Like the rest of the world I have pawed through the ‘dirty dossier’. And what a disappointment it proved to be. Because it is not very dirty at all. There were no great revelations. Just a dreary catalogue of ‘inappropriate behaviour’. Shock horror, gays have liaisons with other gay men. And heterosexuals have liaisons with other heterosexuals. This is hardly front page News of the Screws material. So fifteen years ago Michael Fallon put his hand on Julia Hartley Brewer’s knee. If she could see the funny side of it why can’t everyone else. And Kate Maltby’s allegations against Damian Green are bizarrely tame. What is so disgraceful about this little tale is that if she is telling the truth she is breaching a very personal and very private conversation. Unless there are allegations of sexual assault which should be reported to the police, the public are going to tire of this sad litany of lonely, pissed, middle aged men trying it on in the Sports and Social.
Years ago I was having a drink with Sir Robin Day and a very famous and very attractive television presenter. He just couldn’t take his hands off of her. I was very embarrassed and was just about to intervene when she just calmly looked him in the eye and just said, ‘oh, just fuck off Robin’. The wandering hands ended their journey.
True to form Fleet Street is putting the dick into predictability and moving into full feeding frenzy mode. And it will backfire. People were rightly furious about MPs trousering their hard earned cash, but they really don’t give a damn about their sexual habits unless they are illegal, particularly perverted or bizarre. And do we know who has drawn up this list? Do we know on what evidence it is based? Or is it just a compendium of gossip and rumour picked up in the bars and tea rooms by the prurient bored and mischievous. And how do they define ‘inappropriate behaviour’. It’s pretty clear that unwanted sexual demands are. Butwhat about the lead up to them? Is it inappropriate to drop a note to a pretty girl inviting her for a drink? And after a fun evening ask if she fancies a shag? Of course not. But it would be inappropriate to inundate her with offers of drinks and sex if she has said no. Its pretty obvious. It’s the grey areas which will be confusing to some. Is it acceptable to kiss someone on both cheeks at first meeting? Is it acceptable to put a friendly, non sexual, hand on a knee? Well, I bloody hope so because I do it all the time.
Now every bar and restaurant within groping distance of Westminster will be full of informers and spies, trying to make political capital, cash from the papers or just cause trouble. If you are a single politician just how are you meant to get any sex? There is now such a climate of fear that these guys will turn into the wankers we always thought they were. It’s all rather sad.
Of course, we must expose the sex pests. Of course, we must give vulnerable employees an independent body who can discreetly deal with grievances. But now there is talk amongst some lawyers, who should know better, to embrace a culture of putting the onus of proof on the accused. This is very dangerous. A man accused of touching someone up in a bar having to prove his innocence? Have we really come to this? I pray we won’t.
We expect far too much of our politicians. To work long hours for less pay than they would expect on the open market. To be insulted, assaulted and sometimes killed. To always be available. To follow a party line that is sometimes ludicrous. To intone that the electorate always knows best whilst keeping a straight face. To be pillars of sobriety and continent is sexual behaviour. In other words we demand the impossible. Of course politicians should do their best to have higher standards than the rest of us but it must be a hope rather than an expectation. We haven’t asked them to join holy orders. Or maybe we have. When the Piety Police start to patrol the corridors of power it will will be a sad day for politics. And it’s only just beginning.