Thursday, September 02, 2010

Britain at its worst: The William Hague scandal

Sometimes, I despair of Britain.

The source of my most recent ire is the so-called scandal that erupted when Foreign Secretary William Hague was revealed to have shared a hotel room with his special adviser during the election campaign.

Tabloids and the Internet were suddenly ablaze with stories of Hague’s ‘inappropriate’ relationship with his special adviser, and thinly-veiled references to the former Conservative leader’s homosexuality.

William Hague and special adviser Christopher Myers - who has floppy hair, so he must totally be gay.

These were backed by the scantest circumstantial evidence – such as how 49-year-old Hague hadn’t fathered a child yet with wife Ffion (so he must be a queer, right?).

The special adviser, Christopher Myers, even stepped down from his position over the fallout, and Hague made a public statement dismissing the ‘malicious allegations’ yet apologizing for making a decision that “in hindsight I should have given greater consideration to.”

All this - over the fact that they’d shared a hotel room together!

That's right: There were no incriminating photographs. No kiss-and-tell confessions. No inappropriate text messages or emails. Just the fact that they’d shared a twin room (i.e. two beds) when they were traveling the country stumping for the election.

The fact that this gave birth to a scandal is truly mind-boggling stuff – a disgusting example of Britain’s smutty and hypocritical obsession with other people’s personal lives.

The fact that Myers and Hague rose to take the bait was equally disappointing – Myers had no reason to resign and Hague hadn’t a bloody thing to apologize for.

What has Britain come to if two men can’t even share a hotel room without being accused of homosexual hijinks? Thank God I’m not a celebrity – I’d have been strung up for sharing hotel rooms with male members of staff during my four tenures teaching in Paris, or sharing a twin room (i.e. two beds) with my best friend when we traveled up for a university reunion.

[Don't you know not being able to afford your own room makes you gay? Editorial Bear]

I know it’s frightfully hip to accuse celebrities, historical figures and fictional characters of homosexuality without the slightest bit of evidence (I recently wrote an article about whether Sherlock Holmes and Watson were a gay couple or not – my conclusion was ‘not’) but it’s come too far when a hotel receipt is all that’s needed to spark a scandal.

What makes it worse is that Britain is supposed to be progressive about this sort of thing.

Don’t we pride ourselves on being tolerant and open-minded about people’s sexuality? If William Hague was gay – which he’s not – why the hell would it matter?

On a daily basis, we Brits preen and croon to ourselves about how much more ‘evolved’ we are than our cousins in the United States; but when given the opportunity we reveal ourselves to be considerably more petty and malicious.

We might not wear our homophobia on our sleeves like the Christian Fundamentalists in America, but if this is how we behave at the barest whiff of a scandal, I don’t think we can claim to be any better than they are.

In fact, just look at the Republican Party. With anti-homosexual rhetoric increasingly at the core of their identity, the average Republican is still secure enough not to leap to wild conclusions about the relationships two men have.

It’s worth remembering that Abraham Lincoln – one of the icons of the Republican Party – shared not just a room, but a bed with his ‘best friend’ for several years and even today, most Republicans dismiss suggestions that Lincoln was gay as a baseless conspiracy theory.

To be honest, this whole ‘scandal’ is something the British public should be thoroughly ashamed of. Given the recent scandal over MP’s expenses, perhaps the British tabloids should be congratulating William Hague on saving the taxpayer a few quid by sharing a hotel room, instead of leveling all sorts of baseless accusation at him.

For real: When the British press launches into reactionary rhetoric that make the likes of America’s Fox News look ‘fair and balanced,’ than perhaps we should be wondering if that’s the real scandal – not that two colleagues shared a hotel room together on a business trip.


Susanne said...

Good post! I've shared many hotel rooms with friends over the years. It's a good way to save money.

Roland Hulme said...

Well, you're CLEARLY a lesbian then. It's obvious. No heterosexual person would EVER share a hotel room. In fact, most heterosexual people don't even ride in the same car as other people of their gender. That would be, like, TOTALLY gay.


Susanne said...

And add to that that I don't have a child and oh my goodness, I think you diagnosed me! 8-O (That's a shocked face...I know you have a hard time with my emoticons sometimes.)

Wait 'til I tell my husband when he gets home! *evil laugh*

By the way, if you want to hear how utterly adorable my accent is, you should check out my "goofy me" post from yesterday. ;)

dwmusic said...

A person in high office having a sexual relationship outside of marriage is definitely inappropriate, although how much of our business it is is open to question in my view. However this scandal isn't about that, it's about the fact that it is another man, hence the media's and by inference the public's prurient obsession.

Once again, someone has got to 'clear their name' from a 'gay slur'. This can only compound difficulties faced by gay youth when their sexuality is still portrayed as scandalous and is perceived at large as a slur from which they will have to defend themselves forever and a day in the free press.

And for straight men? It's apparently unwise to be seen in public being friendly with another man and it seems that there is no way you can share a hotel room with anyone without sex automatically being assumed to have occurred.

To make sure no misinterpretations occur, are people now going to have to walk at least three metres apart from their colleague, avoid looking him in the eye, never smile and if you must have a handshake, ensure it is bone breakingly brutal and lasts no more than 1/10th of a second? A friendly 90mph punch with closed fist right on the solar plexus and liberal homophobic remarks should help avoid the career ending gay slur.

No-one would ever suspect a putatively violent homophobic person who keeps on saying he is not gay of being gay now, would they?