Lord Beenie Man of Bigotshire

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The Independent Online

A friend of mine who accepted a life peerage was startled by the passion generated by one of the first debates he attended at Westminster. Taking his place in the old, unreformed House of Lords, he listened in bewilderment as one noble lord after another got excited - complained, I meant to say - about buggery. The nation's children must be protected, they thundered, revealing a fascination with the subject most often found in elderly aristocrats who attended English public schools.

This was some time ago, and the Sin of Sodom has not come up quite so often since most of the hereditaries were thanked for their trouble and packed off to their ancestral seats, where their sexual fantasies no longer have to be subsidised by taxpayers.

Yet there remains a rump of peers and clerics, so to speak, who continue to see homosexuality as a threat to civilisation as they know it. Last week a cross-party coalition of lords and bishops effectively inflicted a defeat on the Government's Civil Partnership Bill, an eminently sensible measure that would give same-sex couples the same housing and pension rights as married couples. Their ostensible reason was concern for other unmarried people who live together - daughters who look after elderly parents, brothers who care for sick sisters and so on. This is a fair point, but the addition of an amendment giving them the same rights at this stage has thrown the Bill into confusion.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass gave the game away, declaring that the Bill "deals with couples who want to indulge ... in a relationship which most likely involves unnatural sexual practices". I assume these are different from "veterinary practices", which, in an unfortunate juxtaposition, appeared next on the day's order paper. To your sturdy yeoman farmer, there is nothing unnatural about veterinary practices, even when they involve inserting a hand into a cow's ...

Sorry! Family newspaper! Lord Tebbit suffered a similar failure of nerve during the debate, confining himself to denouncing civil partnerships as "a parody on marriage". This was disappointing for his admirers, both of whom were waiting for him to repeat a claim he made on Radio 4 only last month, when he accused the Government of doing "everything it can to promote buggery". It can only be a matter of time, in that alien territory known as Tebbitland, before it becomes a compulsory subject in GCSE biology.

The day before peers passed the wrecking amendment, elsewhere in London an unrepentant homophobe was helping the Metropolitan Police with their inquiries. The Jamaican reggae artist Beenie Man, aka Anthony Davies, arrived at Heathrow for his European tour and promptly found himself being interviewed by Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll of Scotland Yard's racial and violent crime task force. The police acted after a complaint from human rights campaigners, who claim that Davies's lyrics incite the murder of gay men.

A couple of weeks ago, a prominent gay rights activist was hacked to death in Kingston, stoking fears that Jamaica's violently homophobic culture is having lethal effects. "I'm dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays" does appear somewhat unequivocal, and Beenie Man's appearance at the Ocean Club in Hackney was cancelled amid fears that his songs might incite attacks on gay men.

Reggae and rap stars have become notorious for their homophobic lyrics, and it is good to see groups like OutRage! naming and shaming them. I don't find it hard to understand why artists like Beenie Man and Eminem (the phenomenon is not confined to black culture) project their fears and frustrations on to gay men; it is a textbook example of embattled masculinity seeking scapegoats.

But what on earth has this to do with the would-be custodians of contemporary morality whose views on sexuality are such an ornament to our upper chamber? Unrepresentative, out of touch, almost universally mocked - on second thoughts, the connection is all too clear. I wonder if anyone has thought of offering Beenie Man a peerage?

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