It comes to something when Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrats’ candidate for London mayor, lands a punch on you. But that’s what happened yesterday, when Paddick seized on Ken Livingstone’s car crash interview with the New Statesman to remind us of those rumours about Ken’s new attitude towards homosexuals.
The Tory party, said oddball Livingstone to the Statesman, is “riddled” with gays. Interesting word, that. Riddled. The first things that come to my mind, and I expect yours, are cancer and Aids. I mean, you tell me: is the word normally used in any other contexts?
Many on the Left were quick to point out Ken’s laudable enough past record campaigning for gay rights, as if this were evidence that he is incapable of homophobia. But it wasn’t washing, and Paddick’s comment rang very true to me and I am sure many other gay men in the media in London who have heard about Ken’s dirty little secret.
So how do we explain his toxic new attitude to friends of Dorothy, as reported privately on the dinner party circuit in London, and this unfortunate slip? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. In the grand traditions of the loony Left, Ken has aligned himself in recent years with Muslim extremists (those people who maim and kill and spew hatred about the West, but who the BBC isn’t allowed to call extremists any more).
Ken might have cynically courted the homosexual vote in the past, but now he’s sucking up to a more sinister clientele – Muslim suicide bombers and hate preachers like Yusuf al-Qaradawi – he doesn’t have much choice but to inherit some of their poisonous views. This is why he is now referring to homosexuals in terms normally reserved for diseases: he is courting popularity with his new Islamic overlords.
(It’s a bit like Diane Abbott ridiculously refusing to say that white mothers were as loving as their West African counterparts. Goes down terribly on TV, but she gets re-elected by an enormous majority in her predominantly African constituency.)
Assuming Ken really did mean what he said, it begs the question: are gay people really a cancer on public life? It is difficult to build the case. True, queers in the public eye haven’t acquitted themselves brilliantly in recent years. David Laws, despite being a fine chief secretary to the Treasury and one of the few tolerable members of Nick Clegg’s party, fibbed about his living arrangements and attempted to leverage his sexuality for sympathy and to escape the charge of expenses abuse. He was made to pay back over £50,000 and was stripped of his Treasury responsibilities.
I have no more sympathy with the endless parade of grotesque homosexuals who have – I daren’t say infested – colonised the light entertainment schedules on television. If I ever hear Graham Norton’s fake titter or Paul O’Grady’s appalling Merseyside vowels again, it will be too soon. The over-sexualisation of television before the watershed by these freaks and geeks is no less abhorrent than their affected manners.
Still, even I, as what my friends only half-jokingly refer to as a homophobic gay man, find it hard to justify Ken’s choice of words. Pretty loathsome stuff. As a professional politician he’s all too aware of the importance of words, and one gets the sense he likes to deploy his frequent Nazi comparisons for shock effect when he is running short on ideas.
Like all Catholics, I have a somewhat complicated relationship with God. I don’t always rejoice in my sexuality. But one thing I do know is that Ken Livingstone is wrong: gay people are not a disease.
But then, Ken’s always been a Liberal Democrat at heart: preposterous, immature and breathtakingly opportunistic. He’s also a brazen liar, as has been exhaustively detailed by the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan – a charge Ken has never seen fit to make the subject of a libel action. Draw your own conclusions from that one.