Sunday, 13 October 2013

Chris Smith: A Gentlemen's Agreement

Britain’s first openly gay MP Lord (Chris) Smith of Finsbury, has spoken up on the difficulties he faced coming out about his HIV status, revealing that the Sunday Times had agreed not to publish any stories on the matter for two years until he was ready.

Appearing at BNP Paribas Diversity Week as a Keynote Speaker Lord Smith was asked how easy or hard it was for him to speak up on his HIV status.

Smith, who was the first MP to publicly acknowledge that he is HIV positive in 2005, told the audience that it was “a whole lot more difficult” than he had anticipated.

He said: “One of the things that happened was the Sunday Times found out and they were going to run a story and I talked with the editor.

“This was a couple of years before I eventually decided to speak out about it. And I said, actually, I don’t think I’m ready to do this yet. I can absolutely promise you that when I am, I will come to the Sunday Times to do it but it is against the editorial code that you reveal someone’s health details without their consent, and I’d much rather you didn’t.”

Note Chris Smith doesn't say how the Sunday Times found out about his HIV status.
And this sounds like the sort of soft blackmail the tabloids are fond of; informing a public figure that they know something about them, tell them the evidence they have acquired (through often devious means), and ask them to tell their story - or be outed.
Hard to prove, but Fagburn suspects many stars - "Yes, I'm gay!" - So brave... etc etc - "coming out" stories still come via this route.
Oh, and Smith wasn't really "the first openly gay MP", he was the first to come out of his own volition.
Many had been outed or arrested sucking off a guardsman in Regent's Park or whatever before.

PS Smith also said that Tony Blair was initially nervous about launching his programme of gay law reform; “I have to say the Prime Minister Tony Blair did require a little bit of persuading. He was initially very nervous about things like equalising the age of consent, getting rid of Section 28, introducing civil partnerships and so on. He was really nervous about some of these very basic things, like equal age of consent because he thought it would play badly with the public.” Pink News, yesterday.

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