Because homphobia is gay when it’s against Tories, too

The Lib Dem blogosphere has a bit of a love-hate relationship with arch Tory blogger Iain Dale.

Some regard him as little more than a self-promoting tribal propagandist who plays a clever game of appearing impartial when it suits him. Others believe him to be a nice fella for a Tory, who spreads round a lot of blogging link-love, and maintains a prolific, usually entertaining blog, which through hard work and determination has brought him mainstream celebrity. My view? As a Lib Dem I think there’s a bit of truth in both verdicts (though, truthfully, I incline more towards the latter).

But if there’s one thing guaranteed to unite Lib Dem bloggers in solidarity with Iain Dale it’s some insidious homophobia from the Daily Mail targeted against him. The villain is the Ephraim Hardcastle diary, which reports (as Iain has blogged):

Overtly gay Tory blogger Iain Dale has reached the final stage of parliamentary selection for Bracknell, telling PinkNews: ‘I hope any PinkNews readers who live in Bracknell will come to the open primary on October 17 to select their new candidate. You don’t even have to be a Conservative to attend.’

Isn’t it charming how homosexuals rally like-minded chaps to their cause?

I guess it could just be written off as just another example of the usual Daily Hate-Mailery, which preys on homosexuals, immigrants / asylum-seekers (both groups look the same to the paper), any woman who’s either lost or gained a few kilos or doesn’t know her place, and any man who was once a heart-throb and now looks a bit bald and old, while hyping fears about young people, cancer, foreigners and technology. It’s a noxious rag which has somehow become the second biggest-selling newspaper with the most popular newspaper website – that’s consumer democracy, that is. Ah well.

Anyway, Iain has encouraged folk to email the column’s editor [email protected] or email the paper’s emetic editor Paul Dacre. And I hope Lib Dems who take exception to the paper’s comment will do so, regardless of your views about Iain – a number of Lib Dem bloggers have already come out in support of Iain, including Paul Walter, Mark Thompson, burkesworks, Andrew Reeves, Stephen Glenn and Antony Hook.

Update: The Voice’s Mark Pack points out on his own blog the odd absence of comments to the story on the Daily Mail website, even though he submitted one himself.

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  • What’s the bet that a hefty portion of Mail readers will interpret Iain Dale’s (justified) actions as evidence of “political correctness gone mad”?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Oct '09 - 12:44pm

    Right, I am going to make myself really unpopular here. I agree with “Ephraim Hardcastle”. I disagree with his critics.

    OK, I wouldn’t have phrased it that way, but underneath this is a serious and valid criticism of the primary (or really, open caucus) system. It is open to be abused in this way by anyone who has become prominent in some group where a certain community mentality can be used to bring in block support from people who aren’t really associated with the party. The message to your tribe – any tribe – “come and support a fellow tribesman and vote me in for that reason” is wrong and should never be used by any decent politician.

    I can perhaps say this because I am a member of a tribe. I am an overt member, I have made no secret of it, and I have mentioned it when relevant in discussions, and defended my tribe when it has come under what I believe to be unfair attack. I am a Roman Catholic. I attend mass. These days, this is probably a more difficult and career-damaging thing to say in liberal circles than “I am gay. I have gay sex”.

    I have never used tribal support in my political life, and would believe it to be completely wrong to do so. When I was a councillor, I did not attend mass in the church in my ward, though it was the nearest to where I live. I did not want people to vote for me on a tribal basis, to the point where I preferred it that members of my tribe in my ward did not know I was “one of them”. I wanted them to support me for my politics.

    Now, do you suppose that if someone who was Catholic and wished to become Conservative PPC for Bracknell had written in the Catholic Herald:

    ‘I hope any Catholic Herald readers who live in Bracknell will come to the open primary on October 17 to select their new candidate. You don’t even have to be a Conservative to attend.’

    it would have received similar comments in liberal circles if the Guardian Diary had picked it up and made the sort of snide anti-Catholic remarks the Guardian is notorious for? I do not think so, I rather think instead the comment would be highlighted and passed around in an approving way with mutterings about the dangers of these people with their funny ways and funny practices who can’t be trusted because they have some sort of outside loyalty which they’d put first if it came to a crunch.

    When I read the comments from “Ephraim Hardcastle” , and the extreme attacks on them here and elsewhere, I had assumed there was perhaps some further paragraph of anti-gay comments which justified those attacks. But so far as I can see, there weren’t. Is it the use of the word “homosexual” here, when the politically correct word would have been “gay”? Other than that, the fact that people who are gay tend to rally around and support each other, for fairly obvious and acceptable reasons, is hardly news and hardly either unfair or abusive to say.

