Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ain't Nobody's Doggone Business But My Own

A recipe: two words every politician should know

Sod off (strengthen first word as required).

That's what Simon Hughes should have said to Alice Thomson and to the Independent journalist who asked him whether he was gay or not. It's irrelevant. The sexual preferences of our politicians should be of absolutely no interest to us whatsoever. Indeed, the private life of any politician is only of concern to the public at large when it affects his capabilities to carry out his public duties. Thus, Charles Kennedy's alcoholism was of valid concern - it was manifestly affecting his ability to carry out his job. But who Simon Hughes does or doesn't sleep with is of no concern.

Not that I'm about to let Hughes off the hook here, either. It's difficult to trust a man who, when asked a question he doesn't want to answer, however irrelevant it may be, lies. It's far better to refuse to answer than to deny. The cover-up is far greater than the supposed 'sin'. If he's prepared to lie on that subject, only to come clean when the press start digging, then on what other topics is he prepared to lie? His obfuscation has called his integrity into question.

There's also the matter of that Bermondsey by-election in 1983, too - Hughes being "the straight choice" there. When the Oaten and Kennedy stories broke, the LibDems denied comparisons to the Tory years of sleaze because they had never called for a 'back to basics' campaign. Well, Hughes had brought sexuality into his political equation, and its only right that he faces the fall-out now.

No-one comes out of this smelling of roses, however. Malcolm Bruce, a supporter of Ming Campbell, would only say that Hughes's private life was private to "some extent". No, his sexuality is his own business and his own business entirely. Anyone who objects to what consenting adults get up to in their own time is nothing but a bigot. It discredits politics in general when rather than attacking journalists for sinking into the gutter, all we get is mealy-mouthed half apologies.

It's the attitude of people like Bruce that make the hacks at the Sun think they can get away with what they do. Why did Hughes come out now? Sure, there had been rumours circling that something was about to break regarding Hughes, but the Sun claimed that they had provided Hughes with pretty incontrovertible evidence he had been phoning a gay chat line. Again, who cares? Why is the Sun snooping around like that? Unless he was phoning a gay chat line from the House of Commons or a constituency office, it's nothing to do with us. And if he was, then the matter at hand is misuse of public money, not the fact that it's a gay chat line.

It's about time politicians started fighting back, and telling the journalists to stop their intrusion. News is only in the public interest if it is information that prevents politicians from doing their job properly. Rather than playing the hacks with a straight bat (no pun intended), they should go and hit them for six.