David Cameron has taken criticism in some quarters for linking gay people with child sex abuse during a TV discussion about the paedophile scandal. He probably doesn't deserve it.
He was apparently caught off guard when grilled today on the ITV programme This Morning, by presenter Philip Schofield. Schofield passed him a piece of paper he said contained a list of names of people linked on the internet with a child abuse ring in North Wales. The PM responded:
"There is a danger, if we're not careful, that this could turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay and I'm worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now - giving me a list of names that you've taken off the internet."
According to the BBC, Downing Street officials later explained that Mr Cameron's fears about a homophobic "witch-hunt" were prompted by his objection to online gossip that associated homosexuality with paedophilia and that made unproven claims of paedophilia against prominent gay public figures.
Number 10 added: "It is wrong to smear gay people with unfounded allegations".
David Cameron on This Morning
The list of names of alleged paedophiles handed by Schofield to Cameron during this morning’s interview apparently included prominent past and present gay Tory MPs, but with no actual evidence of their guilt.
In these circumstances, perhaps the Prime Minister’s words were understandable and reasonable. He was reacting to unsubstantiated allegations and what looks like a scatter-gun denunciation of top gay Tories.
Viewers who were unaware of this full context may, however, have interpreted Cameron’s words and intentions very differently. His mention of gay people and an anti-gay witch-hunt was unexpected and unprompted. Schofield had not mentioned any gay involvement.
This has probably led many members of the public to think he was linking homosexuality with paedophilia - a very different, more prejudice-laden message from what, I suspect, he was really trying to say.
Inadvertently, Cameron has reinforced the prejudice that associates gay people with child sex abuse; although I am sure this was not his intention.
At this stage, based on known evidence, there is no reason why anyone should link the current paedophile scandals with gay people. The police investigations concern paedophilia, not homosexuality.
Most child sex abuse involves heterosexual men and young girls; usually within the family. Homosexuality and paedophilia are two very different sexual attractions. Gay people are not paedophiles.
- Peter Tatchell is director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation which campaigns for global rights