A minister, a rubber mat, and a Birmingham hotel . . .

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The Independent Online
THERE is a most extraordinary case going on at the moment in the High Court, in which a Cabinet minister is taking a large hotel to court for practising sexual discrimination against him. Here is part of yesterday's testimony, in which the plaintiff was being questioned by counsel.

Counsel: On 19 July last, Minister, you were . . .

Judge: Excuse me for interrupting so early, but Minister strikes me as a curious name. Is that what you are really called?

Minister: Oh, yes, all the time. 'Minister, it's the BBC on the phone,' 'Minister, the PM would like to apologise for what he said,' 'Minister, do you have anything to say about the latest opinion poll?' - it's non-stop.

Judge: What I mean is, is 'Minister' the name your mother gave you?

Minister: No.

Judge: Ah ha] Minister: She called me Little Cotton Socks.

Judge: That's not quite . . . let me put it another way. What is the name that appears on your birth certificate?

Minister: Arthur J Salvesen.

Judge: So that is your name] Minister: No. That is the name of the registrar in south London who registered my birth and who is required by law to have his name on my birth certificate.

Judge: Minister, I detect a certain reluctance to give us your real name.

Minister: One can hide nothing from you, m'lud. Incidentally, is lud your real name?

Judge: No.

Minister: Then what is your real name?

Judge: Who wants to know?

Minister: I do. I would like to know what to call you.

Judge: You can call me your lud.

Minister: Then you can call me Minister.

Judge: Before I do that, Little Cotton Socks, would you care to tell us why you are so careful of your real identity leaking out?

Minister: Because of my sexual proclivities, m'lud.

Judge: I see. In my experience, when a man talks about his 'sexual proclivities', that generally means he is homosexual. A heterosexual person does not consider himself to have 'proclivities'.

Minister: You are right, m'lud, I fear that if my leanings towards those of the same sex were to become known at Cabinet level, I would be made fun of, lampooned, downgraded, crucified and even forced to appear on Question Time.

Judge: But surely at least one member of the Cabinet is bound to be gay?

There are many more than 10 people in the Cabinet. Ergo, the odds are that at least one is bound to be gay.

Minister: It's a superficially tempting analysis.

Judge: Thank you.

Minister: However, it is also deeply flawed.

Take another example. Fifty per cent of the population is female. Therefore, the odds are that half the Cabinet will be made up of women. However, that is so far from the truth that it is laughable.

Counsel: Minister, on 19 July last, were you occupying a bedroom in the Albarama Hotel, Birmingham?

Minister: I was.

Counsel: Did you retire there at about 11.30pm? And did you switch on the television before you went to bed?

Minister: I did.

Counsel: Tell us what kind of hotel this is, Minister.

Minister: It is the kind of modern faceless hotel where the end of the lavatory roll in the bathroom has been folded into a V-shape, where there are tiny phials of shampoo on the bathroom shelf and there is a mini- bar selling alcohol at prices even more outrageous than in an airport duty-free area.

On the bathroom floor there is a rubber mat with suckers like those of an octopus, on which you are meant to stand while having a shower.

Judge: Know the things you mean. I use them to lie on while having a bath.

Minister: Why so, m'lud?

Judge: I tend to fall asleep in the bath these days, and I fancy the rubber mat stops me sliding underwater and drowning.

Counsel: Thank you, my lord. And what happened when you turned on your television in the Albarama Hotel, Birmingham?

Minister: I found myself watching what I can only describe as a pornographic film . . .

More from this sensational court case on Monday.