Now he’s a guest on the BBC’s new religion and ethics programme, Sunday Morning Live, it is hard to believe that the Reverend George Hargreaves , Pentecostal minister and leader of the Christian Party, spent 15 years as a leading light in the British pop industry, working with such typically eighties acts as Yazz and Five Star. Hargreaves’s party promotes a raft of right-wing policies, including restriction of abortion, outlawing embryo research and instituting mandatory Christian religious education in schools. As they have also called for “the end of the promotion and teaching in schools of homosexuality as a family relationship” it is surprising to learn that during his music career Hargreaves wrote that perfect slice of gay euro-pop “So Macho” for the teenage pop princess Sinitta.
Irresistibly catchy with brilliantly facile lyrics, the song is unambiguous in its camp appeal. Sinitta proclaims “I don’t want no seven stone weakling/ Or a boy who thinks he’s a girl/ I’m after a hunk of a guy/ An experienced man of the world”‘ adding “He’s got to be big and strong enough to turn me on/ He’s got to have big blue eyes/ Be able to satisfy”‘ Quite a list of requirements. Aided by a painfully low-rent music video, “So Macho” reached number 2 in the charts in 1986 and sold a total of 2 million copies. The single’s B side “Cruising”‘ also written by Hargreaves, contained the lyric “Looking for another/ Man to be my lover”‘ and was a clear use of terminology that was esoteric to heterosexuals at the time to appeal to the gay market.
Hargreaves makes no secret of his past in pop or his involvement with the gay community before his religious conversion, and seems to relish the colourful nature of his former career. In 2004 he freely admitted that the royalties from “So Macho” were funding the Christian Party’s contesting of every UK seat in the European elections, also confirming that the song was intended both “for women to dance round their handbags to and for the gay scene to go mad to on poppers” He added “I was never gay, but I had a lot of lovely friends in the gay scene… Never in my life have I had a homophobic persuasion. I love the sinner, whatever the sin.”
But a closer look at Hargreaves’s behaviour and policies does not tally with this assertion of tolerance. In the 2007 Scottish elections Hargreaves stood in Glasgow with the clear intent of usurping a particular one of the seven sitting MSPs – gay activist Patrick Harvie. It seemed that Harvie was being aggressively targeted by Hargreaves, who described him as ‘a gay fundamentalist’, in order to get publicity for his views on homosexuality. Hargreaves stated “This is not about gay rights, it’s about gay wrongs. It’s not all homosexuals. Just the militant ones.” Harvie meanwhile retorted “I contemplated making So Macho my campaign theme tune. It would be very me. But I did not want to give Mr Hargreaves any more royalties.”‘
The Christian Party’s manifesto for the Scottish election contained proposals for the reinstatement of Section 28, banning of gay adoption and the prohibition of “acceptance or approval” of homosexuality in diversity training. But its Health proposals included something even more sinister: “We will publicise the catastrophic effect of ungodly behaviour on the life expectancy and health of people, whom God loves and we should love; particularly homosexuality, excessive drinking and the use of addictive substances. We will do this in a way that shows Christian love to those affected and offers help back onto a healthy path.” This is a clear proposal to launch public health campaigns that actively attack homosexuality as a damaging addiction and attempt to degrade the public acceptance of people’s right to respect, irrespective of sexuality.
The Christian Party has had limited electoral success. Hargreaves did not gain a seat in Glasgow in 2007 and the Christian Party received just 0.2% of the vote across Scotland then. None of their 71 candidates gained a seat in this year’s General election. In the face of the writer of gay pop anthems who thinks homosexuality is a danger to public health, amusement may well give rise to complacency, but as Patrick Harvie put it “There is a real danger for both religious people and non-religious people like me if Christianity comes to be represented by parties like this rather than by all the positive contributions that religious communities make.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010