I was saying nice things abut Crispin Blunt the other day who, as Prisons Minister, seemed to want to take a different tack from the authoritarianism that went before. Shame his boss didn't agree, but there you go.
Anyway, he's going to be in the news for a couple of days because he's announced the world that he's gay and is splitting from his wife. The personal details are not interesting and I'm not going to dwell on it, these are these his affairs not ours.
Iain Dale writes movingly on the difficulty of pursuing a life in politics as a rural Conservative whilst coming to terms with your sexuality, he also points out that Blunt comes from a military family which may have made coming out all the more difficult. As Darryl showed today homophobia has far from disappeared from society, despite the fact that we have undoubtedly come a long way.
There are some interesting political aspects to this story however. Like Crispin Blunt's own voting record on homosexuality, which is far from happy. Likewise, although he's by no means been the worst bigot in the House, statements on the floor of Parliament like this one during the equalisation of the age of consent debate make difficult reading;
"I believe it right that our law should discriminate in that limited way between homosexual and heterosexual practice... While I accept that, in law, we should tolerate people's choices to follow a homosexual life style and practice, I maintain that those are not equivalent to heterosexuality--nor should we pretend that they are."The debate continued with Blunt being told "The hon. Gentleman perpetuates the myth that being gay is a life style choice. It is no more a life style choice than is his sexual orientation." This, of course, takes on new meaning in the light of today's revelations. Blunt replied;
"I am afraid that I cannot accept that. In our culture, the choice of a homosexual orientation tends to become the dominating influence on a person's life: it defines homosexuals in a way that heterosexuality does not. I am not condemning that choice; I believe that it should be tolerated. I do not, however, believe the two choices to be the same.Without wishing to be too critical of Blunt in this tricky time I do have a problem with his insistence that homosexual "gratification" is somehow bound up with the exploitation of the young. I don't think that he was confronting a difficult truth here.
"It is also clear that there is a much greater strand of homosexuality than of heterosexuality which depends for its gratification on the exploitation of youth. [Hon. Members: "Shame!"] I am sorry if Labour Members do not like the truth, but I do not intend to run away from the difficult issues."
But there's more. In 2002 we had this little fracas. When one leading Tory figure, Alan Duncan MP, came out as gay the Conservative grassroots were not entirely happy.
Tony Collinson, chairman of the 1,400-strong Reigate Conservative Association, led the chorus of disapproval.
"I would not be happy if we had a gay candidate here - I would always go for a candidate who had a normal background," he said. "Our current MP [Conservative Crispin Blunt; majority 8,000] is happily married with two children."
This rather backs up what Iain Dale had to say I think. If Blunt had been open about his sexuality he would never have been permitted to play a significant role in Conservative politics.
Particularly when you consider, in the same article, Blunt's fellow Reigate Conservatives are quoted as saying things like being openly gay is "drawing attention to yourself" or "If he's practising then it's unacceptable. If he's non-practising he's made a mistake in bringing it up." or "I come from an older generation where this sort of thing was deemed unspeakable".
No wonder Conservative Home has turned off the comments on this one. As I say Blunt's sexuality is his own business, and I wish him well with his personal problems. The complex politics of the issue, where homophobia still plays a role in British society, well that's something else entirely.