It seems that newspapers with less-than-scintillating content are ever on the lookout for an opportunity to manufacture a new newspaper-selling controversy. Now, in the wake of the recent dismissal of a UKIP parliamentary candidate, a Morning Star journalist has tried to jump on the bandwagon by enticing a politically incorrect statement out of UKIP’s candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth, John Rees-Evans.
At 1319 on Sunday 21st December, journalist Conrad Landin from the Morning Star newspaper – traditionally a Communist news outlet but now describing itself merely as ‘very left wing’ – telephoned UKIP’s Cardiff South and Penarth parliamentary candidate, John Rees-Evans, while he was enjoying lunch with his family at home, in order to request follow up comment in response to a video that appeared on YouTube today. The telephone conversation suffered poor audio quality and lasted 56 seconds. Mr Rees-Evans therefore offered to call back Mr Landin using his mobile phone and the ensuing conversation lasted 27 minutes and 38 seconds.
The video which is the basis of this discussion was recorded yesterday at an anti-UKIP protest in which the door lock of UKIP’s Merthyr Tydfil campaign shop was glued shut, and which destroyed several hundred pounds of UKIP’s shop-front signage*. In the video to which Mr Landin requested that Mr Rees-Evans respond, an anti-UKIP campaigner outside UKIP’s new campaign shop in Merthyr Tydfil presents Mr Rees-Evans with a series of potentially controversial printed statements several of which are believed to have been made by persons either having had a past association with UKIP and who have since been expelled, or who still continue to have an association with UKIP.
* A reader suggests that this is an error and that the damage to the shop occurred some two days before the protest.
Anti-UKIP Campaigners Want to Talk About Bestiality
One of these statements expresses the view that ‘Some homosexuals prefer to have sex with animals’ and asks for Mr Rees-Evans’ response to this. Earlier in the conversation Mr Rees-Evans has already explained to the interviewer that since he does not know the people who made these statements and is not familiar with their context, the entirety of the intention behind these statements should therefore not necessarily be assumed to be obvious to Mr Rees-Evans and that he’d prefer to have the opportunity to further question the people who made these statements prior to forming what he would hope would be a fair and objective insight into what each speaker intended when making these statements.
Mr Rees-Evans therefore suggests that he ought perhaps to take a broad approach and to consider each statement both in the light of what most listeners would assume to be the likely intention of the speaker in terms of colloquial norms, but also – in order to be fair and objective – with respect to what may be argued to be prescriptively correct with reference to etymology and a strict semantic approach. In response to the question relating to homosexuality and animals, however, Mr Rees-Evans concedes that his response was playful and pedantically semantic.
Mr Rees-Evans responded to the question about homosexuality and animals by relating an incident in which a male donkey attempted to rape his stallion in Bulgaria. Proving that the amorous advance was unwanted and not consensual his stallion responded by biting the donkey’s neck hard and stemming the flow of blood to the donkey’s brain. The donkey became limp and docile and Mr Rees-Evans was concerned that his horse was on the point of killing the donkey – which would have represented the loss of a significant asset to one of his neighbours. Mr Rees-Evans therefore ran up to his stallion and struck it with his hand in the side of the neck to force it to release its hold on the donkey’s neck. The donkey was able to escape and survived.
Propriety - No Place for Humour in Politics
In discussing Mr Rees-Evans’ response to the original statement about some homosexuals liking to have sex with animals, journalist Conrad Landin asked whether Mr Rees-Evans thought his answer appropriate and inferred that he ought rather to have run the risk of assuming that the statement related to a homosexually oriented human as opposed to an animal that displayed homosexual tendencies. Mr Rees-Evans conceded that since the concept of males of any genus or species copulating with each other was something of which he had very little understanding and no affinity, the only way in which he felt able to provide a sincere answer to the campaigner’s 'strange statement' was by relating the only instance of his personal experience and knowledge which involved homosexuality and animals. He has since expressed concern for anyone who may have been offended by his remarks, particularly the donkey or its owner, and acknowledges that it may have been offensive to the donkey that his friendly approach should have been described as rape, since it is not known widely whether donkeys have a reliable means of ensuring that their proposed mate is indeed consensual in the proposed attempt at copulation.
Morning Star Wants to Know Whether Bestiality Should be Legalised?
Mr Landin then asked Mr Rees-Evans whether he believed that since there is no legal impediment in the UK to male humans (provided their family relationships do not transgress the laws of consanguinity) above the age of 16 copulating with each other, did Mr Rees-Evans believe that humans should therefore be permitted legally to copulate with animals?
