Banning things that should never have been allowed and allowing things that should never have been banned

This evening the Prime Minister has released a statement of posthumous apology to Alan Turing.

Turing was the father of modern computer science. In 1999 Time Magazine named Turing as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century for his role in the creation of the modern computer, stating: “The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine.” He came up with the Turing Test for artificial intelligence, worked on the Manchester Mark 1, then emerging as one of the world’s earliest true computers, and worked as a codebreaker for British intelligence during World War 2.

Turing was a scientific icon, a Manchester legend and a war hero. He was also gay. In 1952, when he was outed, being gay was illegal. Turing was arrested, chemically castrated and banned from GCHQ. He never recovered, physically or psychologically, and two years later he killed himself with cyanide.

In 2006 Tony Blair summed up the achievements of this Labour government as ‘Banning things that should never have been allowed…allowing things that should never have been banned.’ Being gay should never have been banned. Alan Turing was never a criminal; those who persecuted him to his death were. It breaks my heart that this brilliant man was arrested in Manchester for being no different to the thousands of people who celebrated Pride in this same city last month.

Gordon Brown’s apology is symbolic; but behind the symbol is the solid foundation of this Labour government’s commitment to gay rights.


Civil partnerships, fertility treatment for lesbians available on the NHS, gay adoption rights and the scrapping of the Tories’ homophobic section 28 – this government has had to overturn not only centuries of inequality, but also a deliberately discriminatory policy brought in by the Conservatives as late as 1988.

The Conservatives have been doing their best to court the gay vote in recent months, and David Cameron made a high-profile apology for Section 28 (including having voted for it himself). But  the key difference between Cameron’s apology and the Prime Minister’s is that Gordon Brown is apologising for being the Prime Minister of a country that once had a homophobic government, because he wants to reassure the gay community that those days are behind us; whereas David Cameron had to apologise for having voted, personally, for a homophobic law, because he wants the gay community to believe that he and his party have changed.

I don’t believe him. The Tories are still obsessed with marriage incentives as a cure for all evil (their ‘Plan for Social Reform‘ doesn’t even mention civil partnerships); their MEPs deny that homophobia exists; and don’t even get me started on Nadine Dorries.

I was part of LGBT Labour’s entry in this year’s Manchester Pride parade and was taken aback at the huge number of spectators along the route who burst out clapping and cheering at the sight of our Labour banner: a demonstration that gay voters (perhaps particularly in Manchester) know that Labour is still the only true party of equality. I was so proud to be Labour that day, and I am again tonight.


Alan Turing: 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954

4 thoughts on “Banning things that should never have been allowed and allowing things that should never have been banned

  1. ‘Banning things that should never have been allowed…allowing things that should never have been banned.’ A wonderfully evocative statement by a man I once had a lot of time for. In my opinion however, a statement which, like the man who said it, is fatally flawed.
    What I just said in no way applies to the main thrust of your blog, Alan Turing. It truly breaks my heart to know that it was even possible for a person’s sexual orientation to make them a criminal and ruin their life. A country who had fought a dictator who incuded homophobia in his agenda, sending homosexuals to concentration camps, then this same country, chemically castrating a homosexual and causing his eventual suicide.
    I am not gay myself, neither do I really think about it, in fact some of my best nights out have been at the gay village in Manchester. Unfortunately, there are those who are not like me and many others. If something is not in their lifestyle, they are intolerant and want to stamp it out. Fortunately, in our society, those who make the desicions have seen through the pseudo science and mythology and seen it as normal.
    Ironically, these same people have believed pseudo scince in other areas and criminalised and denormalised it. Why? They don’t do it so they don’t like it.
    OK. I was having a little rant there. Let me end by saying that I think it is a wonderful thing that this cruel act in 1952 has been publicly exposed and an apology made.

    1. Just as an aside, do you really think it’s fair for you as a straight man to invade gay clubs for a good night out? Straight people have an entire world in which their sexuality is presumed; gays have a few clubs and bars – only there can homosexuality be assumed by everyone. I find it a bit sad that straight people can’t let us have that little bit of the world to call our own. Of course, most of them are women who can’t get laid and feel unthreatened by the nice hot gay men, but it’s just a bit weird and a bit unfair in my view. Anyways…

      1. Hello John. When I said that some of my best nights out have been at the gay village I was not suggesting that as a weekly excursion. I was referring to the fact that many straight men like me do not share the horrific and thoughtless homophobia which used to put men in prison, be deported as in the case of Oscar Wilde, or have inhumane hormone injections to ‘cure’ them.
        I have been to gay village several times over a number of years, by invitation to meet a friend who was gay, on a night out with a mixed group as far as sexual orientation is concerned, and a few times because it was near to where I was doing some work at the time.
        It was also a compliment to the gay community that if I look back on some of my most enjoyable social occasions over the years, it would include socialising with gay people. After all, as far as the male gender is concerned, it is not only women who can feel uncomfortable and threatened by hordes of heterosexual animals let loose for the night.

  2. This was fascinating for an American to read; thank you.

    It is heartbreaking what happened to Alan Turing…I can only hope his story will serve as education to us in the future, and on a global scale, at that. I am hugely grateful to your Prime Minister for making the apology official.

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