Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

The Tatchster

Do you want me to explain precisely why I am on Peter Tatchell’s mailing list?

Nah, thought not. Now Tatch is a rum bugger. He often has good points but mires them by a descent into equality politricks that takes up 2,000 words. I reckon I wrote three essays in my entire post-16 puff and then no more. Thank God. Fuck essays.

Anyway, Pter Tatchell stood in the Bermonsey by-election of ’83 for Labour. He lost and we got Simon Hughes instead (am I the only one who thinks e is morphing into Tony Benn?)

Anyway the Tatch stood as the first openly gay parliamentary candidate in this country. Now that is and of itself notable but what is really noteworthy is the Lib-Dem campaign against him. Oh, yes. Simon Hughes is second in that party. Indeed when Nick Clegg has to drain a single malt and swallow a Mauser he could become deputy PM. He is of course a wanker, a half-wit and a well-cunticulated twatter of the first water but he is also bisexual and has been since his University days (though who looked at an arsehole like that and felt lurve is beyond me). Now I don’t have an issue with this.

Except I do. Because during the ’83 election Mr Hughes sexual orientation was forgotten and running against the Tatch his leaflets bore the slogan, “Vote Hughes – the straight choice”. That is what is technically called Keith O’Brien-ing it.

Well until Sunday that is what I knew – viley hypocritical though it was but there is more…

A now top Liberal Democrat politician was involved in a secret Liberal Party dirty tricks unit that organised an anonymous, illegal smear campaign against the Labour candidate in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election, Peter Tatchell.

The allegation comes from a former Liberal Party insider, Liverpool city councillor, Steve Radford. Appalled by his party’s tactics, he is willing to name names.

His revelations come ahead of this Sunday’s 30th anniversary of the dirtiest, most violent and homophobic by-election, which took place on 24 February 1983.

“If it is true that the leaflet was produced by the Liberals, it may call into question the legality of Simon Hughes’s election to parliament in 1983. Anonymous election leaflets are illegal. They are serious infringements of electoral law,” said Peter Tatchell.

“The notorious leaflet, distributed during the election campaign, was headed: ‘Which queen will you vote for?’. It featured an image of The Queen and myself and denounced me as a left-wing traitor. Originally assumed to have been circulated by the National Front, it listed my home address and phone number and invited local people to have a go at me.

“The result was a deluge of threats and attacks on my flat. I had to board up my home and sleep with a fire extinguisher and rope ladder beside my bed; plus an assortment of carving knives and sticks for self-defence.

“The Liberals pitched for the homophobic vote. It is well known that they published leaflets which stated there was a ‘straight choice’ between myself and Simon Hughes.

“Less well known is the tactic of male Liberal canvassers knocking on doors wearing lapel stickers emblazoned with the words ‘I’ve been kissed by Peter Tatchell’. They constantly reminded voters that I was gay and supported gay rights, in an apparent appeal to anti-gay electors.

“The Bermondsey by-election was the lowest point in modern election campaigning: the most violent and scurrilous election in Britain in the 20th century and the most homophobic election in British history.

“I was subjected to the most sustained press and public vilification experienced by any parliamentary candidate since the nineteenth century.

“It was a pivotal moment in Labour Party history. I was a left-wing Labour candidate, condemned for policies that are now mainstream: a national minimum wage, comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, LGBT equality, a negotiated political settlement in northern Ireland and much more.

“I was pilloried for my defence of the local working class communities, in particular my opposition to the carve up by property developers of the North Southwark, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe riversides, to make way for office blocks and luxury flats for the rich.

“When I warned about the rip-off redevelopment of the riverside back in 1983 I was called a scaremonger and liar, but all of my predictions later came true – most local working class people lost out. Many were priced out of their own community.

“This gentrification at the expense of local people is still continuing with the plans to redevelop the mega Heygate Estate site at the Elephant and Castle, adjacent to where I still live in the same one bedroom council flat as in 1983.