Mr Rees-Evans answered this question in two parts. His initial response was that since it appeared to be the will of the British people that humans of the same gender should be permitted to copulate with each other and some humans expressed the desire that their proposed sexual equality and compatibility with animals should equally be respected, it may appear unfairly discriminative towards both humans wanting to copulate with animals and animals wanting to copulate with humans to tell the one group that their sexual preferences are acceptable and yet to tell the other group that their sexual preferences are unacceptable. Ostensibly it appeared that there was at least a modicum of logical consistency in the proposition that the whole of the 1533 Act of Buggery should be repealed, including the prohibitions concerning what the Act termed ‘bestiality’, and not merely those prohibiting what it called ‘buggery’, and that therefore there is indeed a potentially valid case to argue that humans should be permitted to copulate with animals, but only provided that it were possible to prove that the consent of the participating animal had been obtained, otherwise the act should be defined legally as rape.
The Problem of Obtaining Consent When Copulating with Animals
Subsequently Mr Rees-Evans further expressed concern that the age of the animal should be such that it would not be considered adolescent or pre-adolescent and of a sufficiently sound state of mind as to ensure that it was capable of making informed and carefully considered decisions, but he omitted to express this concern in his interview with Mr Landin. Mr Rees-Evans did however point out to Mr Landin that it was his belief that it would be very difficult forensically to prove that an animal had indeed consented to copulating with the human and that this would represent a significant challenge to introducing a law that permitted such acts.
Mr Rees-Evans further went on to explain that while it may indeed be logically consistent to permit humans to copulate with consenting animals on the grounds that the British people had apparently already expressed their willingness largely to depart from the strictures of our Judeo-Christian moral heritage – which, in terms of legislation related to sexuality was based broadly on the Hebrew T’nach, particularly Leviticus Chapter 18 - nonetheless, he believed that prior to the implementation of such a bill, the British people ought to be consulted as to whether such a law would indeed be consistent with their will. Additionally, Mr Rees-Evans further argued that other significant departures from our traditional moral code should be referred to the will of the people prior to the implementation of any such innovative legislation.
What Does the Hebrew T’nach Say in Leviticus 18?
Leviticus Chapter 18, which for at least 900 years formed the basis of English Common Law with respect to the legal legitimacy of sexual relationships, forbids a person to have sexual relations with the following:
- Father or Mother
- Stepmother or Stepfather
- Sister or Brother
- Half-sister or Half-Brother
- Granddaughter or Grandson
- Aunt or Uncle
- Daughter-in-Law or Son-in-Law
- Brother’s Wife or Sister’s Husband
- A woman whose mother a man has already had sexual relations with, and vice versa
- A man whose father a woman has already had sexual relations with, and vice versa
- The sister of a woman a man has already had sexual relations with
- The brother of a man a woman has already had sexual relations with
- Another man’s wife or another woman’s husband
- In verse 22 a man is prohibited from having sexual relations with another man and a woman is prohibited from having sexual relations with another woman
- In verse 23 both a man and woman are prohibited from having sexual relations with an animal
Other Sexual Relationships that Challenge the Foundational Principles of Common Law
To further expound the nature of Mr Rees-Evans’ concerns, for instance, last year Norman Tebbitt raised the very unusual, but logically coherent, question of a man marrying his son in order to assist him in avoiding inheritance tax. While the British people would certainly oppose such a measure on grounds that it assisted a tax dodge, nonetheless, we have cogent precedent (ie. the repeal of the 1533 Buggery Act – derived from verses 22 and 23 of Leviticus 18 and prohibiting ‘buggery’ and ‘bestiality’) that a law allowing a son to marry his father would likely not be opposed on the grounds that it transgresses the prohibitions of Leviticus 18, but rather for some other reason connected to what was perceived to be the modal moral position of the day on the matter. The question then arises, if we agree that the government exceeds its remit by imposing its own moral views on the people for whom they work, on what grounds may we fairly debar such relationships without risk of being accused of discriminating unfairly against those with minority tendencies. If we argue that such relationships are ‘immoral’ and yet as a nation we have already expressed a willingness to diverge from the sexual moral code expressed in Leviticus 18, then which moral system can we properly refer to as our authoritative source?
Whose Sexual Preferences Should We Discriminate Against?
While Mr Rees-Evans – who states that he has only ever copulated with one person, his wife, concedes that the traditionalist sexual moral values by which he chooses to live his own life and raise his children would likely not describe those embraced by many in Britain – nonetheless, he wonders whether a cogent case based on the principles expressed in current equality legislation could not be made by a son with homosexual preferences who grew to become physically attracted to his widowed father – irrespective of whether his anticipated inheritance were likely to exceed the inheritance tax threshold.
Persistent Campaigners are Able to Change Negative Attitudes
Mr Rees-Evans points out that whenever people of initially minority sexual orientation campaign for understanding and acceptance there is a pattern: initially, the majority of people may find these tendencies ‘unnatural’ and offensive, but subsequently, when the case is presented by well organised and well-funded campaign groups who are able to convey the concerns of those who are being discriminated against in a way that progressively gains affinity, identity and ever greater traction with the electorate, initial feelings of repulsion or unease tend to give way to ever more widespread understanding and acceptance and, eventually, participation.
