Thursday, 21 March 2013

Unwanted Liberal Advances

Nick Clegg's Lib Dems have managed to hang onto Eastleigh, and thus Nick Clegg has managed to hold onto his Lib Dems, despite the Huhne/Price and Rennard scandals. Whilst holding a seat is not so much an advance as a maintenance of the staus quo, with the incumbent MP heading off to jail and defending a tiny majority and polling nationally in the single digits, this was quite something for the Yellow Terror.

The main point, though, about both of these stories was that it is very clear that lots of people (his own people I should stress, not Tory or Labour malcontents) say that Cleggo knew about both of these in pretty vivid detail. Weirdly, he has come down with a touch of the Murdoch's and can't remember being told any of it. Convenient because if the very many people who essentially say he is lying are being truthful, Nick would be in a spot of integrity-based bother. And the Lib Dems are all about integrity. There are 3 possible conclusions:

1. Nick Clegg is not suited to Government as he simply cannot recall even the obviously most important things he has been told.
2. Nick Clegg is not suited to Government as he runs such a loose ship that he doesn't want to properly investigate serious allegations made about very senior party members, or else his deputy, 'Quad-member' Danny Alexander, doesn't bother telling Clegg the important bits once he has investigated them.
3. Nick Clegg is not suited to Government as he is telling whoopsies, the lying little tyke.

The whole unsavoury affair brought to light an interesting point though, which Toby Young tried to explain a couple of weeks ago (not particularly well) to the Labour Party Conference (Question Time audience). This was that we should be a little careful over calling an amorous advance a sexual assault. There is a big difference, and screaming "how dare you, you chauvenist rape-condoning pig" at anyone who points this out does nothing to help those victims of actual sexual harassment or assault.

Think back - have you ever thought "I'm in here" and lunged at the object of your fancy? Maybe you were 15, at a party in the room with the coats with the pretty girl from French class, maybe you were 25, dancing the light fantastic with a fellow reveller in a nightclub, or simply 35, trying "to steal a kiss" as you dropped off your dinner date at her door. Now that was rather ageist of me to suggest that only teens do house parties, 20 somethings go out clubbing and 30 somethings do dinner, but you see the point, no doubt?

You have not always asked for written permission to go for a kiss I will wager - and nor should you. Or (for those kissing girls - because the way we are hard wired means it is generally boys who have to chase girls) when kissing to go for the hallowed ground of the boob touch. Now "no" means "no", but we must agree that working out sexual signals is a dark art, and one which backfires sometimes. Etiquette dictates you go very red in the cheeks, become very very English and mutter things like "I'm terribly sorry...I thought I saw you catch my eye...too many sherberts...I'm awfully embarassed...etc" In normal circumstances, getting it wrong is not a sexual assault - crossed wires are just that. We cannot legislate the (un)knowing glance.

Now clearly I'm talking about Lord Rennard and his alleged Lib Dem activist fetish - presumably for him there is something enduringly sexy about a moronic idealist with discalculia. Clearly one can go too far in trying one's luck, but just trying it is no crime (I'm not advocating forcing yourself on someone, but leaning in for a kiss or stroking a leg is flirting, and you are allowed to get it wrong if you behave correctly immediately on finding out your error). It is irrelevant that he could be mistaken for Eric Pickles from afar, or that in trying his luck he would be attempting to commit adultery. If he only propositioned these women and tried unaggressively to kiss them, on the criminal side of the ledger if he is guilty most of us should be locked up.

The more important charge is that it does seem likely, if these allegations have any substance to them, that he has abused his position of power. That is very different to the general commentary in the press which is incredibly worrying and has all the hallmarks of a society on the march toward "sexual thought crime." Romantic misunderstandings are par for the course, forceful abuse of power is not, nor of course sexual assault. Let's not mix them up though, eh?

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