Thursday 1 October 2009

Homophobia and the modern Mail

Overtly Tory blogger Iain Dale has made a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, after being the subject of one of the many casual homophobic asides which journalist Peter McKay has made a habitual feature of his "Ephraim Hardcastle" diary in the Daily Mail.

There is always a judgement about when and how to challenge this sort of needling. Iain seems aware that he will face the usual "can't you take a joke" and "don't be so PC about it" defences of this kind of nasty insinuation, often done with a smile on its face. But perhaps one of the advantages of current attempts to diversify the Conservative party could be that the idea of common courtesy in public discourse will not be as polarised as it has been in the past.

Nor should we give up on efforts to educate even the Daily Mail in the realities of modern Britain.

When I sent up a report claiming that second generation immigrants were not British, they did call to apologise, and print my letter rebutting this.

And it has had to tone down its rage on some issues - like divorce, adultery or soft drugs at university - where their readers' might just have some real life experience. So it is sometimes better to get middle England's "daily scare" from some made-up horror in the European Constitution.

However, Paul Dacre's apparent refusal to have women photographed wearing trousers in his newspaper, as Rachel Johnson has testified, means that the Taliban lite tendency is certainly defending its stronghold areas.

Dale worries that being at loggerheads with the Mail could not help him in the Bracknell open primary this month. (I am not sure about that, though it will be interesting to see how much difference a high blogosphere and media profile might make in such a contest).

So perhaps full-throated backing from the Fabian Society socialists could probably finish him off. And with Iain kindly backing a Fabian takeover of the left, following his appearance at our Question Time event last Sunday, an open primary might be the ideal moment for some classic permeation tactics of entryism.

But I regret that we were unable to make find common ground on issues of universal benefits, government spending and taxation, and Europe.

So I sorry to have to make it clear that Mr Dale's Bracknell candidacy does not have the endorsement of the Fabian Society.

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