A discreet wedding...

The so-called first Anglican gay marriage was very far from a secret affair, so how come the news me

The final words of the Sunday Telegraph's coverage of the gay Anglican "wedding" caught my eye. "A champagne reception was held in the Great Hall of St Bartholomew's Hospital . . ." it said, and afterwards the couple "left in an open landau and headed for the Ivy restaurant with close friends and family". The order of service that was helpfully printed above made clear that these events happened on 31 May, and I was reading it on 15 June.

Let us get this straight. It is possible to conduct "the Church of England's first homosexual wedding" - an event so important it is apparently set to cause "an irreversible schism" in the worldwide Anglican community - in London on a Saturday in May, and the national press does not notice for a fortnight.

Footballers and Wags, take note. The ingredients of a discreet wedding, it seems, are these: hold it in one of the country's best-known churches (featured in both Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love), with rose-petal confetti, a robed choir, morning suits, bridesmaids and a VIP congregation, and then, after a reception in the historic public building next door, process to dinner at the Ivy in an open-topped carriage drawn by horses.

It is probably irrelevant these days that the church of St Bartholomew the Great is a stone's throw from Fleet Street, but the Ivy! The paparazzi practically live on the pavement there, and many of the top-end, expense-account columnists and editors, minor celebrities that they are, love to be seen eating there.

Did this historic couple really alight from their carriage and breeze in, unsnapped? Did they celebrate with friends and family in the restaurant, on a Saturday evening, without a single journalist realising it was a story? Dear me, what is this trade coming to?

The point is not entirely a facetious one. The Sunday Telegraph got a scoop, and a very good one by its standards, directly addressing as it did one of the paper's three core concerns: the Church, the armed forces and the countryside.

Religious affairs correspondent Jonathan Wynne-Jones not only had the facts, including the hymns, the poems and the all-important words of the ceremony ("with this ring I thee bind, with my body I thee worship . . ."), he also had the reactions, notably that of the Archbishop of Uganda, who declared the event "blasphemous".

But it is still fair to ask how an event so public ("I have made no secret about this," said the defiant presiding priest, Reverend Martin Dudley, and you can't argue with him) could have escaped the notice of the national news media for two whole weeks.

Nick Davies, author of the broadside Flat Earth News, would probably see in this a symptom of a desk-bound, spoon-fed profession, barely capable of discovering a new fact even when it is paraded in an open carriage across the capital (by way, I like to think, of Fleet Street, The Strand, Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Road).

And Davies might be even less impressed by the follow-ups in other papers the next day, which for the most part did little more than recycle information from Wynne-Jones's original, notably his quote from the archbishop.

A striking exception was the Sunday Telegraph's daily sister. It did its share of parroting Wynne-Jones, but freshened the story with a new top that might have been borrowed instead from the News of the World: "A vicar accused of conducting a 'gay wedding' at his historic church is a controversial figure who has previously married his former mistress to another man." Please.

Kelvin's second thoughts

Nine months ago, after the election that wasn't, Kelvin MacKenzie was one of those who accused Gordon Brown of "bottling". Wittily, he combined this with his distaste for the Scots and began referring to Brown and Alistair Darling together as "the McBottle Brothers". The phrase has appeared many times in his column in the Sun.

MacKenzie got himself a lot of attention and coverage when he announced he was likely to stand against David Davis in the by-election, but as I write, reports suggest he is having second thoughts. Won't that make him "Bottler MacKenzie"?

Let them eat cake

A gushing item in the Financial Times gossip column celebrates the partying ways of those Reuters executives who have made such a comfortable transition to top jobs under their new Canadian owner, Thomson.

They threw a jolly bash "to congratulate the deal team" and doled out gifts of a drum kit, golf clubs and a Manchester City shirt. "Party-loving chief executive Tom Glocer", it seems, was tanned after a corporate trip to Monaco. This is the same management that insists the jobs of 73 UK journalists must be axed to cut costs.

