Tuesday, 10 August 2010

New Labour and the Politics of Sexuality

I finally finished Alastair Campbell's Diaries on Sunday night. I'd kept putting it off fearing that having read the earlier Blair years volume and the newspaper extracts, there would be nothing new. Well, the juiciest stuff had been been released but there was still lots to enjoy in the volume. The most interesting aspect only became apparent last night, when I started on Peter Mandelson's memoir The Third Man. Mandelson was the most politically successful gay man in the last government. He reached a position that was deputy PM in all but name and was therefore arguably the most powerful openly gay man in our political history. His years in power coincided with a transformation in the legal landscape for the gay and lesbian community.

So turn to 'homosexuality', or 'gay', or 'civil partnership' in the index and what do you find? Nothing, zilch, not a thing. This contrasts with the Campbell diaries which do detail the debates Labour had in opposition about the man on gays in the military and also some general points - memorably following Blair getting a bit muddled on the Today programme over homosexuality and the concept of the family. Given this volume of Campbell's diaries stop at 1997, it is reasonable to expect lots of useful stuff to come out in the following volumes which I hope will be released soon.

Mandelson's partner is thanked in his acknowledgements section but it's still a bit coded and that seems to be it on the personal front although he briefly mentions the Matthew Parris 'outing' on Newsnight quite late on in the book (and even then rather coldly). It may be that the index is poor and there will be some references - but I'm not holding my breath.

I had always hoped that the various New Labour books would shed some light on the big sexuality decisions coming out of government but thus far, most of the books released have avoided the subject completely. It will be interesting to see if Tony Blair addressees the subject in his forthcoming memoir.

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