“At the time of the by-election, I became a symbol of struggle between the left and the right in the battle for Labour’s soul. My defeat was a symbolic defeat for the whole left.

“I told the inside story in my book, The Battle for Bermondsey (Heretic Books, 1983).

“The public revulsion against the homophobic abuse that I suffered ensured that when Chris Smith MP came out the following year few people dared attack him. He received a mostly sympathetic public response.

“After Bermondsey, mainstream parties dared not use homophobia as a campaign weapon.

“Likewise, the backlash against the tabloid smears, intrusions and outright fabrications resulted in a diminution in the use of such tactics against later parliamentary candidates, at least by some journalists and editors.

“For me, the run-up to the by-election was like living through a low-level civil war.

“I was assaulted over 100 times in the street and while canvassing.

“There were 30 attacks on my flat, two attempts by car drivers to run me down and a bullet was posted through my letterbox in the middle of the night.

“I received hundreds of hate letters, including 30 threats to kill me or petrol bomb my flat.

“There were many moments when I feared for my life.

“Anti-Tatchell slogans were painted throughout the constituency, on dozens of walls, hoardings and bridges, including:

“Tatchell is queer”, “Tatchell is a communist poof” and “Tatchell is a n*gger-lover”.

“Tabloid reporters rifled through my rubbish bins, put my flat under 24-hour long lens surveillance, sent young boys to my door and posed as a cousin of mine to win the confidence of neighbours and pry information from them.

“The Sun published a fabricated story that I had deserted local constituents to attend the Gay Olympics in San Francisco.

“A photo of me was published by the News of the World which made me look like I had plucked eyebrows and was wearing lipstick.

“The Press Complaints Council was useless. They sat on my complaints for weeks and months,” said Mr Tatchell.

Now, OK that is the Tatch at his long-winded best and much of his politics I disagree with. But that is hideous. It is often opined that the LDs are very good locally. Indeed they can be. I personally knew 2/3 of the local Lib Dem Councillors in the area I grew up in and they were good folk with a real grasp on local issues. But it goes both ways does it not? When I lived in Levenshulme, Manchester we had a councillor just up the road by the name of Liaquat (paraquat?) Ali. He was (I am not making this up) a fencing contractor from Pakistan who sought asylum here over a fencing contract gone wrong. It was unmittigated bulshit but meant that unlike the Blaydon area (where I was born and middle-class and white – so they acted like “nice” Tories) in multi-culti Longsight they had a Pakistani who didn’t speak a word of English but that’s the point bout the LDs. They have no moral compass. They cut their cloth according to how it suits them. In middle-class commuter-belt Gateshead in the ’80s-’90s they were “compassionate conservatives”, in the last decade in working-class, heavily Muslim areas of Manchester they are the “Labour Party that didn’t vote for he Iraq Adventure”. They will do anything to get elected and that dear reader is why I shall never vote for them.

But that is the LDs all over. Hypocrits and scumbags the lot of ‘em. Whether it is having a dog shot or groping lasses or being “nice Tories” or “not so nasty Labour” or getting the National Front on board it never changes. They are all things to all men which means they are nothing to themselves.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Paraquat Ali in Longsight was elected after the LDs employed an off-shoot of Al-Queda to door-stop folk. Well, why not? They had used the National Front?

Now think for a while. The Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems, Mr Simon Hughes MP for Bermondsey, is in favour of gay and lesbian marriage. So maybe he changed his mind? Because he wasn’t in ’83 when he won his seat via a horrendous torrent of abuse against his prime contender who was openly gay. (Mr Hughes preferred to stash that stuff well in the closet – unless of course he’d been running in Brighton when he would have appeared as all five “Village People”*)

And that is the LDs for you. All kinds of everything but not in a good way…

My Dad always said the Tories would be found out for having their hands down your pants and Labour with their hands in the till. God alone knows where Lib Dem hands are.

