Sifting the rights and wrongs from the Hague kerfuffle

This Hague business has, as usual, generated very much more heat than light. Most commentators have fulminated at length on the story’s homophobic underpinnings, or on the unseemliness of dragging his wife’s miscarriages into the limelight, or on the unsavoury way in which the story came to public attention and the media’s subsequent feeding frenzy, or on Hague’s political judgement in putting out his extraordinarily personal and defensive public statement.

Fascinating as all these aspects are, they have frequently served to obscure the real issues. The story may have vile homophobic roots, but that doesn’t mean Hague has no legitimate questions to answer. The blogger Guido Fawkes may be a nasty piece of work (or a libertarian hero disinfecting the body politic – take your pick) and the media generally may have no sense of priorities (cf the largely deafening silence on the News of The World hacking scandal) but neither mean that there is no public interest, in the best sense, here at all.

So here’s my attempt to sort the wheat of legitimate concern from the chaff of prurience and arrant stupidity. Let’s get shot of the latter first.

  • There is nothing of legitimate public interest in the sexuality of ministers (except see first point in the wheat section below.)
  • Having, or not having, kids is about as accurate an indicator of sexuality as reading the Daily Mail is of the presence of an open-minded and intelligent approach to current affairs.
  • Sharing a room is not proof positive of a sexual relationship.
  • Being in the public eye means that the public will have its collective eye on you, and deciding to be a politician is to decide to be in the public eye, so it’s pretty pointless to complain when it gets uncomfortable.
  • There’s nothing wrong with being gay.
  • In case you missed that last point, I’d like to make it clear that there’s nothing wrong with being gay.

But having cast the chaff aside and burnt it in the fiery furnace of moral rectitude, there is still some wheat to be dealt with.

  • If as a man you make a song and dance about marriage, its sanctity, and your pure and untainted heterosexuality, it would be legitimate to hold you up to public ridicule if you were found with your legs wrapped around another man. That’s not what’s happened here, but in such circumstances “outing” a public figure would not be tantamount to homophobia.
  • Special advisors are there to provide special advice. That kind of assumes they have some special knowledge, knowledge that you could reasonably be expected to be able to point to if asked.
  • Such advisors are paid by the public purse, so we have a legitimate interest if they seem to be more concubine than advisor.
  • If someone says that because you have no kids you must be gay, you serve only to legitimise that stupidity if you drag your wife’s medical history into the business of refuting it.
  • If as a middle-aged man you repeatedly appear in public wearing a baseball cap, then at least one aspect of your judgement is up for being called into question.

And there you have it. Not black, and not white. I’m sorry about that, because I know lots of you want to be able to expostulate on one side or another of issues such as this without the inconvenience of having to deal with countervailing tendencies. Tough. I think it’s time you gained a little maturity and wisdom. Like mine, you might say…

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6 thoughts on “Sifting the rights and wrongs from the Hague kerfuffle

  1. I really think he’s behaving oddly and very out of character. Eve Kosofsky-Sedgwick (a notable writer on gender issues) calls this behaviour “homosexual panic” and I think Hague is a classic example. On a less learned note, I’d say the baseball cap is one thing, the long-sleeved white t-shirt quite another…:)

  2. I believe Hague talked about the miscarriages to answer speculation that there had been a strain on the marriage, which he admitted to. The idea that this could provide a ‘therefore I’m not Gay’ argument is clearly ridiculous.

    The only valid question in the whole ‘story’ is how special advisors are appointed and how they are qualified for their job. But as I read in another blog, it’s not exactly as if there’s a qualification for such a role.

  3. If only the day would come when one’s personal life had little to do with one’s job performance. Still smarting over the David Laws resignation; so unnecessary. As for Hague, it’s a matter between him and his wife. But it does seem curious that that particular aide was hired, which of course inserts the personal into the professional, possibly. The point is that no one knows the facts here other than the parties involved and press and public speculation is unproductive. If only the media spent half its time pursuing real issues, rather than seeking scandal in people’s personal lives, we’d all be better off. And I say this as a journalist, who finds many of those populating her profession virtually unrecognisable from objective reporters. The disproportionate attention to scandal vs. actual newsworthy subjects is worrisome and does none of us any favours.

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  5. Other people’s sex lives are none of our business, unless our money is being spent to pay for it, or if it involves illegal acts, such as the abuse of children. I imagine that the vile rumours circulating over the last week have driven Mr Hague to distraction (vile because they involve allegations of unfaithfulness to his wife) and that this has influenced the way he reacted.
    Miscarriage is a hidden subject, it’s very common, but on the whole it’s not talked about. It is psychologically a very painful event to go through; the promise of a new life snatched away almost before it has started, and of course the fact that it is hidden makes dealing with it very much more difficult.
    @Margit – have you considered that if Messrs. Hague and Myers had been conducting an illicit affair that their behaviour would have changed from open to furtive? People conducting affairs don’t usually book a twin room – two rooms would be booked as part of the subterfuge. It seems to me that Mr. Hague’s biggest mistake was that he was naïve in not anticipating the depths to which the minds of others would sink.

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