Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Gately-gate revisited

We all remember the Jan Moir affair when the Daily Mail journalist spoke ill of the dead and took a vengeful lunge at the 'lifestyle choices' of recently deceased Stephen Gately.

Well, in a superficially similar incident TV presenter Kristian Digby has been found dead at his home, so I wondered whether the wrath of the twitterati will be risked again to promote a similar extreme right-wing opinion on the presumed ills of homosexuality, or whether this viewpoint has been sufficiently laid to rest.

Looking back 'Gately-gate' coincided with the beginnings of the change in political fortunes of Labour, as a powerful rallying point was found to attack ideological opponents.

It didn't matter that David Cameron has made a concerted effort in his leadership to distance himself from such spiteful 'nastiness' as has been formerly associated with his party on account of a long list of homophobic and other policies - partly because the Daily Mail is seen as an strong supporter of the Conservatives and partly because the readership does still exert a strong influence over the grassroots activists and donors on the right-wing of his party.

So whatever efforts have been made to challenge such views internally and in public, the effect of Jan Moir's outpouring could only work as a significant turning point undermining at a stroke everything his personal platform was built on - you can change the leader, but you can't change the party.

In hindsight it may be possible to rationalise the single article was a deliberate act of sabotage, but I think that would be to give a bit too much credit to Paul Dacre and underestimate his personal politics (as seen enthusing every edition of the newspaper).

Where Brown suffered by attacking the class origins of the Conservatives during the Crewe & Nantwich by-election he now seems to have found his target by positioning himself as a caring leader. He doesn't need to specify the identity of his opposition, as that is so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness that to do so almost seems superfluous and would in any event be contrary to the principles of the message.

But more intriguingly this opens up the possibility that he can be goaded into overstepping the mark as he may find himself encouraged by the reduction in Cameron's lead in the polls to become more explicit.

Today's encounter at PMQs will be worth watching closely.

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