Reading the Stonewall briefing on Russia/Sochi is very similar to listening to Sir Humphrey Appleby outline the four-stage strategy for dealing with a foreign crisis.
For those of you who may not know, Sir Humphrey Appleby was the Civil Servant kingpin played brilliantly by Sir Nigel Hawthorne in Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister, a t.v. satire on Whitehall politics.
Although Sir Humphrey ostensibly worked for his elected minister, his true allegiance lay in maintaining (and if possible increasing) the power and prestige of the unelected Civil Service, his department and himself (not always in that order).
In order to do this, Sir Humphrey relied on being the right sort and using the right type of language, but when you broke down his speeches they were usually based on the most flimsy homilies (women are simpler, foreigners are different, maintain the status quo).
Sir Humphrey’s attitude to a foreign crisis was ‘wait and see until it’s too late’….
Bernard Woolley: What if the Prime Minister insists we help them?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Then we follow the four-stage strategy.
Bernard Woolley: What’s that?
Sir Richard Wharton: Standard Foreign Office response in a time of crisis.
Sir Richard Wharton: In stage one we say nothing is going to happen.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage two, we say something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.
Sir Richard Wharton: In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we *can* do.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now.
For those of you who haven’t read the Stonewall briefing on Sochi, it’s anti-boycott. It’s pretty much anti any action, except behind the scenes actions by Stonewall and the British government (why should that be the case in the face of such appalling human rights abuses?). If you want to do something, you should send money to Stonewall (?) or use approved Stonewall business (??). The briefing makes the grand statement “we’re in it for the long haul,” but if you compare it with what the main Danish LGBT movement (amongst others) produced it quickly becomes apparent what an awful, bureaucratic document the briefing is and how similar it is to a civil service press release saying nothing more than ‘wait and see – hope we don’t get it wrong’.
Obviously, there are differences – not least that Sir Humphrey is a fictional character. Yet there have been times, not only in relation to Sochi, that Stonewall press releases or Stonewall employees that I’ve met have reminded me of him and his mind-set. They have a tendency to act as if they’re the LGB (with a big focus on the G) Whitehall department; running interference for their bosses while seeking to maintain or increase their own influence. It’s not that difficult to detect a ‘wait and see until we’re sure Middle-England agrees’ homily in most of their strategies.
Events like those in Russia require many responses – the least of which is ‘wait and see’.