Magazine article The Spectator

Now We Know: Discrimination against Exhibitionists Is Politically Incorrect

Magazine article The Spectator

Now We Know: Discrimination against Exhibitionists Is Politically Incorrect

Article excerpt

Writing from the Commons for the Daily Telegraph this week, though alluding to him, I went to tortuous lengths not to name the MP whom a Sunday newspaper had exposed as the subject of the latest 'gay sex scandal'. Why should I have mentioned him in the first place? Because only the day after the Mail on Sunday had made him famous, he strolled into a committee's proceedings as if nothing untoward had happened to him.

In my line of work, it was therefore impossible not to mention him. He did not say a word, but his presence distracted all of us. We were at the standing committee on the inter-governmental conference on the European Union's proposed constitution. The Foreign Secretary Mr Jack Straw tried to win back our attention by mentioning, at the top of page 108 of a certain unread document, 'article 3210'. But the only article we were thinking of was in the Mail on Sunday.

A photograph accompanied it. The MP had taken it of himself, in his bathroom mirror, naked except for pants. The paper said that the MP - 'a leading campaigner for gay rights' - had 'sent the photo to a gay friend after meeting up through an Internet dating agency for homosexuals'. The 'friend' could not have been as friendly as all that, having presumably provided the Mail on Sunday with the photograph.

The paper accompanied it with quotations from emails which the MP, under a code name, had submitted for display on the agency's website, their purpose being to seek assignations with the like-minded. The paper censored them by means of many asterisks. But many were, it said, 'unprintable in a family newspaper'.

These ur-texts, being available from the website in question, soon circulated around the Palace of Westminster. The MP, it seemed, was keen on ***** with his partner's ******, inter alia, and indeed inter much else besides.

Yet there he was - at our committee. Here was a theme for me in the Daily Telegraph: something to do with bravado, or even courage; but best not mention him by name, I thought, though colleagues on other papers did. The following day, there he was again, seated in the front bench in the Commons below the gangway at Question Time. A colleague said that the previous evening the MP had been at the Sky television party.

The thought occurred that perhaps he wanted us to mention him. Perhaps, whatever else he is, he is also an exhibitionist. Journalists ostentatiously not naming him were politically incorrect. We were discriminating against exhibitionists. Surely there is an exhibitionist lobby. It would probably be called something like Outflout. Its spokesman would pronounce: 'Such non-reporting of one of our community who has taken the trouble to be both an MP and someone who appears in his Y-fronts on a gay website is our society's attempt to marginalise exhibitionism as a valid lifestyle choice.'

By the time these words appear, his name will be known even to those ill-informed enough to confine their newspaper reading to the broadsheets. He is Mr Chris Bryant, aged 41, a former Church of England vicar, and indeed Tory, who is the Member for Rhondda.

The story has implications. Admittedly, it would be just as interesting or amusing if it did not. But the high-minded always feel better in talking about something like this if a broader issue can be established. …

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