Richard Grenell Should Move to Britain

I am happy to see the Economist covering the wave of criminal justice innovation in the UK. I worked with allies on the package of reforms that are now the law of the land. It includes 24/7 sobriety and other Kleiman-esque swift-and-certain consequence approaches to offenders serving “community sentences” (the rough parallel of probation and parole in the states).

The Economist article highlights Nick Herbert, MP, a smart and reform minded Tory minister whom I consider a rising star to watch. It is not mentioned in the article because it doesn’t – or rather shouldn’t– matter, but Herbert is openly gay.

Contrast the British Conservatives placing an openly gay man in an important government post with the Romney campaign not even allowing a different gay man to speak on a conference call that he himself arranged. Perhaps there was some short-term electoral advantage to Romney for treating Grenell so shabbily, but in the long term, British conservatives are in much healthier shape than their American counterparts: Only the Tories grasp that a certain proportion of the very smartest people in politics are gay or lesbian, and if you flush them down the drain you not only do them an injustice, you also shrink your own talent pool.


  1. Barry says

    Then again, Grenell would probably only have a cabinet post under the BNP. He was a Bolton protege.

  2. Maynard Handley says

    I suspect the proportion of “the very smartest people in politics” who is atheist in the US is even higher than the fraction which is gay/lesbian. Needless to say, those people have a viable career path ahead of them in the UK, whereas in the US I imagine they become academics because, honestly, what hope do they have of being part of the political sphere?

    • Dennis says

      In the U.S. political landscape, they adopt whatever label they find most congenial and fake it.

  3. John G says

    Is there an argument that British Tories are more open to gay talent because so many of them were at Oxbridge where experimentation in such matters, if not lifelong devotion to them, has been common for a century or more? So it’s not unfamiliar to them. Or is that just the impression one gets from certain literature and the movies made from it? And if that’s a reason, I wonder if it extends to talent among lesbians. Any evidence?

    • Warren Terra says

      Well, there’s a persistent rumor that Tory PM Edward Heath was a closeted homosexual, but the current consensus seems to be that whatever his urges may have been, if any even existed, he was functionally neuter.

      As to a supposed legacy and acceptance of homosexuality dating to boarding school and Oxbridge, if any such existed it doesn’t seem to have offered the slightest protection to Alan Turing, nor prevented the formation of a tightly knit group of Cambridge spies who seemingly were reinforced in their rejection of mainstream values (i.e. the value of not giving Stalin everything on a platter) by the rejection mainstream society offered to their sexuality. And a few generations earlier the swinging gay culture of Oscar Wilde, Alfred Bosie, and a slew of impoverished rent boys was permitted to exist, sub rosa, but was not really accepted, as we see in the destruction of Oscar Wilde.

      Long before homosexuality was made legal in Britain, let alone acceptable, there was a tradition of accepting, even celebrating campness in entertainers (Kenneth Williams, etcetera), but the tie to homosexuality wasn’t made explicit, campness isn’t a prerequisite for homosexuality, and “entertainers” aren’t necessarily considered serious people.

      • says

        It’s not true that the Cambridge spies were united by homosexuality. Philby was heterosexual; Maclean hetero-, possibly bi-sexual. I can’t find any information on the austere Cairncross. That leaves Blunt and Burgess as plain homosexual.

        The argument that social rejection encouraged Communism is odd in that Cambridge University in the 1930s was about the most tolerant environment in all Britain for gays (cf. the bisexual and anti-Communist Keynes). That is, at the time the five were recruited as Communist agents, nobody cared much about there sexual life.

        There may be something in the theory that gays were attracted to the secret life as they had to live it anyway. The unimpeachably loyal Maurice Oldfield, the possible model for George Smiley, fell victim, like Alan Turing, to a trap set by provincial police bigots.

        • Warren Terra says

          I guess my secondhand exposure to both Gay and British culture had led me to believe that homosexuality was somehow completely intertwined with the story of the Cambridge spies. To the extent that I accurately reflected a fallacious received wisdom, the unfair trope of traitorous homosexual Cambridge Spies would be grimly amusing.

  4. Keith Humphreys says

    John G. and Warren Terra: Thanks for these comments. I do not candidly fully understand the dynamics about this, but I detect a distinction between homosexual behaviour (e.g., at school) and being gay as an orientation and an identity. Many people who accept same-sex behaviour in one period of life and in one context by someone who then goes on to live a heterosexual life can still be hostile to people who are gay.

    • Barry says

      Or, as recent research has shown, more hostile than that average heterosexual, due to repressed feelings.