Monday, 5 April 2010

Grayling and Watson. Two very different cases.

If there were any doubts about Adrian Watson’s unsuitability as a Conservative and Unionist Parliamentary Party Candidate they have been laid to rest by his reaction to de-selection. A series of spittle flecked, scattergun rants have appeared in the media ever since the decision on his prospective candidacy was formalised.

Following Chris Grayling’s unofficial foray into the debate about guest houses which refuse to accommodate gay couples, Watson has pounced yet again and one of his more temperate lines of attack alleges Conservative ‘double standards’.

Apart from the obvious fact that there were concerns over Watson’s possible candidacy, which had nothing to do with bed, breakfast or homosexuality, from the moment he signalled his intention to stand, Grayling’s case bears no serious comparison.

Despite misleading headlines in the Observer, Grayling made a reasonable point, in moderate language, at a private discussion of the issue. Bed and breakfast owners, he suggested, formed a different category to hotel owners and should have the right to determine which guests they were prepared to welcome into their own homes.

Whether you agree with him or not, and personally I am undecided, it was not an outrageous statement. It was certainly not, and this is important, comparable with expressing his own reluctance to house guests, based on their sexuality.

Clearly there are a spectrum of views and behaviours that, as a society, we do not declare unlawful, but which are nonetheless incompatible with candidate selection for a modern, moderate political party. Grayling expressed a view on the extent of that spectrum, Watson placed himself within its parameters. We can uphold the right to hold a set of views, without condoning their content.

The truth remains that both the Conservative party and Ulster Unionists were concerned about Watson’s propensity for immoderate outbursts on a range of subjects. He has responded to their decision with a volley of immoderate outbursts. The decision is therefore vindicated.


Gonzo said...

Basically, the difference between Graying and Watson is that Watson actually owns a B&B.

Timothy Belmont said...

The issue in question is a very tricky one. I, personally, believe that landlords and landladies should have the Right to decline people under certain circumstances. I'm sure a number of guest-houses turn people down by saying that they are full; or don't have a double room! Doubtless it happens.
Nevertheless, in this enlightened day and age, is it really that important?

Chekov said...

No Gonzo. One is an essentially a libertarian point, the other is a personal attitude to sexuality. Be deliberately obtuse if you like, but they're not even within the same category, never mind qualitatively similar.

Frugal Dougal said...

Should Labour win the next election, they will introduce the unique (in British history) legal situation whereby homosexuals are free to criticize straight lifestyles, but the opposite situation could land you in jail.

Gonzo said...


Grayling is saying that people like Watson (or his wife or whatever lame way he phrased it) should have the right to refuse entry to their home if it's a B&B.

He might not say HE would do it, but he is defending Watson's line of argument - a nuance I now accept, but which will be lost to most.

Grayling did vote for the opposite though, so I'm not sure how he can reconcile being "sensitive to faith groups" with his anti-discrimination position.

I think there is an argument yet to be had about public and private space, and how a B&B fits into this.

Enjoyed the piece on attacks in Russia, BTW.

GavBelfast said...

If they run a business - and a B&B is plainly a business - they can't discriminate in this way. End of. Cease the business and they can discriminate on who comes into their house to the hearts' content.

JeffPeel said...

Gonzo actually addresses the central point - that Grayling said one thing but voted entirely differently. This leads us to question his ability to make his mind up and also whether he is inclined to say whatever people want him to say rather than what he genuinely believes. He's done this before, of course. He used to be a member of the SDP and defected. He also made up his line of thought re. Richard Dannat's appointment on the spot - mistakenly thinking that he Dannat been appointed by Gordon Brown. These continuing faux pas must be causing Cameron to consider whether Grayling is a safe pair of hands. He appears somewhat Quixotic rather than particularly homophobic. He also illustrates that tendency to be populist rather than visionary - a terrible modern trait in the Conservative and Labour front benches.

Chekov said...


He is NOT defending the line of argument, he's defending the right to make the line of argument. That's an important distinction.

Thanks for the words on the Russia article.

Chekov said...

Gav - I don't actually disagree, although that is the debate on private and public space to which Gonzo alludes.

Orangeman said...

Grayling says B&B owners should have the right to decline gay guests, Watson says as a B&B owner he would be uncomfortable with having gay guests. There is a distinction but not as great as you imply.

I suspect ditching Watson will be the biggest mistake yet of UCUNF. Removing a candidate for holding concientious Christian beliefs - hey, that'll prise away votes from the DUP.

Orangeman said...

4 reasons for Willie McCrea to be cheerful:

1. Challengers in seats usually need campaigning time prior to an election - the Ashcroft principle.

2. Post-Watson, many UUP activists will be reluctant to work for the party. Difficult to run campaign when you alienate your potential volunteers.

3. Clear dividing lines for Singing Willie:

A. Not being a "Tory stooge" as he'd put it
B. Not being socially liberal (might hold back drift to TUV)

4. If Empey entered the race, he will do so without any personal vote and his leadership would end if he was defeated.

thedissenter said...

Thought comment had been sent earlier, but must have been lost. Sorry Gonzo, no. The difference between Grayling and Watson is that to lose a front-bench spokesman so close to an election would be impossible. Mr Watson is entirely dispensable, not even being a member of the Conservative Party. But the handling of this shows the centralising tendencies of the Conservative Party that local associations in England would recognise readily.

Chekov said...

the dissenter,
I'm having difficulties with comment moderation at the moment. The number of comments to be moderated on the dashboard isn't corresponding with the emails I'm getting and, if you sent a comment earlier, it didn't appear at all.

Apologies to you and anyone experiencing the same problem. I've switched to the draft dashboard to see whether that helps. Please let me know if you notice anything go missing again.

thedissenter said...

Not a problem. I am not on the main PC and probably forgot to hit submit. Didn't think it was censorship or anything like that. These things happen.

Gonzo said...

Having checked, I'm confused by the differentiation between Watson and Grayling. The latter said: "[I]f it’s a question of somebody who’s doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home."

The context for his comments were clear, so how is that not defending the Watson argument? He's saying people - like Watson - should be able to refuse entry to gay couples. I really don't 'get' this Ucunf spin at all, unless we're dancing on the head of a pin for the bloody-mindedness of it.