Martin Dudley explains why he blessed the gay clergymen's relationship exclusively on

Brian Cathcart is professor of journalism at Kingston University

Brian Cathcart is Director of Hacked Off. He tweets as @BrianCathcart.

This article first appeared in the 23 June 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Truly, madly, politically

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Why is the government charging more women for selling sex but turning a blind eye to buyers?

Since 2013, the number of women charged for selling sex gone up while the number of men charged for buying it has gone down.

It’s no surprise that prostitution policy is an area rarely visited by our legislators. It’s politically charged - a place where the need to prevent exploitation seemingly clashes head on with notions of liberal freedom; where there are few simple answers, a disputed evidence base, and no votes.

There’s also little evidence to suggest that MPs are different from the rest of the population - where one-in-ten men have purchased sex. It is little wonder therefore that our report on how the law should change, published in 2014, was the first major cross-party intervention on the subject in twenty years.

Some take the view that by removing all legal constraints, it will make the inherently exploitative trade of prostitution, safer. It’s not just me that questions this approach, though I accept that - equally - there’s no consensus that my preferred measure of criminalising the purchase of sex, while decriminalising the sale, would fundamentally change the scale of the problem.

Where all sides come together, however, is in the desire to see women diverted from the law courts. It is still possible for women (and it still is women; prostitution remains highly genderised) to go to prison for offences related to prostitution. Today, in 2015.

The total number of prosecutions for all prostitution offences in England and Wales has been decreasing since 2010, but not in a uniform fashion. This does not reflect a reduction in the size of the trade, or the violent nature of it.

There were once consistently more prosecutions for kerb crawling, profiting, and control of prostitution. But since 2013, there have been more prosecutions for soliciting or loitering than for profit from prostitution and kerb crawling each year.

In simple terms, offences committed by men with choice, freedom and money in their pocket are having a blind eye turned to them, while women are being targeted - and this trend is accelerating. In the law courts, and in prosecutions, it is the most vulnerable party in the transaction, who is taking the burden of criminality.

Take on-street sex buying as an example. In 2013-14 just 237 prosecutions were brought for kerb crawling, but there were 553 - more than twice as many - for loitering and soliciting.

There is a similar pattern in the 2014/15 figures: 227 charges for kerb crawling reached court, while 456 prosecutions were initiated against those who were selling sex. Just 83 prosecutions for control of prostitution, or ‘pimping’, were brought in that same year.

These are men and women on the same street. It takes a high level of liberal delusion to be convinced that prostitution is caused by a surge of women wishing to sell sex, rather than men who wish to buy it. And yet women who sell sex are the ones being targeted in our law courts, not the men that create the demand in the first place.

This situation even goes against the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) own guidance. They say:

“Prostitution is addressed as sexual exploitation within the overall CPS Violence Against Women strategy because of its gendered nature… At the same time, those who abuse and exploit those involved in prostitution should be rigorously investigated and prosecuted, and enforcement activity focused on those who create the demand for on-street sex, such as kerb crawlers.”

Why then, is this happening? For the same reason it always does - in our criminal justice system stigmatised, poor women are valued less than moneyed, professional men.

My debate in Parliament today raises these issues directly with the government ministers responsible. But to be honest, the prosecution-bias against women in the courts isn’t the problem; merely a symptom of it. This bias will only be tackled when the law reflects the inherent harm of the trade to women, rather than sending the mixed signals of today.

That’s why I welcome the work of the End Demand Alliance, composed of over 40 organisations working to end the demand that fuels sex trafficking and prostitution, advocating the adoption of the Sex Buyer Law throughout the UK.

This would criminalise paying for sex, while decriminalising its sale and providing support and exiting services for those exploited by prostitution. Regardless of these big changes in the law, I don’t see how anyone can support the current state of affairs where there are more prosecutions brought against women than men involved in prostitution.

The authorities are targeting women because they're easier to arrest and prosecute. It goes against their own guidance, common sense and natural justice.
And it needs to stop.

Gavin Shuker is MP for Luton South and chair of the All Party Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.