Friday, May 20, 2011

Ok, Ken Clarke, you're forgiven

It broke my heart to say, the other night, that Ken Clarke should go, unless he was prepared to make a proper apology and acknowledge his mistake for the comments he made about rape. Well, he's done that, on last night's Question Time. It's not often you have a politician putting his hands up so openly, saying they've made a mistake and delivering a plausible apology. 

He could have pulled out of Question Time and sent someone else, but he fronted up and made an intelligent contribution to the debate. He was helped by the ever wise and liberal Shami Chakrabarti, who told him that he hadn't done himself justice, and then outlined what he meant and how he should have said it.

My problem was never about the sentencing issue, although conviction rates are so low, I'm fairly certain most accused would choose to take their chances with the courts rather than plead guilty and definitely go to jail, whatever discount they got from their sentence. It was that he implied that there were types of rape that didn't involve violence on the woman and specifically that date rape as something that may not always be serious. I think the must-read blog post on this topic is Jennie's which makes you think about the effects of this crime.

There's something about seeing him up against two of the most illiberal people in the country, Jack Straw and Melanie Philips, batting back their scaremongering claptrap about ending shorter sentences, that makes you realise that it could all be a lot worse. He's better than Jack Straw was or virtually every other person in his party would be.

I have been quite depresssed, though, to see the general gender divide in the reaction to this. Men were more likely to back him, women to be more concerned, certainly in the places I've been hanging out, like over at Better Nation. 

Anyway, it's all over now. The way people deal with their mistakes is quite telling. Clarke compounded his on Wednesday by taking a spade and continuing to dig after his initial mistake on Wednesday, but last night he redeemed himself.


Jennie said...

Men are terrified of being falsely accused of rape - to which my answer is "well then don't put yourself in a situation where consent is not obviously given" - see for example this thread on my post:

Some aspects of privilege are deeply ingrained.

martijn said...

I'm glad to hear that. I did not see Clarke's appearance on BBCQT but judging from comments on Twitter he did well. The snippet the BBC have put on link you posted certainly suggests he did.

Am Firinn said...

Jennie: it isn't as easy as that. Whatever we do, apparently, "Rape is a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." Apparently we can't be falsely accused as we are all guilty!


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