Saturday, 21 May 2011


Last week, on a radio show hosted by Victoria Derbyshire, a Sue McGregor or Sarah Montague wannabe, the English Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, said (and I paraphrase) that there are no rapes that aren’t bad and no rapes that aren’t wrong, but that some are worse than others.

It caused an outrage which has persisted through the week and into the weekend.

I forced myself to listen to the interview and I could find nothing actually wrong with what he was saying. Even if Ken Clarke’s delivery was a little laid back and clinical, rather than emotional, it was not offensive in its content. And what he was saying was surely correct.

People, quite rightly, feel very strongly about the subject, but, politically correct to say it, or not, there are some rapes that are far worse than others.

This is because rape is defined as all sexual activity where consent has not been given by both adult parties. It ranges from frenzied sexual attacks to consensual sex with a person who, because of age, is not LEGALLY competent to give consent, and all the statistics include both extremes, and all those in between.

Given that the age of consent varies within Europe from country to country, we have the ridiculous situation that, if a Frenchman of 18 and his 15 year old wife, on honeymoon in England, indulge in intercourse, then according to English law, (and Scottish for that matter) he will have raped her, because she was not old enough to give her consent. It may be offensive to English sensibilities, and wrong under their law, but it is surely very different from a rape which involves a violent attack in a dark alley by a complete stranger.

It is right that this, and pleading guilty, thus sparing the victim the further violation of reliving the event, should be reflected in sentencing. This is the general sense of the argument that Ken was trying to get over. It was not offensive. It was common sense.

As a result of the interview there have been calls for Clarke’s resignation from government, led by the opportunistic Ed Miliband.

Worse still Jack Straw, who never apologised for anything when in office, said that he would have apologised and that he would have been moved to another job (not sacked, just moved to another job) had he been in that situation. Presumably if you cock up one job in Labour, you are sent to another department so you can do it there too.

Meanwhile, it has gone almost completely unnoticed that on May 16, Nadine Dorries said in an interview with another daytime interviewer, that child abuse could be reduced if the victims had been taught to say “no”.

Now I’ll admit that I haven’t seen Dorries’ interview (nothing on Earth could persuade me watch Vanessa ‘does my bum look big in this’ Phelps), but it seems to me that her comments (if reported correctly) were very much more offensive than those of her senior colleague.

Maybe it’s just that everyone ignores or laughs at anything Dorries says, as a matter of course.

I don't make a habit of supporting Conservative English cabinet secretaries, but I do so in this case, and I deplore Labour for jumping on a “populist” bandwagon.

Rape is far too serious a crime for this petty politicking and point scoring political correctness. It might help if we could talk about it like adults.


  1. tris

    I dont do serious tried it once hurt me head something awful.......

    the Japanese

    Age of consent for sexual activity
    The Article 177 of the Penal Code puts the age of consent for sexual actitvity at thirteen (13) years.

    now that serious

  2. Interestingly, it is that in some European countries in certain circumstances, as long as the other participant is under 16 or under 18 Niko.

    In the USA it is 18, and at least some of them think that we are all paedophiles with our 16 year age of consent.

    The thing is that kids are sexually aware and active a lot younger than that, but not physically able for the consequences of that sexual activity. It’s one of these cases where nature seems to have slipped up a bit.

  3. tris

    Or is it that the age of consent is a cultural construct so what is illegal and unacceptable in one society is perfectly normal and natural in another?

    Whoa! heavy thinking dude

    I mean you have zero size models (highly sort after by the media) to sell all clothes etc and what do they resemble well more a child than a normal Woman.
    and the clothes on sale for female children ape the style for a much older and sexier Women.

    society seems to say one thing but do another as ever

  4. tris

    anyway must go am clearing out garden shed and garage I'll probably be gone for a while.......
    I calls it me Augean stable task

  5. Well Niko, I think society has ever been guilty of that kind of thing, but yeah, I guess each country, or area has evolved its own laws on this sort of thing, based on its culture and the times...

    In the 1600s in England the age was 10, having been lowered from 12....

    Good luck with the shed. It's far too cold here for that sort of outdoor nonsense.


  6. Tris....You've provided a excellent analysis of the issue. But the direct answer to the question posed by your title is "No we can't." Not when the flim flam of politics meets the circus sideshow that the electronic news media has become. You will want an American example no doubt. ;-)

    Here in the states, capital punishment is an important issue, since something like 33 states still have the death penalty. In 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis was running for president against George H. W. Bush. In one of the presidential debates, Dukakis (who opposed the death penalty) was asked how he would feel about it if his wife Kitty were raped and murdered. UNBELIEVABLE, but quite intentionally inappropriate!! The reporter wanted a flash of anger and emotion....a big show. But Dukakis is a Democrat, not a Republican nut case. So he gave a thoughtful, reasoned, "serious", reply. He was subsequently excoriated in the press for not having become emotional and blown up at the reporter. And to this day, that's considered one the of the most important moments of the 1988 campaign.

    We're going to hell in a handbasket. But reporters will be on hand to entertainingly document the trip, and politicians will be there to spin it to their advantage.

  7. PS: Oh....and for an on-topic response to the actual issue you raised. Kudos to Mr. Clarke and his reasonable approach to the issue. But public rationality is not generally permitted from politicians these days. Ken Clarke should have reflected on the experience of Michael Dukakis.

  8. "We're going to hell in a handbasket. But reporters will be on hand to entertainingly document the trip, and politicians will be there to spin it to their advantage."

    Sadly Danny you nailed it with that paragraph.

    Clarke is an unusual Tory politician. He seems to have no particular hatred of foreigners and he is pro Europe. Weird!

    I remember listening to him being interviewed on the radio in the dog days of the Tory administration in 1997. They were in a mess and he was being grilled about it by one of our top interviewers, a lady called Sue McGregor, for whom I still have huge respect.

    He admitted that they were in a hole and he said that he thought the best thing to do was for them to stop digging... It was the first and the last time I heard any politician be so honest.

    He is though, inclined to say things in a tone that suggests a lack of emotion. I guess this may be because he approaches issues with an acutely sharp intellectual purpose. He forgets, perhaps, that other people lack his ability to see the logic. He's a bit Mr Spockish perhaps in that way, although not in others. (He enjoys jazz, football, beer and comfortable clothes.)

    In that way he can connect with 'ordinary' people (where many Tories can't).

  9. I think integrity is the word that Ken has a word missing from a lot of Westminster politicians. 5 Live tried to stitch him up as did the opposition but he has come out stronger and gained respect from a lot more people. Some bloggers have ended up with egg on their faces even though they have now turned around 180degs reluctantly, shallow at best.

    Have you got a bottle yet?

  10. Tris:

    "He is though, inclined to say things in a tone that suggests a lack of emotion. I guess this may be because he approaches issues with an acutely sharp intellectual purpose. He forgets, perhaps, that other people lack his ability to see the logic....."

    Ironically, this could be a perfect description of our Mr. Obama. From back in the campaign, he earned the title "no drama Obama." He is called "cool" and "professorial." And these are viewed as distinct political wesknesses.

  11. You could be right CH.

    Yes, I think he's honest as politicians go, although there may be many things I don't know about him.

  12. Oh yeah CH. I’m sure that in the end intelligent people will see what he was saying made a lot of sense. Opposition and bloggers who tried to make political capital out of this should hang their heads in shame.

  13. It's a bit sad Danny, that "cool" and "professorial" should be seen as weakness in government.

    I imagine that the same people who came out with that like what they saw of Mrs Palin. Nothing in the least bit “cool” about her, and as for the world “professorial” right, no comment.