I used to like David Blunkett, I really did. Some thirty years ago when he was the firebrand socialist leader of Sheffield City Council he seemed like a beacon of hope in the fight against Thatcherism. I admired him too for overcoming disability. I even heard him speak once, at Dudley, in 1987, talking socialist good sense as his dog Offa slept under the table.
In due course he succumbed to the siren call of the establishment. Power and money corrupted him. He was one of a depressing sequence of authoritarian Labour Home Secretaries on one occasion contemptuously dismissing civil liberties (freedom of speech, freedom from arbitrary detention and son) as ‘airy fairy’.
He has taken full advantage of the lucrative sinecures, sorry ‘consultancies’, that are available to him as a former Minister. He was also paid a huge advance for political memoirs that sold a desultory couple of thousand copies. Blunkett is clearly not short of a few bob these days.
That is not an issue for me. Blunkett was not the first socialist to sell out and he won’t be the last. No, what appalled me were his comments at a meeting organised by Demos at the Labour Party Conference. He spoke in favour of anti-porn internet filters. There are a number of both philosophical and practical objections to these which have been much discussed elsewhere, here for example. As he warmed to his theme he waxed lyrical about a descent into Sodom and Gomorrha and made the extraordinary claim that the sexual licence of Weimar Germany was to blame for the rise of the Nazis and, by implication, for the vicious persecution of gay men, sex workers, transvestites and so on. In the Blunkett Weltanschauung a gay man sent to a camp and made to wear the pink triangle really only had himself to blame, presumably for kissing his boyfriend on a street in Weimar Berlin and disgusting all right thinking Germans. If Blunkett had extended this bizarre logic to the Jews there would, rightly, have been outrage. There should be anger at this too.
You can read about sex in Weimar Berlin here. Essentially it was a tolerant place where gay men., lesbians, trans people, kinky people and so on could freely and openly express their sexuality. Most rational people in 2013 might consider this a good thing.
Elsewhere in Europe this wasn’t possible, one reason why Christopher Isherwood moved there. Neither was it possible in most of Germany, particularly in those socially conservative areas that voted Nazi in large numbers by 1933. What went in Berlin didn’t necessarily go in Breslau, or Hannover. Blunkett’s .comments are not only offensive; they are historically inaccurate.
What Blunkett also needs to understand is that people with alternative sexualities are not ‘perverts’ who exist somehow outside society . They are our friends, neighbours and work colleagues. You know the friendly well spoken woman from two doors down, the one who told you she runs a business from home? She is a professional dominatrix. The man you see on the bus and chats about the football? He’s one of her regular clients. Outside the bedroom, outside the chamber they are just like you, just like me.
He also used the word ‘bestiality’. This means sex with animals. I can find nothing about sex with animals in Weimar Berlin. I think it unlikely that it happened. Neither do people today, be they gay, kinky or whatever abuse animals.
Many sexually alternative people genuinely love animals. I read recently about a professional dominatrix (and maker of adult films) who is a dog lover and spends a couple of afternoons a week as a volunteer dog walker at her local dog sanctuary. Why does she do this? I suggest that it is because she is a caring person, a nice person. And that, I am afraid, is not something I can any longer say about David Blunkett.