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.