(an edited version of this blog first appeared on Christian Today – you can access it by clicking Here)
It seems to be the ultimate sting story. A tabloid newspaper pays a couple of male prostitutes for their story about their time with a senior politician. Now Keith Vaz today is facing calls for his resignation, not only from the home affairs committee of the House of Commons, but also from his role as a member of Parliament. Calls which he has so far resisted. In an astonishing display of chutzpah (or bravery depending on your point of view) Vaz appeared in the Commons yesterday and asked a couple of questions which were greeted with stoney silence. Vaz is a senior figure in the Labour Party and one of the best-known Asian MPs in the UK.
And then Peter Tatchell weighed in to defend Vaz. He put out a press release which was picked up by several of the newspapers today. Tatchell is someone I have met and debated with. I regard him as a committed, sincere, and honest human being! However he comes from a deeply anti-Christian position and one which ends up creating a great deal of harm. His comments were deeply disappointing: This is what he said about the Vaz case.
“I find it very difficult to see any public interest justification for the exposure of Keith Vaz. He may have behaved unwisely, but there is no evidence of criminal wrong-doing or hypocrisy.“Buying sex is not an offence. Keith has supported gay rights and the decriminalisation of sex work. His public pronouncements do not contradict his private behaviour.“So where is the public interest in outing him?“Given the absence of any public interest justification, there is prima facie evidence that the Sunday Mirror has broken the press regulation code prohibiting unwarranted intrusion into privacy.“It is true that that Keith did not declare an interest when his Home Affairs Committee was investigating poppers and sex work criminalisation. But we don’t demand that MPs who drink and smoke declare an interest when they discuss legislation affecting the alcohol and cigarette industries. Why should Vaz be treated any differently?“We must be mindful of how hard it is for gay and bisexual people to come out in some sections of the Asian community, where conservative, traditional views often hold sway. Homophobia kept Keith Vaz in the closet and we should all be appalled by that,” said Mr Tatchell.
So whats wrong with all of this?
Peter Tatchell’s political ideology and sexual philosophy is blinding him to the irrationality of what he is saying. Keith Vaz is chairman of a committee which is responsible for looking into issues such as prostitution and drug abuse. As Joan Smith in the Guardian argues “To put it bluntly, he appears to have chaired hearings where campaigners proposed a change in the law that could, in theory, turn his own private behaviour into a criminal offence. This is jaw-dropping stuff, and it’s hard to think of a more blatant conflict of interest.”.
Of course, if the allegations are true, he is a complete hypocrite. There is a great deal of public interest justification in having a senior politician chairing a committee which is looking into prostitution and drug abuse, when he himself is alleged to have taken part in both. Tatchell’s commitment to his own political sexual ideology seems to override any common sense and any sense of justice. In fact his public statement seems to want to turn Keith Vaz into some kind of gay hero, a victim of homophobic abuse especially from the Asian community.
But if you stop to consider it a bit more, then you realise how absurd and evil Tatchell’s position is. He objects to the newspaper buying the boys story but has no objection to Mr Vaz buying their bodies! The two young men who were allegedly hired by Mr Vaz are Rumanian immigrants. Do you honestly think that they were ‘consenting adults’ who would have been there without the money? This is a classic case of the rich exploiting the poor.
Should Sex be Sold?
There is a much wider issue here – its the question of selling sex and the subsequent sex slavery that follows. There is a debate going on in Western society just now about this issue. On the one hand the more progressive countries like Sweden (and Northern Ireland) have adopted a model of criminalising the buying of sex – so that the buyers rather than the prostitutes are held responsible. On the other hand there are those like Tatchell who want prostitution to be legalised. The BBC and others in the main stream media are buying into and acquiescing in this when they talk about prostitutes as being ‘sex workers’, and prostitution as ‘the sex industry’. It’s not work and it’s not an industry. It is a system of abuse which leads to the exploitation of the young and the poor at the expense of the old and the rich. As the blogger Cranmer questions: “please ask yourself why no one is apparently concerned with the welfare of the young Romanian men who engaged in sexual activity with Keith Vaz. Why is no one questioning whether they are trapped in the sex trade, forced to sell their bodies to sleazy old men in order to eat and drink or pay for the next line of coke? Really, who would want to have gay sex voluntarily with Keith Vaz?” – http://archbishopcranmer.com/why-does-no-one-care-that-keith-vazs-rent-boys-might-be-trapped-in-sexual-slavery/
It is absolutely hypocritical of Parliament to have as the head of its committee on Home Affairs a man whose activities encourage prostitution and the slave trade that inevitably follows from that. It is estimated that there are over 20,000 sex slaves in the UK today. Sex trafficking is a serious problem. And yet a ‘social justice’ campaigner like Tatchell is more worried that this is either a result of, or could lead to, homophobia, than he is about those who are sexually exploited by the rich and powerful. What kind of society are we creating where this kind of behaviour is tolerated and defended – even amongst our senior leaders?
