Magazine article The Spectator

I Shall Shut Up about Homosexuality Now, but I Must Just Say One Last Thing

Magazine article The Spectator

I Shall Shut Up about Homosexuality Now, but I Must Just Say One Last Thing

Article excerpt

To one who has banged on rather a lot about reforming the criminal law on homosexuality, it was hardly surprising when recent weeks brought requests for written or spoken thoughts on last Monday's Commons debate. One reason for turning these down has been that I never enjoyed discussing the subject; events no longer need my involvement and I'm relieved to take my bow.

Another reason is that I am conscious of having become a crashing bore - and not only to others. As Dylan Thomas once complained, `Somebody's boring me and I think it's me.' In my trade, a freelancer must be prepared to bore his audience when he is paid to do so, but one draws the line at boring oneself. I have so little left to say, and, anyway, 16 was a long time ago.

There is, it is true, one remaining challenge, and that is to switch sides. I would half like to start my life again as a reactionary moral philosopher. Programme editors are desperate for the services of that tiny gang of articulate ethical reactionaries: an overworked band, for the most part mumsy ladies and harmless gentlemen who enjoy thumbing their noses and saying 'queer' a lot. There's scope for another voice. Why, one could have one's own column in the Sunday Telegraph, a well-paid contract to outrage readers of the Guardian, a regular engagement on Thought for the Day, and frequent appearances on Newsnight. With a home computer, a modem, fax machine and studio-quality microphone connected to an ISDN telephone line, one would hardly need leave one's London flat.

This would be fun and perhaps useful. A more challenging case for reactionary morality can be made than our age's combined force of bishops, rabbis, Tory MPs, right-wing women and attention-seeking male bigots seem capable of assembling. As Monday's Commons debate proved, conservative British jurisprudence is almost dead. Charles Moore could revive it, but he is too nice and too busy.

If one wants an intelligent debate with an ethical conservative in England these days one usually has to argue with oneself. Thoughtful moral conservatism (as opposed to stupid bourgeois triumphalism) has hit lean times. The public argument has become polluted with personal hatred, robbing it of force; while those few who can avoid sounding choleric lean too heavily on God for their authority. No modern moral reactionary will get far by resting his case on a divine Because. To the possibility of a mid-life switch I have therefore given serious thought: a creed which is severe but unvindictive -- commanding but ex something more than cathedra -- awaits articulation. But no. Anything offering comfort to the Daily Telegraph must be eschewed. I threw my lot in with the woolly liberals years ago and it's too late to cross the floor. I am reduced to reciting bad arguments in good causes.

Or silence. For the gay activists' crusade now moves on to demanding positive rights for homosexuals - in jobs, housing, and even in public print. Crusaders want to make discrimination a criminal offence, whereas I want to remove criminal prohibitions, not create new ones. I don't believe in positive rights or special protection for any group: not for women, public schools, blacks, the elderly, married couples, gay men, Christianity, the disabled, the National Trust, charities, aristocrats, lesbians or the royal family.

There are far too many positive rights and special protections in Britain already: an escalating bidding war in which I do not wish to be involved, even on behalf of my own tribe. …

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