Working to End the Classification of Homosexuality as a Mental Illness
Mr Rees-Evans points out that campaigners for homosexual rights’ first small win – and retrospectively, a very significant step forward in their campaign – was to persuade libraries to move books on homosexuality from the ‘mental illnesses’ category of libraries to other sections, whereas nowadays, if anyone in Britain who regularly attended libraries in their youth during the period of our history when books on homosexuality were on shelves entitled ‘mental illnesses’ suggested that homosexuality were a mental illness, many people who enjoy the liberty of conscience to live their lives without harassment from those who seek to impose their moral values on others, would understandably likely be very offended.
Should We Be Willing to Offend Those with As Yet Unusual Sexual Preferences?
Similarly, an unmarried son who genuinely found his single father sexually attractive may similarly be very offended – and with good reason - if people he perceived as prurient prudes told him that his tendencies were the result of a mental illness, and that he needed to see a psychiatrist in order to become sexually reformed or ‘rehabilitated’. Logically and morally therefore, if Britain en masse agrees to continue to disavow the moral paradigm that many of our elderly argue was (while we subscribed to these values) the foundation of Britain’s temporary social and economic successes (until we departed from these values), then the argument exists that we perhaps have no reasonable, logical or moral grounds not to consider the legitimacy of the sexual preferences of people in such situations, especially since the basis of the laws on consanguinity are generally understood to be motivated to protect progeny from the potentially physiologically damaging implications of a very restricted gene pool, and in the case of a man marrying his father, no such potentially genetically diseased offspring could result.
In conclusion, while Mr Rees-Evans – who has been married for 13 years but whose own parents divorced when he was young – suspects that Britain would become a happier, more prosperous and socially cohesive country if the people of Britain in large part opted to try to move themselves in the direction of working at regaining more traditional family values – but without harming the interests, stigmatising or offending the sensibilities of anyone who wished to opt out of traditional family models, or who for one reason or another was unable to participate in such relationships – nonetheless, he has stated categorically that if elected, he believes that it will be his role to fight to represent the will of the people who elected him, even where to do so means that he will be working to implement legislation that opposes his own personal views.
Government Needs Permission from the People to Change the Moral Face of Britain
As such, Mr Rees-Evans summarises his view on the issue of legislation relating to sexual relations as being that each successive request to apply to breach legislative principles that conform to the Judeo-Christian moral paradigm to which Mr Rees-Evans still aims to subscribe and to which Britain has historically subscribed, should only be considered after consulting the will of the people of Britain, and after a full discussion of the social and economic consequences of any proposed laws have been fairly and fully considered. Mr Rees-Evans asserts that politicians and lawmakers have no legal grounds to impose their own values on the British people, as to do so is necessarily anti-democratic. Irrespective of the personal, ideological, philosophical or moral values of the people who constitute government, the government of the day - if claiming to be representatives of a democratic doctrine - does not have legitimate remit to impose their moral values on the electorate but should rather do their utmost to ensure that laws that are made reflect the will and values of the people who elect government and pay their salaries.
Not Speaking on Behalf of the Party
Mr Rees-Evans stated that everything he said during this conversation with Mr Landin should be interpreted as representing his personal view only and not the view of UKIP and pointed out that the party is broadly libertarian in nature and espouses the general principle that people ought to be allowed to do whatever they like in the privacy of their own homes provided that their actions do not negatively impact on other people who have not consented to participate in any such actions or to accept the consequences of any such actions.
Should John Rees-Evans have avoided the question to safeguard his political career?
When asked why Mr Rees-Evans did not simply reply to the Morning Star journalist that he had no further comment or did not wish to discuss the matter Mr Rees-Evans replied, ‘It’s pretty obvious by their line of questioning which journalists have an antagonistic agenda, and while it is of course very tempting – and some would say prudent - only to talk to those one regards as balanced, objective and fair, nonetheless, I am of the opinion that we should always be ready to answer honestly and straightforwardly - and yes, sometimes even with humour - any question we are asked, even when the question is uncomfortable and where we struggle to identify with the premises of such questions. The people of Britain are fed up with politicians evading answers to questions. I believe that the vast majority of the British people are tolerant and accommodating, don't want politics that is entirely devoid of humour, and would prefer someone to speak his mind – even where it is known that doing so will incur the wrath and motivated opposition of some of the most aggressive and vociferous minorities in media and their sycophantic subscribers.”
He further stated, “I realise that answering these questions risks motivating people in media to seek to court as much controversy as possible by quoting me out of context or by taking a small clause of a relatively insignificant and poorly constructed sentence and parading this as though it were the primary basis of my worldview, but I prefer to expose myself to this risk than take the easy option of becoming like a mainstream politician – which sadly, is to avoid providing a straight answer to any question the answer to which you know will be seized upon by a professional manufacturer of outrage.”