Yesterday in commenting about Nicola Sturgeon’s miscarriage I wrote the following: “Firstly we are to pray for our political leaders not to sit in judgement upon them and their personal lives, especially when we do not know them. We may disagree about particular policies, but that is a world away from condemning somebody for something that we do not really know about. It’s only God who knows the heart, not his people. We should think more than twice before we make judgemental statements that only the Lord has the right to make.” Sturgeon’s Sorrow
Doesn’t that contradict what I have just written about Tatchell’s views? No. When we do not know, then we must not judge or condemn. The trouble with some of the remarks being made about Sturgeon is that people did not know the circumstances of her childlessness and yet judged out of their ignorance. But when we do know it is a different matter. If we are aware of major flaws in our leaders then yes we do have a right, and indeed a duty, to judge. If a political leader was an out and out racist for example, would we be piously mumbling about how we should not judge? Would we consider it irrelevant to his role as a public politician? Surely not!
This morning I read this in St Augustine –
“The knowledge of anyone is not conveyed to us in his bodily countenance, but only lies open to our apprehension when his life and character are revealed”. (Augustine Tract 15. On John 15:23).
We live in a society where image, clothes, tv appearances, how someone sounds on soundbites etc is considered to be essential to political success. In a more just and fair world we would not judge politicians by the colour of their skin, the size of their bank balance or the skill of their plastic surgeon, but rather by their character; how they keep their vows, how they deal with other people and how they conduct their business. Its funny how Martin Luther King’s great quote is now despised by many of our elite commentators ” I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Now we are told that we must not question character!
If a man takes an oath to be faithful to his wife and then betrays her and his children with prostitutes, is that not relevant to what their character is, and how they will govern? Can we seriously contemplate having a man who allegedly uses prostitutes and drugs being responsible for the body that makes the laws that govern these activities?! To anyone with any sense of justice it is an absurd and surreal idea. And yet such as been the degradation of our society, as it has removed itself from its Christian roots, that some of todays politicians and todays papers are arguing just that. It’s a private matter and is none of our business. Teresa May is certainly correct in saying that the public must have confidence in our politicians, but wrong in saying that ‘what Keith does is for Keith’. No – if what he does involves buying other people then it is not just for Keith. Equally Jeremy Corbyn is certainly wrong (and living in a fantasy world) if he thinks that Vaz’s behaviour is a ‘private matter’. Today the headlines are not about Vaz, but about Sports Direct giving their workers better contracts. There is a sad irony here. Mr Corbyn will rightly complain about the injustice of the exploitation of the Sports Direct workers – and yet he seems to regard the exploitation of Rumanian immigrants as a ‘private matter’ because it involves sex!
If our politicians really want to deal with the issue of slavery and trafficking then they need to criminalise the purchase of sex, just as we have criminalised the purchase of heroine and the purchase of guns. If, for the sake of their messed up and confused post 1960’s sexual ideology, they refuse to do so, then they are participating in the real perversion of justice and of humanity. The definition of evil favoured by liberal secularist atheists is ’that which causes harm’. There is no doubt that selling sex causes a great deal of harm. Who is going to stand up against this evil? Who is going to move away from the platitudes about privacy and ask that our leaders hold to basic standards of common decency? I wonder how many will have the guts and the integrity to stand for justice and real social equality. Or will they continue to create a world, where everything from votes to bodies, is for sale to the highest bidder? Do they really want to create that unequal, unjust and exploitative society?