David Laws’s resignation prompted many thoughtful pieces on why, in this more tolerant age, a respected politician felt the need to conceal his sexuality. But today’s Sun has no time for such liberal hand-wringing. Instead, the red-top runs a poll asking: “Should gay people be cabinet ministers?“
It isn’t the fear that some Sun editors believe that gays should be barred from the cabinet that troubles me (they surely don’t); it’s the fact that the paper views this as a legitimate and worthwhile debate.
There is no reason why Laws’s fate should lead anyone to question whether gay people should be in the cabinet. Gay politicians — including Chris Smith, Nick Brown, Ben Bradshaw and Peter Mandelson — have all served with distinction in the past 13 years.
By the Sun’s logic, were a Jewish minister to resign, we would be compelled to ask: “Should Jewish people be cabinet ministers?”
There is, of course, an unhappy precedent for this sort of thing. It was the Sun that, in 1998, demanded: “Tell us the truth Tony: are we being run by a gay mafia?” This after Blair’s cabinet was found to contain, fairly unremarkably, four gay ministers. David Yelland, the then editor of the paper, has since revealed that he was “horrified” by the headline, which was written in his absence.
Twelve years on, after the introduction of civil partnerships, the repeal of Section 28, the equalisation of the age of consent and the legalisation of gay adoption, it’s disturbing that Britain’s biggest-selling paper still treats gay people as if they’re second-class citizens.