    So, it seems to me that what liberals here – with no exception so far as I can see – are saying, is that expressing this viewpoint, one which as I have argued is neither invalid, unfair, nor untruthful, is to be banned. Free speech is to be drowned by a chorus of complaints and attacks stirred up to make it seem far more abusive than it really was if one reads the actual words.

  • Matthew, I think you’re missing the point a bit here. It’s the rank hypocrisy of the Mail that’s the target. Suppose Iain Dale had replaced “Pink News readers” with “avowed Eurosceptics” or “people who support the death penalty” – would the Mail have run the story? I very much doubt it. They probably wouldn’t have even if it was about “pro-Europeans” or “anti-death penalty campaigners.” But because it’s about a gay man, then it’s fair game to make the usual snide comments.

    You do make a good point, though, about how invoking any type of tribalism could skew a primary, but this happens all the time anyway, particularly at local level. How many councillors have people delivering their Focuses not because they’re Lib Dems, but because they’re members of the same church/golf club/drama group?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Oct '09 - 1:52pm

    KL, as I have already said, suppose it was not “Pink News” but “Catholic Herald”. Would liberal bloggers have reacted the same? No, in which case by your own argument liberal bloggers are showing just as much rank hypocrisy as the Mail, in fact more so because they are accusing the Mail of something they would do themselves under other circumstances, and demonstrating an illiberal wish to silence free speech.

    Dale is appealling not to a particular trend of opinion within the Conservative Party, which would be the case with the two replacements you suggest, but to a group which one is born into or reflects personal tastes which have nothing to do with politics or whatever (no real wish to open up that can of worms, that’s why I stuck to “tribe”). But that is not the main point I am making. The real point I am noting is that it seems to me to be a relevant and valid comment to note to a wider public who may not be familiar with that group’s publications that this is happening, to express an opinion that people of that group do tend to support each other, and therefore to suggest this may influence the decision and that this may be an issue to consider when this “primary” system is advocated.

    I didn’t think the phrasing used was that offensive, certainly not when compared to the phrasing used to attack members of the group of which I happen to be a member very regularly in the liberal press and also very regularly by an honoured guest at this year’s Liberal Democrat party conference. So I stick to what I said – the criticisms made in the articles quoted in attack on the Mail seem to me to be way over the top, and reflect an illiberal attitude towards free speech when it comes to certain issues.

  • Matthew, the point I was trying to get across was that the Mail made those comments probably because they fitted with their editorial agenda as much as anything else. Would they have made the comments had it been about the “Catholic Herald”? Probably not, because it doesn’t fit their agenda.

    In either case though, the comments are (or would be) still pretty abhorrent. I don’t think the comments would have received the attention they have had they been about the Catholic Herald (and that’s another debate where I think we would be on the same side), but I do think – or at least would like to – that they would be shot down as squarely as these ones have been. I’d also point out that, in the specific example you give, Stephen Glenn is from Northern Ireland and I’m pretty sure would make exactly the same statement with regard to anti-Catholic remarks as he has with homophobic ones.

    But, like I said, there are and always will be blocs who for whatever reason will move to have their man or woman elected, either in primaries or in main elections. Some of them even group together to form political parties….;-)

  • Matthew, I’ve just read your first post again. For what its worth, I don’t think that it’s just “coming out” as a Catholic that’s necessarily the dangerous move – it’s more openly admitting you’re religious. Now I’m not a church-goer, and I’m kind of ambivalent about religion, but that’s just my view and my choice and I know and respect many people who believe opposite. However, I don’t like any more that you do that you feel you can’t be open about religion – and maybe there are some people with similar views to me who need to think carefully about how they comment on or react to religion.

  • Mark Devlin 3rd Oct '09 - 12:37pm

    Matthew Huntbach, long time no ‘see’; hope this finds you well.

    Though one must admire your bravery at openly admitting to your Roman Catholicism, I disagree with you (you’ll be shocked to learn). Not about the unfortunate phenomenon of tribalism in politics, but about the unloveliness of the attack on Dale for being gay. There are all sorts of reasons I hope he suffers electoral defeat, but for me (and, I daresay, for you) his sexual orientation is not one of them. And it seems to me that “Hardcastle” is expressing, or at least hoping to exploit, antipathy towards gay people.

    Further to your hypothetical, if you had issued an analogous appeal to your fellow catholics, I’d have deplored it. (Tribalism etc.) But whilst my enthusiasm for RCism is, as you know, not without limits, I’d have deplored even more any antipapish Hardcastle-analogous swipes at you. I detest Belloc; but I greatly admire his stump-speech when the topic of his beliefs came up while he was seeking election.

