Tories in Turmoil: Cabinet ministers targeted in gay smear campaign: Leaflet drop: Pink paper notices sent out to voters, writes Steve Boggan

Click to follow
The Independent Online
TWO senior government ministers were at the centre of a gay smear campaign last night after voters in their constituencies were sent leaflets alleging that they were having a homosexual affair.

The leaflets, printed on pink paper, urged constituents to lobby the MPs to vote against a lowering of the age of consent for homosexuals to 16. Within 24 hours of them being posted, a right-wing activist credited with their publication denied being involved.

About 200 of the notices, entitled 'An Occasional Letter to the Electors of (the ministers' constituencies)' were sent to voters in the Home Counties and in London. Last night, the agent for one minister and a senior constituency worker for the other denied the allegations and dismissed the leaflets as scurrilous, but the ministers refused to comment.

The men were the subject of a whispering campaign before the last general election, but rumours about them subsided after the Conservative victory.

Wording on the leaflets says they were published by Dr Adrian Rogers, director of the Conservative Family Institute, a right-wing think-tank not recognised by the Conservative Party. But Dr Rogers denied printing them.

'I was absolutely furious when I heard I had been credited with this smear,' he said. 'I can only assume my name was used because I wrote a letter to the Times last week which discussed family values and the lowering of the age of consent for homosexuals. But I had nothing to do with it, and if I find out who did, I shall sue them.'

Describing the Tories' high moral values as 'impressive', the leaflet says: 'You will understand our alarm when we learned of a very close friendship which has developed between our member (minister's name) and the Member for (constituency and name).'

It describes a recent campaign by Outrage, the lesbian and gay pressure group, to lower the age of consent and invites readers to express their opinions to the MPs involved. Both men are married.

Peter Tatchell, spokesman for Outrage, said his group was not responsible. 'Our policy is to be open about what we do,' he said. 'We are not in the business of doing things in secrecy or behind someone else's name. Secrecy is what keeps gays in the closet. Outrage was not involved in this stunt and we would know if any other gay pressure group was. I would suspect a right-wing Conservative splinter group.'

The agent for the MP in the Home Counties said: 'I have absolutely no reason to believe that there is any truth in these scurrilous allegations. I think someone is getting involved in dirty tricks, capitalising on the current Back to Basics problems.'

The constituency worker in London added: 'These rumours are scurrilous, anonymous and unhelpful. They are simply not true.'

Both said they were considering handing over copies to police.