Monday, 17 September 2012

Bigot-gate: Mr Clegg's apology

There is something sweet about Mr Clegg's apology to the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster for implying, at least in draft form, that their opposition to same-sex marriage, and that of others, made them "bigots". The original gaffe is reported on the BBC news site here: Nick Clegg in 'bigot row' over gay marriage speech and at Sky News Clegg Speech: Gay Marriage Opponents 'Bigots'. Mr Clegg has denied that he ever intended using the word "bigot" and I believe we have to take that denial at face value as a genuine and truthful denial.

However, that the "b" word was used in the draft of the speech is itself significant enough to warrant the very public apology that has since been made. And its significance is that, making the assumption that many of those attending the event at which the speech was to be made are supporters of an organisation called Stonewall, at least a proportion of Mr Clegg's hearers would have themselves quite happily used the "b" word in his place to describe religious leaders opposing their support of same-sex marriage.

At an annual awards ceremony, Stonewall include an award for "Bigot of the Year". It is now very difficult to find any trace of this on Stonewall's own website. The search function on the site showed up a report of the 2009 Award, but nothing more recent than that. That the award is still in existence is suggested by this spat at Pink News over the nominations for the award in 2012: Stonewall dismisses rumour Ken Livingstone was nominated for homophobe award. The last paragraph of this report states that:
Stonewall’s Bigot of the Year Award goes to the public figure who has most “gone out of their way to harm, hurt or snub lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the last year”.
In practice, you can get yourself nominated by simply opposing a Stonewall supported policy. Once nominated, Stonewall members then vote on whether or not you, or another of the nominees, should be the one to get the award.

And this is where the sweetness of Mr Clegg's apology arises. When he was Archbishop of Birmingham, Rt Rev Vincent Nichols achieved a nomination as "Bigot of the Year", a nomination prompted by his very public opposition at that time to legislation with regard to adoption by same-sex couples. [Archbishop Nichols strongly opposed the Sexual Orientation regulations that forced Catholic adoption agencies to accept same-sex couples as potential parents.] Oh how sweet that the Deputy Prime Minister should now publicly apologise after implying, in an almost exactly analogous situation over same-sex marriage, that Rt Rev Vincent Nichols, now Archbishop of Westminster, might be a "b".

The terms of Mr Clegg's apology were reported in the Daily Mail I apologise for my gay marriage 'bigot' slur, says Clegg as he tries to limit fallout caused by remark (my italics added):
'Those extracts were neither written or approved by me. They do not represent my views, which is why they were subsequently withdrawn.

'While I am a committed advocate of equal marriage, I would never refer to people who oppose it in this way. Indeed, I know people myself who do not support equal marriage and, although I disagree with them, clearly I do not think they are bigots. Nor do I think it is acceptable they, or anyone else, are insulted in this way.
I wonder if Stonewall supporters have clocked the significance of this apology, and of Mr Clegg's unwillingness to be associated with the use of the "b" word? Will Stonewall now offer the same apology to everyone they have called a "b" over the years of their awards ceremony, and discontinue an award that is highly offensive? And will Mr Clegg himself acknowledge the clear water that he has put between himself and some of the advocates of the LGBT agenda?

1 comment:

Harry's Blog said...

The nominees for bigot and hero of the year 2012 are not difficult to find on Stonewall's site and they have just been published. I note without surprise that your church has two nominees whose nominations are set out below in case your readers have difficulty finding them. You may not stand much of a chance as Melanie Phillips won it last year (other nominees are Maginnis, a Kenyan minister and a representative of a Christian political party) but I do accept that O'Brien is a strong candidate.

"Cardinal Keith O’Brien. Keith O’Brien has been a prominent opponent of marriage equality and made headlines with deeply offensive comments about same-sex couples. He’s stated that same-sex relationships are ‘harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing’ and compared equal marriage to slavery and child abuse. Under his leadership the Catholic Church in Scotland has pledged to ‘declare war’ on marriage equality and committed an additional £100,000 for the fight.

"Archbishop Philip Tartaglia. Philip Tartaglia caused outrage in July when he claimed that the late David Cairns MP had died due to the fact he was gay and that a ‘conspiracy of silence’ prevented people from stating that being gay directly led to premature death. His words caused deep offence to the former minister’s partner, Dermot Kehoe, who has said that the comments have added to his ‘grief and pain.’"