  • Mark Devlin 3rd Oct '09 - 12:59pm

    PS by way of clarification, Matthew, I do not view homosexuality and Roman Catholicism (or any other form of religious belief) as analogous. Knowing that a given candidate is gay (or, for that matter, straight) tells me nothing about whether I would want to vote for her. Knowing that a candidate is RC — not merely in a family-background, personal-identity sense but in a “makes church doctrine the touchstone for important decisions affecting other people’s lives” sort of way — would, at least absent counter-balancing factors, disincline me to vote for her; not because I care what she believes, that is her affair, but because of what I fear she might do given power to do it. You’re a decent enough chap, but if the worst sort of hard-right Opus Dei reactionary were to seek office, I hope we’d all do what we could to help her fail; and I also hope we’d all give a sound thrashing even to those we otherwise agree with if they attacked her for her religion rather than her goals.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Oct '09 - 11:11pm

    Well, this is now the third attempt to reply to Mark Devlin, the first two having been rejected as “a bit spammy”.

    I disagree with Mark’s claim that Iain Dale’s attachments here say nothing about his politics. I think we would know well they, particularly the sort of people who read the paper in which he wrote the appeal to come and support him in the primary, would tend to be liberal in viewpoint. So it seems to me Mr Hardcastle’s point is being howled down because it’s an attack on someone using a tactic to advance the cause of liberalism within the Conservative Party. We’d have made the same point as Mr Hardcastle has it been someone using the same tactic to advance the cause of conservatism within the Conservative Party.

    I didn’t see the offending sentence as an attack on Mr Dale for his orientation. I saw it rather as a suggestion there might be a certain clannishness amongst people of that orientation, particular those out and proud, which might lead to a willingness to intervene in a party political primary by people not normally associated with that party. Is itr really so offensive to note that?

    I felt the thought-experiment in which the word describing that group of people was replaced by a word describing another group of people who also would be of a variety of politcial viewpoints (though perhaps conservative on certain issues) was valid. True liberals would be able to get through that thought experiment, making the replacement and reacting the same in either case. Reacting wildly differently suggests to me a deep hypocrisy. We are not prepared to extend to people whose politics we dislike or who are unfashionable in our circles that which we will extend to those we like or who are fashionable.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Oct '09 - 9:08pm

    Well, I tried to be a bit more specific, but it kept getting rejected as “spammy”. I think readers of the Pink Paper would tend to be liberal in some matters, particularly sexual ones. Is it really so offensive to say that?

    Now, Roman Catholics have a great variety of political views, there are some who are staunch socialists, others who are strong Conservatives. So, as I said, suppose a Catholic appealled in the Catholic Herald for fellow Catholics to come and support him in a PPC open caucus, regardless of which party they support. Then someone else wrote “Look how these Catholic chaps support each other”, would you, or any other Liberal Democrat, think the person who wrote that sentence so appalling offensive that he should be howled down and accused of being a bigoted hate-monger? I think not, and therefore I accuse those who have howled down Mr Hardcastle of being hypocrites unless they would equally have howled down that person who wrote that sentence.

    Had Mr Hardcastle carried on and written some more stuff about supposed behaviour of readers of the Pink Paper which made unpleasant accusation about them, then, yes, the attacks on him would have been valid. But, unless I have missed something, he didn’t and so they are not.

  • And here was I thinking that the dreaded Mr McHackey had drunk himself to death years ago.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Oct '09 - 10:48pm

    One might as well say that anti-semitism is fine, because people born Jews could easily reject their religion and the culture associated with it.

    That is all – the prejudice about this issue amongst many supposed “liberals” stinks.

  • Matthew has a point. Begging for tribal support is wrong. Dale should not have done it.

    Matthew’s opponents also have a point. “Hardcastle” clearly picked on a gay tribalist especially because he was gay. That is also wrong.

2 Trackbacks

  • By Top of the Blogs: The Golden Dozen #137 on Tue 6th October 2009 at 8:33 pm.

    […] Because homphobia is gay when it’s against Tories, too by Stephen Tall on Lib Dem Voice. When the choice is between the Daily Mail and Iain Dale I know […]

  • By What should be done with the PCC? on Mon 23rd November 2009 at 6:15 pm.

    […] the PCC’s ruling that the Daily Mail didn’t owe Iain Dale an apology for branding him ‘overtly gay’. Then there were the record-breaking 22,000 complaints submitted to the PCC following the Daily […]

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