Stephen Gately deserves better than this

Jan Moir's homophobic rant is a disgrace.

 

On the day the remaining members of Boyzone prepare to bring the body of their adored bandmate and "brother" Stephen Gately back to Dublin, the Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir has unleashed a poisonous piece of thinly veiled homophobia, entitled "Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death".

In her column, which is little more than ill-informed conjecture, and in sickeningly insensitive bad taste, Moir refuses to accept Gately's mother's official statement that there is a history of heart problems in the family, preferring instead to insinuate that -- you know -- he's a gay man, so it must have been drugs, mustn't it?

Consider the way it has been largely reported, as if Gately had gently keeled over at the age of 90 in the grounds of the Bide-a-Wee rest home while hoeing the sweet pea patch.

The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again.

Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this. All that has been established so far is that Stephen Gately was not murdered.

And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy.

Oh really, would we? What, because a couple who have been in a committed and loving marriage for three years (and despite the legal jargon, it is marriage) decide to open up their sex life from time to time in their own home? That's far worse than cheating on your wife with prostitutes, isn't it? Or, say, being found asphyxiated in ladies' underwear with an orange in your gob.

What is most disgusting -- and utterly hateful -- however, is Moir's pronouncement on gay partnerships in general. She implies that there is something inherently immoral, dirty and wrong about same-sex relationships by dragging poor Matt Lucas and his late ex-husband into her vile logic:

Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael.

Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet the recent death of Kevin McGee, the former husband of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, and now the dubious events of Gately's last night raise troubling questions about what happened.

For once again, under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see.

Two different and very sad deaths among hundreds of thousands of successful, happy, loving gay partnerships. But Moir's message is all too clear: gay relationships will never be "normal" -- and, by extension, if tragedy befalls a gay couple, then they only had it coming to them.

There is growing outrage at the Mail as Moir's column ripples across the internet. Some, including the Fabian Society's Sunder Katwala, have suggested that the article be reported to the Press Complaints Commission.

UPDATE: After Facebook users set up a group suggesting that people offended by the article should complain to companies that advertise with the Daily Mail, the paper appears to have taken down all corporate advertising from the page that hosts Moir's piece, and has changed its headline to the more anodyne "A strange, lonely and troubling death".

Thomas Calvocoressi is Chief Sub (Digital) at the New Statesman and writes about visual arts for the magazine.

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How Dame Vera Lynn was told to “posh her accent up”

Radio 2’s 100th-birthday tribute reveals how Lynn was forced to change her voice.

“I remember seeing her near an elephant, and this elephant rolled over a bit and she had to get out of the way . . .” Vic Knibb, the vice-chairman of the veterans’ group the Burma Star Association, was one of the thousands of British soldiers serving in the Far East during the Second World War who came across Vera Lynn in the jungle, singing from the back of a Jeep, accompanied by an out-of-tune piano.

Speaking in Radio 2’s celebration of the singer’s 100th birthday, Vera Lynn: the Sweetheart of the United Kingdom (Sunday 19 March, 8pm), Knibb and others recalled what it meant to them that Lynn travelled so far to perform for the so-called Forgotten Army in Burma. Unlike other entertainers, who stayed in Europe or visited only military hospitals in the UK, she deliberately went where few others did – where she felt she was needed by “the boys”.

The programme, which featured a rare interview with Lynn herself, was dominated by clips of her recordings from the Thirties and Forties. We heard frequent extracts from “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “We’ll Meet Again” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. The contrast between these two voices, separated by more than six decades, was the most arresting thing this otherwise pedestrian documentary had to offer. The now gravelly-voiced centenarian sang, in her youth, with a smooth, effortless-sounding tone and crystal-clear diction. But how did the cockney daughter of a plumber from East Ham end up singing with received pronunciation?

The answer, as ever in Britain, is class. Lynn had no formal musical training, and as she had been performing in working men’s clubs from the age of seven, she was considered closer to a musical-hall crooner than a “proper” singer. But with her small vocal range and flawless self-taught technique, she chose her own songs to suit her voice. The BBC, for which she made her hugely popular radio show Sincerely Yours, requested that she take elocution lessons to “posh her accent up” and even at one point took her show off air for 18 months. “Every­body’s Sweetheart” wasn’t immune from snobbishness, it seems. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution