Members of Parliament, that is, according to recent reports that delve into William Hague’s personal life. Reports about ‘everything’, if we believe what we read. But, essentially, reports about nothing: gossip and the promise of more gossip to come.
I know I am hardly helping this stance by writing about it, but what the hell. It raises some talking points.
The equation is: sharing a twin room with your special adviser + walks along the river together = “improper relationship”, and I balk at the mere suggestion that sexuality is a very real career threat.
William Hague, MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, is the current First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. His special adviser, Christopher Myers, a 25-year old graduate was, as it turns out, Hague’s third special adviser – it transpires that Hague’s predecessors as foreign secretary, David Miliband and Jack Straw, both employed two.
Three special advisers? Clearly in these austere times, one might be forgiven for casting the spotlight in every corner of the government payroll as a means of identifying another place for the axe to swing.
But it goes further than that. Last month the Mail on Sunday published pictures of Hague and Myers strolling along London’s Victoria Embankment, forcing Hague to issue a deeply personal statement earlier this week denying that he is gay; and reveal that his wife, Ffion, had suffered multiple miscarriages before. The ‘scandal’ also prompted Myers’ resignation to boot, citing the “untrue and malicious” rumours and the pressure on his family.
To make matters worse, the political gossip blog Guido Fawkes revealed (with a wink and a nudge) that Hague and Myers shared a hotel room during the election campaign.
Hague said: Any suggestion that [Myers’] appointment was due to an improper relationship between us is utterly false, as is any suggestion that I have ever been involved in a relationship with any man”.
He also said he and his wife would not have revealed the fact of the miscarriages had it not been for the “untrue rumours …which repeatedly call our marriage into question”. The fact that he felt he needed to tell the world is truly galling.
The intensely personal gossip-mongering concerning (the veiled ‘threat’ of) sexuality concerns me. There is a worrying appetite for would-be tattletales, as they whisper, Chinese whispers-style, into the ear of another: “A young, attractive man is socialising with his older boss! Another man!”
Bingo! Have 1,000 homosexual-spotting points! I mean, what other explanation is there?
The core of the outcry alludes to a society still ill at ease with sexuality; and able to jump to what is presented as the seemingly ‘inevitable’ conclusion, as drawn in this sad episode: a conclusion that goes beyond the headlines to ruin careers and strong-arm families into revealing their closely guarded fears and personal failures.
Gossip. We all like a bit of it. But when is it just gossip?