer points of UK policy towards the Southern Caucusus, indulging in drinking contests, or making improper erotic use of a rolled up copy of the Conservative party manifesto.

The end? Line drawn? Enough?

Not quite. For it is in the public reaction to the story that we see and understand the true nature of sexual politics in the UK today.

Let’s start with the fundamental problem here. It is always possible that Mr Hague did something that was improper financially. Another minor footnote in the annals of the expenses scandal. Or even a security breach, as he chatted explicitly to his US counterpart whilst some junior apparatchik listened in behind him.

But, apart from an occasional nod to such issues…a canter past that revealed to anyone with half a brain cell that these things weren’t really what it was all about…we all know what it was really: a continuing queasiness by some part of the great Brutish public to the effect that it is WRONG for two boys to share a bedroom.

Heaven forfend! One might actually catch sight of t’other’s todger. I hesitate to take such speculation a stage further…to cross the line into unspeakable territory: the idea that they might have whispered sweet nothings into one another’s ears…or even stuck certain parts of their personal anatomy into certain other anatomical bits.

This was, this is – horrid word! – “homophobia” as expressed in a country where such expression is now sort of no longer permissible in law. On Friday I listened in incredulity to a phone-in on Jeremy Vine which addressed the question of whether anything wrong had happened.

Phoners-in divided between those who, like me, were clearly utterly bemused by all the fuss – and some who took it as read that room-sharing just was, you know, “not on”. I have shared rooms in the past. I have objected, rarely, on account of the revolting personal habits of my assigned room-mate. But… but… it is so truly a non-issue where I and, I am guessing, a very large chunk of the adult population are concerned, that the very idea it could be, should be controversial throws me off balance.

As if I arrived for a business meeting and am told I must keep my ankles covered at all times. It no longer computes.

Even then, the veiled uneasiness, I guess, was the focus on what the individuals concerned might have been doing and, since they were adult, consenting and not remotely accused of any wrong-doing, the only possible explanation is: still deep-rooted in the national psyche is a sense that if they were, y’know, “doing it”, then that would be wrong.

Tis a view sadly shared by individuals as widely known as Quentin Letts, columnist with the Mail. Asked about the issue on Radio 4’s Any Questions, he came out with the following gem: “Do you remember Morecambe and Wise? They used to share a bed. We never suspected anything wrong with them.”

Wrong? In what way “wrong”?

I would love to know, but on the surface, about the only thing I can imagine he meant was what so many other members of the public meant, but didn’t dare to say in public…that in 2010 in the UK, it may be lawful to be gay…but it still isn’t acceptable.

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About janefae

On my way from here to there
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5 Responses to Tut-tutting and twitching the curtain

  1. William Hague has always struck me as being one of those rare politicians with a genuine commitment to his party. As such, it makes absolute sense that he would share rooms to save money. In recent months we have been overwhelmed by stories about political types out for financial gain, but that’s not always the way it works, and room sharing is the norm where people are attempting to reduce costs for organisations they value.

    For this reason, I shall be sharing a room at the Transgender Europe conference at the start of next month. I may be sharing it with as many as three other people. Imagine what the press might make of that!

  2. angercanbepower says:

    I don’t see how anyone can disagree that there’s been a huge amount of overtly and implicitly homophobic coverage. But are you saying that even if William Hague had been having an extramarital affair with a woman, it’s none of our business? An interesting point of view, but why shouldn’t the public know if politicians are dishonest? Now if the affair had been with the consent of his wife, it’s a different matter.

    • janefae says:

      Hmmm. Hadn’t quite gone that far, but yes…i think i probably am. Saying extra-marital affair probably is none of our business, that is.

      Why? Because if he fiddled his expenses, stole from the local supermarket or beat his wife, those are all criminal offences and matters that ultimatey could jeopardise his liberty and ability to exercise his role as Secretary of State.

      Whereas, marital infidelity, matters arising from divorce, and smilar ar not criminal and maybe best sorted between the adults concerned. Otherwise, the corrollary to your argument is: things going on between consenting adults are the business of the public if the public are interested.

      As for the argument that “dishonesty” in private affairs inevitably says something about honesty in the rest of one’s life: nah! Don’t believe it for a minute: its prurience, with a dash of righteousness added by way of justification.

      BTW: you’re not suggesting that there IS evidence of an affair? i thought quite the opposite.

      • angercanbepower says:

        Sorry for delayed response – wrote a quick one but didn’t post it as I wanted to think about this.

        I think we both want to arrive at the same conclusion – that the sex lives of politicans are none of the business of the public (even if they want to know).

        And yet it seems counterintuitive to say that if Hague had been the latest politician to have been caught having an affair behind his wife’s back, it would be none of our business.

        In Politics as a Vocation, Weber asks, “What kind of man must one be if he is to be allowed to put his hand on the wheel of history?” The public frequently judge politicians’ characters through their personal actions, and reasonably so.

        So I need to answer your question, how could I consistently claim that what a politician gets up to in their bedroom none of the press’s business, but that if they stray from an explicitly monogamous relationship, it is?

        It might be easy to jump to answer about expectations of privacy, or consent, but I’m not sure either really stands up to scrutiny. Asking what one expects to be private is simply restating the question. And consent? All sorts of mundane daily activities that politicians do without the knowledge, let alone consent, of their loved ones are clearly private.

        I can think the answer lies in Weber’s question. A matter is in the public interest if it is relevant to the politician’s character. We want to know what kind of people we are electing to power. Form of sexual gratification has no legitimate bearing on this. Betraying the trust of their partner does.

        Perhaps this is too woolly – the distinction might seem a bit artificial and it’s certainly very subjective. But I don’t see how you can avoid subjectivity when try to define what is in the public interest, so given that I hope you find this answer satisfactory.

        P.S. Regarding evidence, no I don’t think there has been anything particularly convincing.

  3. Ms Slide says:

    The double-page spread in Sunday’s Mail was full of outraged speculation, needless details and tight-t-shirted photos (including a gorgeous one of Myers) for its readers to tut and shake their heads at… then inevitably have a guilty, tearful, frantic wank over when no one’s looking.

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