The world outside Westminster is once again looking on astonished as Parliament lurches into another bout of deep irrelevance by conducting a witch-hunt against its elected members for acts of flirtation and banter.
Rape and sexual abuse are terrible crimes, of course, and must be taken seriously and referred to the police and the courts. However most of the claims against almost entirely male MPs seem trivial, if not ridiculous, to most people outside the political bubble by comparison with the grooming and rape of white girls by gangs, often of Pakistani background – revealed in one serious case review after another, the latest being last weekend. Yet in the case of ‘Pestminster’ there has been no proven illegal activity, and it is unlikely that any cases will end up before the courts.
And now, in an echo of the witch-hunts of the medieval era, one of those involved has apparently taken his own life. His family and supporters say he was deemed guilty without due legal process. The injustice of witch-hunts in the past was that the woman accused would be tried by torment and deemed innocent only if she died. In a curious inversion, the same is true today – trial by torment of women has been replaced with trial by media of men, and the mere accusation of harassment for something as innocent as touching a knee or clumsy flirtation is enough to bring an accusation which could cost someone their job, their family, their home, their reputation, their freedom, and possibly, in the case of Carl Sargeant, his life.
In the brave new world of trial by media, the common law assumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law has been thrust aside, particularly for people who have no ‘protected characteristics’. At the root of this is the cultural Marxist axiom of victimhood.
Instead of advocating class struggle, Marxist ‘Critical Theory’ ideologues seek to create endless dialectical struggles between what are perceived to be victim and oppressor classes. One of the most fertile ‘dialectics’ has proved to be between men and women.
Modern feminists persist in seeing women, despite their equal rights under the law, as victims of male privilege, and men always as their oppressors. Even if an individual man has lived a life of impeccable virtue, by the very fact that he is a man he is guilty of a new form of post-modern original sin. Compared with the suffragettes' fight for equality, the right to vote and to participate fully in society, post-modern ‘third wave’ feminism, obsessed with the myth of male privilege, is paranoid and corrosive. Men, viewed as potential predators or rapists, are all imbued with ‘toxic masculinity’.
Pestminster is a symptom of this underlying post-modern revolutionary assumption. It is irrelevant that some individual women who have been of the receiving end of some clumsy misguided flirtation by ‘handsy’ men have not been offended and accept its triviality. This attack on male tactileness is about women’s control of men as a class. It matters not that both men and women can be tactile.
The Tory ‘sex pest dossier’, the dodgiest dossier since the Iraq War, describes tactile male MPs as ‘handsy’ as though this were a crime. If this definition is accepted, which it seems to be, the results will be destructive of and counter-productive to decent male-female relationships. 'Men going their own way’ or MGTOW, is already a direct male reaction to post-modern feminism. Many men feel they just cannot win with women – you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Be too friendly and you can be accused of sexual harassment, be too unfriendly and you can be accused of misogyny. The men who join this movement simply give up talking to women. They’ve decided it’s just not worth the risk or the hassle any more.
The logical conclusion of all this is that men in positions of power are less likely to hug or be friendly to women, and less likely to employ them if they can get away with it. Why employ a female researcher who may turn round 10 or 15 years later and get you into trouble for allegedly fleetingly touching her knee or making banter subsequently deemed to be offensive? Who knows what the standards will be like in a few years and what rules will be applied retrospectively?
The truth is, though, that the feminist zealots determined to wage this dialectical male-privilege gender struggle are but a small group of privileged women. They occupy positions of extraordinary power and influence and, under the gaze of the media, pretend to speak for all women.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as the majority of MPs are grossly out of touch with the people on Brexit, these ‘feminist’ MPs and Parliamentary staff are grossly out of touch with the majority of British women, only 7 per cent of whom would describe themselves as feminists. Many of the rest are horrified by the apparently self-serving obsession of some of the privileged women to have found their way to the top of the Parliamentary tree.
The danger now is that those in charge of Parliamentary discipline will capitulate to knee-jerk solutions. Engulfed by the media storm, they feel they have to do something – anything – to signal to the baying, illiberal progressive media that they are not dinosaurs. Under pressure to say that they are ‘taking steps to ensure this will never happen again’, they appear too afraid to tell the truth: that the reaction has been hysterical, out of proportion; that conflating flirtation and behavioural lapses with serious harassment and assault risks trivialising the latter.
It is a sad day if Parliamentarians lack the courage to say that laws exist to deal with such complaints or that due process has to be followed for the sake of both accuser and accused.