Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Matthew Parris Watch: Scandal

I will never forget Sunday morning, March 22, 1987. That was the day I was outed in the News of the World. I have the yellowing edition before me as I write.

There had been no advance warning. Preparing for the midday current affairs TV programme I presented, Weekend World, I was leafing idly through the newspaper’s scandal-packed pages with many an amused squawk. A drunk Liberal MP had been dragged by his friends from a brothel. Recently married Sarah Ferguson, desperate to conceive, was taking fertility drugs likely to lead to quadruplets. And a TV personality was worried about spending too much time on the TV sofa with his “TV wife”, Anne Diamond.

I had earlier been giggling, too, about the same paper’s revelation that the prominent and respected Labour MP Roy Hattersley, now Lord Hattersley, had left his wife for another woman, now his wife.

Leafing on I turned to page 18 and, in mid-turn, froze. Hadn’t I just seen my photograph? I paged back. The story, adorned with my picture, was spread across pages 16 and 17. My blood ran cold. The headline? “I am gay, says TV Tory.”

I had said no such thing, of course: as an MP I had learnt never to talk about my private life to avoid lying, but it was true that I was gay and to quibble would be idle. My television production team, fiercely supportive, were outraged that a newspaper would print such stuff and wanted to make a complaint but, though dismayed, I was not outraged. Facts are facts and I’d always argued (and still do) that the papers should publish and be damned, and let readers judge what did or didn’t matter. I couldn’t now complain just because this time the target was me.

Anyway I’d had it coming. What the News of the World did not mention — because nobody knew — was that while I was an MP I’d been beaten up on Clapham Common where I had been “cruising” in search of other men. Looking back now on those years I marvel at what a charmed life I’d led as a politician, and the terrible risks I’d taken...

Matthew Parris, The Times.

Lovely photo of you, Matthew.

I thought she came out in the House of Commons, the first, but nobody noticed - at least that's what she told me - awaiting confirmation.

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