Michael Brown: It's just too easy for politicians to join the great gay lovefest

Comment
Click to follow
The Independent Online

I don't want to rain on today's Gay Pride celebrations but I really cannot get very excited, now that most of the battles for gay equality have been so comprehensively won – and for which Tony Blair and Peter Tatchell each deserve a prominent place in history.

It is too easy, and just so sanctimoniously boring, for everyone in the political establishment to board the great gay lovefest that is dominating this weekend's media – especially when several of them already played their part during the dark years, either standing aside or opposing moves to repeal Clause 28 which banned local authorities from promoting homosexuality, to reduce the age of consent, or to allow civil partnerships. (Re-read your 2001 election address, Mr Cameron, with a certain amount of regret and humility.)

But with all our political leaders now falling over themselves to make sure that they are accompanied by a gay on every arm as they squabble over who is the gay-friendliest of them all, I yearn for the days when the likes of me, Chris Smith, Matthew Parris and Peter Tatchell, right, had the field virtually to ourselves. I suppose the truth of the matter is that I thoroughly enjoyed being a young gay politician when it was regarded as wrong, illegal and utterly anti-establishment.

In a funny kind of way that I cannot quite explain, I adored being a minor political supporter of a persecuted minority because I was (and remain) naturally so much a creature of the wrong side of authority and of the bedclothes.

Don't get me wrong: I am delighted – envious even – for today's generation of politicians for whom promotion to the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet is probably more, not less, likely if they happen to be gay – I can think of some who are only there because they are gay.

But it is a far contrast from the days when I faced the sniggers and lewd jokes from the likes of Sir Robert Atkins (now an MEP) or Phillip Oppenheim whenever I walked into the Commons tearoom during my years in Parliament, or when complaints were made behind my back to the whips' office following my promotion to the junior ranks of John Major's government. Yet many who opposed me during the great debates on the issue – including Ann Widdecombe and Sir Patrick Cormack – became lifelong friends.

What, in retrospect, was all the fuss about? Every argument put against gay rights by the likes of Andrew Robathan (now David Cameron's deputy Chief Whip – I could name others in both the Teams Cameron and Brown who might not wish to be reminded of their homophobic stances when it really mattered) has fallen.

They got worked up about the collapse of army discipline when we discussed gays in the military. They foamed at the mouth about undue influence from gay teachers on susceptible teenagers. Yet in the end, life has chugged on with, if anything, many gays proving to be more faithful and boringly settled in monogamous relationships than their straight counterparts.

And as for the idea of gays adopting children – well, as ever, it's more often straight couples who seem to let their offspring down.

I don't really care whether there will ever be a gay Prime Minister or which party they will be from. For all I know, we may have already had one. I do know that I am now thoroughly bored with writing on this subject. Which proves being gay is now accepted as normal – even by the homophobes. So let's cancel Gay Pride and "move on".

The writer is a former Conservative MP for Brigg and Scunthorpe

Comments