The news that J. Martin Stafford, BA – member of CHE’s Executive Committee – had urged Lord Longford and the Director of Public Prosecutions to take private action against Gay News, naturally enough caused somewhat of a stir within CHE itself and in the gay community at large.
Mr Stafford felt it necessary, therefore, to give an explanation of his actions. His memorandum was circulated to local groups of CHE and to delegates of CHE’s National Council (which will be reported in Gay News 14).
The item that horrified him was “what purported to be a photograph of Lord Longford in a naked state”. J. Martin Stafford, BA, makes it clear that, though he mentioned his position within CHE in his letter to Lord Longford, he did not suggest that he was acting on CHE’s behalf.
He writes: “I am convinced that the Gay Liberation Front and all bodies and publications of a similar persuasion are a potent menace to the cause which I embrace and a hindrance to the realisation of ends which I – and no doubt most other people in CHE -esteem desirable. For let us be quite clear about this: GLF, by the outlandish appearance of many of its adherents, by the lunatic extravagance of its professed aims, and by the blatant indecency of its publications, makes social acceptance and further law-reform less probable, not more so; since almost everything which it does, says, and is – far from dispelling prejudice and assuaging potential sympathisers confirms all their gravest apprehensions that homosexuals are freakish perverts … etc etc etc”.
He continues: “… there is absolutely nothing in GLF or Gay News with which any person who held a position of responsibility or who had any concern to maintain his own good name and reputation would wish, or could afford, to be identified, however erroneously”.
Still linking GLF and Gay News together, he believes they give an impression of homosexuality as misleading as that offered by Dr Reubens. He urges CHE to “disassociate itself from all jargon-happy idiots and to renounce their theories as mistaken; their recommendations as impracticable.”
He writes: “I therefore took the view, by which I abide, that any lawful means of eliminating this menace was justified, and proceeded to conspire its ruin.”
After a further paragraph of attack on GLF and Gay News during which he suggests that in himself homosexuals will see they have “at least some spokesmen fit to plead their cause” and also that “some homosexuals have the sense to reject the idle pretentions of revolutionary fanaticism”, he concludes by asserting his intention of remaining on the Executive Committee of CHE “until 1975, or at least until it suits me to leave.” And ends: “The role I play can not, alas, be a very constructive one (sic) but perhaps a restraining influence is not altogether without value.”
At CHE’s National Council, delegates having read Mr Stafford’s hysterical memorandum (for those of us with less intelligence than that Mr Stafford claims to possess found the path from a cartoon of Lord Longford to the “idle pretensions of revolutionary fanaticism” a little difficult to follow), proceeded to give the little fellow a severe trouncing. He sat it out with his usual cool and it was only later in the day that he delighted his fans with one of his celebrated stamping performances.
Mr Stafford told the council that Gay News should be suppressed and “all its shallow and immature gestures eliminated” since it confirms all the worst impressions of homosexuals that people already possess.
A delegate from London (Kensington group) pointed out that Mr Stafford’s action was entirely antagonistic to all the law reforms CHE seeks because he represents himself as a spokesman who wishes to impose restrictions. “He has done everybody a grave disservice”, concluded Peter to loud applause.
The chairman of London’s Putney group remarked that for a homosexual to “recommend that heterosexuals should take legal action against homosexuals was utterly abhorrent”.
The chairman of the Brighton group, speaking with controlled anger, said that Mr Stafford’s action was outrageous in itself, but his “arrogant explanation has added fuel to the fire; the excuse that he is speaking only for himself is rubbish”, said John, “until now Martin Stafford has been a joke. But unless he is removed he will become a menace”.
It was a delegate from London (group 1) who rose to associate himself with Martin Stafford. In a peculiarly confused speech he insisted that he “strongly associated himself with Gay News and had even renewed his subscription. Yet when he saw the relevant cartoon “I was shocked, I thought it in gross bad taste”. Clearly the concept that merely being shocked by something is reason to try and get it prosecuted in the most punitive way, still exists.
Finally two resolutions were put before the Council. The first, from the Croydon delegate, said: “This council disassociates itself from the action of Martin Stafford over Gay News and deplores that a member of the Executive Committee should consider such an action”. Three people voted against this.
The second, put by Bernard Greaves of Cambridge said: “This Council welcomes Gay News‘s existence, applauds its editorial independence and thanks it for its contribution to the homophile cause while not necessarily agreeing with everything contained in it”. Again an overwhelming show of agreement with two votes against.
Martin Stafford embodies all the negative, depressive, death-dealing qualities of the acutely self-repressed homosexual. It is most unfortunate that he has acquired a position on the National Executive Committee of CHE. He admits he will not support his colleagues ard states he will always try to act as “a restraining influence.” His efforts at restraint have hitherto only been exercised within CHE and, while acutely disturbing, have had no relevance to the gay community at large. But in this case he has moved outside CHE to attack (in what is potentially the most vicious way) the efforts of another group of people (homosexual and heterosexual, unaligned to any organisation) to bring those much needed elements of contact, communication and information to both gay and straight communities.
Whenever Martin Stafford goes on one of his anti-life rampages, he falls back on the fact that he was elected to the Executive Committee of CHE this year with a majority. “Ten months ago the voting figures confirmed beyond all dispute that my views command considerable support; for after submitting myself to election on a question of confidence I was returned to the EC, not only at the top of the poll, but by a very impressive lead.”
This reads well. However it must be pointed out (as indeed the vice-chairman of CHE, Tony Ryde, did point out at the council) that Martin Stafford won 95 outright votes at the election, less than 10 votes ahead of his nearest rival. Out of a potential electorate of about 2,500 at this time, this is less than considerable, certainly not impressive. These facts, of course, only reflect on the inertia or lack of interest of CHE’s membership at large in electing their representatives. It also means that the other members of the Executive Committee are in the same position. However, it must be remembered that the other members of the EC are aware of this and only act after collective agreement and do not go off on individual rampages claiming a massive, but mythical, support.
ED: We repeat again and again and again – Gay News is linked in no way whatsoever with any organisation.