*Obscure fact. Only one of the “Village People” was gay. Which one? Even more obscure fact, the USN considered the song “In the Navy” for recruitment purposes… This was even before “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.


  1. Sam Duncan says:

    “God alone knows where Lib Dem hands are.”

    Both places, evidently. And a few others.

    But yeah, I know what you mean about the Tatch. He was magnificent over the Mugabe visit, but I can’t help wondering what he thought about the old commie bastard back in ’83 when he was, according to him, the Vanguard of Labour’s Bright Red Dawn suffocated by Right Wing Lies.

  2. Mr Ed says:

    The Labour Party of 1983 was very dangerous. A Labour GE victory in 1983 might have led to a NATO crisis and Soviet adventurism. Tatchell was on the extreme Left even for that party. However, as you can see, his agenda is now mainstream bar nuclear disarmament, there being no Soviet Union to worship.

    I note that Mr Tatchell saw even then the uility of arming oneself with weapons.

    However, for today, the obvious step in today’s landscape would be for Cameron to disband the Conservative Party and lead his troops over to join the Lib Dems, they are clearly made for each other. That would leave the ‘right’ with a clear choice, and the splitters on the Left could argue over finer points of their programmes to the general interest and delight.

  3. NickM says:

    I’m not saying I agree with the Labours or Tatch Mr Foot didn’t have a flying hope in Hell in ’83) but I have to disagree with the scumbaggery of the LDs who have over decades been profound cunts. And Tatch has a point there regardless of what on Earth we thinks of his politics. Defeat the man on his politics and not by vile homophobic smears. Victory smells much nicer when decently won. And that wasn’t won fair in ’83

    Mr Ed, I think you misunderstand the Tory party. They only exist to get elected. So ndo the rest.

  4. John Galt says:

    There is one advantage to the horrendous anti-faggotry of the ’83 campaign.

    It was a low-point that was not repeated.

    That is all.

  5. RAB says:

    It was a low-point that was not repeated.

    Well the vileness of the campaign perhaps, but fast forward to 1997 and the gagging orders on the press mentioning that our now beloved Lord Rumba of Rio was a teensy bit gay? Or the Lib/Dem bloke who got caught out in the Expenses scandal by giving his boyfriend his supposed second home rent?

    At least my Gay Lib/Dem MP is upfront about his sexuality now, it’s just his politics we haven’t a fuckin clue about!

  6. John Galt says:

    RAB, I’m not saying that there hasn’t been continued two-faced double dealing and all that jazz, that is politics and why I don’t involve myself in it. All I am saying is that the anti-faggot campaign of ’83 was a low point and since then all parties have avoided repeating the excesses of that campaign.

    Why should someone be persecuted because he prefers rumpy-pumpy with boys as opposed to girls.

    The real problem here is that if the Liberals had campaigned on the issues, they would have lost. Peter Tatchels faggotry was just a useful prejudice.

  7. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    Tatchell has views on the age of consent which are not universally shared.

  8. RAB says:

    Why should someone be persecuted because he prefers rumpy-pumpy with boys as opposed to girls.

    No reason whatsoever. But as long as that is what they are saying to me; not telling me that they are a family man wid da values etc etc, when all the time they are in the basement with rent boys that comes as a suprise to their wifes even.

    I’m old fashioned in that respect with politicians. They are lying bastards at the best of times, but if they can lie to their spouses they will have no hesitation in lying to me.

    If I was confronted with the opportunity to stick out a leg and trip that utter two faced mendacious cunt Simon Hughes in front of an oncoming tube train, I might very well do it. That bastard may yet be leader of the Lib/Dems when the boy Clegg resumes his paper round.

  9. Mr Ed says:

    @ Nick M. You imply that the Cobnservatives are shameless opportunists too happy to lie their way into office, where is your evidence apart from the events of the last 34 months? :-).

