I am fascinated – fascinated to the nth degree – by the delicate dance that is even now being stepped by our national press.
The subject? Why: the slow motion car crash that looks very much as though it is soon to be the epitaph to the career of our esteemed Defence Secretary, Liam Fox. Did he, didn’t he? And what is it, exactly, that he may or may not have done?
Lots of fine-sounding words about national security and improper conduct. But as further details emerge of the Fox’s apparent need for close male company, the real question, the unspoken question that one can sense our beloved editors are afraid to ask is simple: is the man one of us – or is he, perhaps, “one of them”?
And in these supposedly tolerant diverse days, what’s the story if he is?
How can i put it? As Defence Secretary, Mr Fox has toured the world in the company of a close male friend. Now it emerges, that when, a while back, he was burgled he was not, as he claimed, home alone, but in the company of a young (male) researcher.
If the gender was otherwise – if he’d been accompanied by a woman on both occasions: if he’d tried to cover up the presence of a young female researcher, we all know exactly where the very public speculation would be headed.
Was he having an affair? And then, crucially, the only real remaining question would be: was that affair a danger to national security.
But here, if anything other than bad judgment was involved, it would have been a GAY affair.
And thereby hangs the measure of how far we haven’t come. Because if we were a truly diverse society, it wouldn’t matter. The only question – and even that only tenuosuly relevant – would be whether he had had an affair. The gender of his partner, his orientation, would not have mattered one jot.
But we aren’t diverse. We all know, deep down, that however much Cameron goes on about tolerance, there would be a different public reaction to a gay affair. Hell! It is even possible that Mr F might sue at the very allegation.
Although if it makes no difference, i am not entirely sure whether such a case could be brought today.
It all brings to mind the similarly amusing storm in a tacup over William hague’s sleeping arrangements when it came to light that he was sharing a bed with a male researcher.
To which the correct response was: so what? If there was evidence of an affair in that case, then it might have been a story. But the real unspoken story remained: that’s a bit “odd” and well, it might just mean he’s gay.
Sorry. For me, the oddity in all of this is how sexual orientation is still seen by our newspapers as something newsworthy or, if not newsworthy, something sufficiently serious to tiptoe round.
No. I don’t have the faintest what the man’s sexual orientation is. Nor do i care. If he was shagging the entire Rotherham rugby 15, hats off to him: but the only issues that matter are whether he was endangering national security or dabbling in dodgy financial dealings.
Though i suspect we’ll see a fair bit of nudge-nudge wink-wink speculation for a whiel to come. Because long after the conservative party has officially gone diverse …our Fleet St editors still see gayness – or non-gayness – as a story in its own right.