This year marks half a century since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, and the slow change in attitudes towards the LGBT community over that time. But there is one corner of England where being gay is regarded as A Very Bad Thing Indeed, and that is the Northcliffe House bunker, where the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has decreed that homosexuality is not normal, and not to be shown in a positive light.
So today’s Mail front page splash, screaming “Fury of volunteers forced to wear gay pride badges … MUTINY AT THE NATIONAL TRUST”, was only to be expected, as was the gratuitously abusive hatchet job on the Trust’s outgoing Director General Helen Ghosh, calling her “Drippingly right on, the Dame of dubious decisions”. As opposed to the Mail’s dubious distinction of being edited by a bullying misogynist bigot, of course.
Mail readers learn of Dame Helen that “As a Whitehall mandarin, she was known for her silken and precise phrasing which one acquaintance described as ‘school-marmy and patronising’”. Unlike Dacre’s precise phrasing, which consists mainly of four-letter expletives strung together with little imagination, but at maximum volume. She and her husband “own a £500,000 terrace house in [Oxford]”, which pales into insignificance next to Dacre’s £1.5 million pied-à-terre in Belgravia.
The focus of the Mail’s ire is a few National Trust volunteers at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk, older people who are clearly the Mail’s kind of people. They have declined to wear the celebratory lanyards and rainbow badges. Others have taken grave exception to the NT revealing that the last master of the hall, who gave it to the Trust, was gay, although the BBC has reported that his sexuality “was known to close friends”.
The Beeb has also pointed out that nobody was forced by the NT into wearing anything; once again, the Dacre doggies lie because they calculate they will get away with it. Still, the air of indignation is maintained by the usual selection of intolerant talking heads, comedy Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, and UKIP MEP Gerard Batten.
What's so f***ing wrong with kicking a few queers, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay
So the message gets across to Mail readers: gay equals not just bad, but disturbingly so. The paper’s unswervingly hostile attitude to anything LGBT is maintained, joining all the other recent occasions where the paper has had a fit of the vapours over anything marked gay (Pink News found nine exceptionally silly examples of the Mail’s craft from last year).
When the complaints come, as they surely will, all that Dacre will do is order Andrew Pierce over the top - wearing a pink shirt, of course - to remind Mail readers that he is speaking As A Gay Man, and that the paper therefore could not possibly be homophobic. The attack on Helen Ghosh, in the meantime, serves to remind anyone thinking of normalising homosexuality that the Mail considers such behaviour Streng Verboten.
Homosexuality has been legal for 50 years in the UK. But in the world of the Daily Mail, being gay is not to be encouraged, and even if no longer punishable by law, is certainly punishable with a maximum abuse hit job by the Vagina Monologue.
Meanwhile, those in the real world have moved on. Dacre should have retired at 65.