Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

The telephone rang at 7.45 a. m. It was a journalist I know. She sounded tense. 'Gyles, ' she said, 'do you want to come out?' 'It's a bit early, isn't it, darling?' I replied. 'I mean, "come out", ' she said with emphasis, adding, with a little laugh, 'Everyone knows you're gay.' 'Do they?' I asked. 'Am I?' 'Oh, come on, ' she persisted, 'Frankie Howerd made a pass at you once, didn't he?' 'Yes.' 'And you knew Ted Heath?' 'Er . . . yes.' 'Well?' she said. I put the phone down. What is this bizarre obsession we have with the sexual orientation of others? Frankie Howerd was certainly promiscuous (and, oddly, in the habit of propositioning straight men -- perhaps rejection was his bag? ), but if anyone manages to turn up hard evidence that Ted Heath walked with a squeak, I'll be surprised. Of course, if it does transpire that there was a touch of the Tommy-two-ways about our Ted, it just shows you what a truly modern Tory he was.

Today I saw Gordon Brown and Ian McKellen in the same room! True, they weren't actually speaking to one another, let alone holding hands, but what do you think?

When I was an MP and in the government whips' office I was tasked with investigating rumours that Gordon Brown was gay. He was in his forties, unmarried, and there was something suggestive about the way he moved his jaw . . . Over several months, I dug deep (really deep) and discovered nothing. I like Mr Brown. In person he is not the least bit dour. When I went last to 11 Downing Street as his guest, he was hosting a private evening of poetry readings. (He read the opening poem himself, and rather beautifully. ) Today Brown, a genial and civilised man, was in Stratford-upon-Avon with Sir Ian McKellen (who was sporting a MacBeth tartan tie, incidentally), Sir Donald Sinden (in a bright orange Hi-de-Hi blazer) and other welldressed theatrical luminaries, to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday and the end of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Complete Works season. It was a great day and Gordon seemed to have a good time, but I felt sorry for him. Some of the more cynical luvvies reckoned that he'd come to Stratford (children in tow) not to see but to be seen -- and to advertise his admiration for England's national poet. Who'd be a politician?

Never mind Blair's legacy, what's yours? In the ten years since that bizarre summer of hysteria -- it began with Blair's accession; it ended with Diana's death; the over-emotional reaction to both events could not possibly be sustained -- what have you done that's so amazing? Me? Not a lot. Certainly, not enough. In the Blair landslide, I lost my seat. …

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