Tuesday, 31 August 2010

When gay politicians are forced out of the closet

If you are reading this the other side of the world, it won’t make an ounce of difference to you that another leading British politician may be forced out of the closet.
This is allowing that there is substance – so far strongly denied and backed by the threat of legal action - to the nudges and winks circulating in some quarters of the political blogosphere.
There have been a spate of such events – not so much gay men ‘coming out’ as ‘harried out’ by prurient Press hounds. The pattern is denial followed by acknowledgement. I won’t name names – they mean little to me and probably nothing to you.
There is a bigger question though. Should we care about the sexual preferences of the politicians we elect to govern us? The answer is a clear and resounding ‘No’. Their ability to do the job well should be the only criterion.
These days being gay while something you may or may not wish to broadcast (it is after all no one’s business but your own), isn’t the career-killer it could be in the City, for example, a relatively few years ago.
There is a deadly sin, though, specific to politicians – hypocrisy. This is the get-out clause newspaper editors seek to excuse their pursuit. An MP who comes/is forced out is going to be heavily criticised – and not just by equality campaigners – if he had spent his political career opposing the extension of gay rights.
If that MP had preached the sanctity of the family and condemned alternative lifestyles – yet had cheated on his wife with a man or woman – it isn’t going to sit well with constituents.
You might not approve but you are unlikely to tear up a contract with an adulterous businessman who has deceived his spouse. However I don’t think it’s a double standard to expect higher integrity from politicians than the rest of society. I would add the judiciary and the police to that number.
We have a right to expect those to whom we transfer power over us to be honest. If they are proven be so then their sexuality is immaterial.

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