    I suppose we should consider whether the campaign against Tatchell was, in any proper sense, (i.e. disregarding the technicalities of electoral law) criminal or tortious. Rothbard would probably have described it in terms of property, i.e. whose property had grafitti on it, etc.? Is it tortious to lie in political campaigns?

    I lived nearby at the time and I recall the febrile atmosphere of those days. In a certain sense, it was two bald men fighting over a comb, as neither protagonist had any realistic hope of power. Of the two candidates, the loser was no hypocrite, but then Mao was sincere as to what he wanted to do, so that is no recommendation.

  10. Edward Lud says:

    As vile as was the behaviour described by Tatchell, I’m compelled to observe that the voters of Bermondsey seem to have voted for the candidate best suited to them. That they were in fact deceived in this suggests they ended up with the MP they deserved.

  11. NickM says:

    Mr Ed,
    “Two bald men fighting over a comb”. I know where that comes from! That is Jorge Luis Borges on the Falklands War.

    In general,
    My point was not per-se a gay rights one but to expose the hideous “do anything to get a vote mentality regardless of gay rights, traditional values, God or whatever”. They would sell their granny for horse-burgers. Simon Hughes would. And yes, as RAB implies, Simon Hughes could be the next leader and he is a profound cunt. Clegg is merely a useless cunt. I mean sticchted-up by a mindermast like Cameron! That is deeply embarrassing.

    That was gnomic. Explain please?

    At the time Lord Mandy was perverting the UK immigration process so his boy from Brazil could out-stay a student visa I was dating a US student who oddly enough didn’t get the same. One wonders why? I never forget and I never forgive.

  12. Simon Jester says:

    @NickM: I think SAoT is refering to this:

    Also: the red indian?

  13. Mr Ed says:

    Oddly, Mr Hughes has stuck like a limpet in Bermondsey for 30 years. Nick M you are right that the tactics were appalling, but politics, the rewarding and cultivation of failure, is perhaps easier to discredit if we see the rats fighting in daylight, it may bring a chink of light that leads to sensible conclusions about politics and the State.

  14. John Galt says:


    “Tatchell has views on the age of consent which are not universally shared.”

    Fair comment I suppose, but Tatchell’s view was not that there should be a free-for-all, rather that it was a fact that teenagers had sex with each other and provided there wasn’t a substantive difference in ages (3 years was suggested), this should not lead to criminal charges.

    Many jurisdictions have such “Romeo and Juliet” laws, Peter Tatchell’s demand was that they should apply in the UK and that they should apply to LGBT teens as well.

    I accept that not everyone shares Peter’s liberal interpretation, but it’s hardly that radical (although it perhaps was back in 1983).

    Certainly I was engaged in exactly this illegal activity back then, but was lucky never to get caught sucking of a cute boy around the back of the Geography port-a-cabin. This was the era of Section 21 and homophobia was still widespread.

  15. John Galt says:

    Apologies, it was Section 28 and that hit the statute books in 1988.

    Still, quite a repressive era though.

  16. NickM says:

    Ah, dear old section 28! What was the point of that? You know no prosecutions arose from it. It was merely a bone the Tories threw to the blue-rinse brigade. It is also specifically against the law to swim into the wreck of the Titanic. Are we alone in the world in doing this. Oh, and NuLabour made it specifically illegal to detonate a nuclear weapon (except in times of war). That’ll learn ‘em!

    So JG you were also taught hography in a portakabin – snap. I can’t claim the same extra-curricular “enrichment”.

  17. Sam Duncan says:

    Ha! I’d forgotten about the nukes law.

    There was an episode of The Professionals where a rogue scientist or something set up a nuke in a basement (with the usual tension-building countdown, of course). I don’t recall Cowley saying, “Hold on, Bodie, Doyle… he hasn’t actually done anything illegal. We can’t touch him.” In fact, I’m fairly sure attempting to destroy Greater London and everyone in it was already against the law in 1978.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: