Louise Bagshawe, or as she now styles herself Louise Mensch, became the Tory MP for Corby in the 2010 General Election. I was there (I was still with the Tory Party at the time) and I assisted with her campaign. A couple of years later, she resigned, triggering a by-election which created a headache for the Tory Party: they lost the seat. She said she quit to spend more time with her family. Some people take the view that she had expected an immediate Cabinet seat, and was miffed not to get it.
Since then, she has made a hobby of attacking me on Twitter. Most recently, she has picked up a comment from some time ago, misinterpreted it, spoken of it in shock-horror tones, and retweeted comments from others which are of a vile, obscene and pejorative nature. You would think that a successfully published author would have some understanding of the English language. I give Ms. Mensch the credit for such understanding, so I am forced to the conclusion that she deliberately and mischievously chose to misunderstand what I had said, and that she publicised her misinterpretation as widely as possible with the intention of damaging my reputation.
Some time ago, I was appearing regularly on the Steven Nolan show on the BBC, doing the newspaper review at an unsocial hour. Nolan loves to deal with emotive and sensitive social issues, and on one occasion, the issue of sexual intercourse with under-age participants (especially under-age girls) came up. We had a serious discussion about the nature of consent, and the difference between the common-or-garden, day-to-day meaning of “consent”, as contrasted with the legal definition. It is important to understand this point, because the two meanings are at least in part contradictory.
Following the Rotherham scandal, and other similar events, there is of course a huge issue with non-consensual under-age sex. Large numbers of girls are groomed, and pressurised, and intimidated, and in many cases brutally treated and raped, and all decent people are shocked and appalled by these events.
But not all under-age sex is non-consensual. Sometimes under-age girls do choose to have sexual relations, perhaps with boys of a similar age, but sometimes with older men. This is where the semantic problem arises: in colloquial terms, they consented. In legal terms, they were unable to consent, and while I’m not a lawyer, my understanding is that such sexual relations constitute statutory rape. Of course older men who commit such offences should be arrested, charged and jailed.
Recently a blog called “Liberal England” picked up the Stephen Nolan Show comments, where I had remarked that teenage girls are capable of consenting to sex (in the conventional meaning of consent) – a fact which is self-evidently true – and chose to interpret that as if I had in some sense approved of under-age sex. Let’s be clear. Mentioning a crime does not imply approving of it. Burglars can and do break into houses. Muggers can and do attack old ladies and steal their purses. ISIL terrorists can and do behead Westerners. Under-age girls can and do consent to have sex. These are simply facts, and to state them is not to approve them. I am absolutely opposed to burglary, and mugging, and terrorist atrocities, and under-age sex. I believe that those who break the law and commit these offences should face long jail terms (except perhaps for Jihadi John, for whom a Brimstone missile might be more appropriate).
I am also absolutely opposed to people who should know better – like Louise Mensch – twisting and embroidering an innocent, factual observation and seeking to give it a meaning which was never intended, and which no reasonable person would ascribe to it. This is simply a malicious but rather inept attempt at black propaganda.. Mensch is a bitter and twisted woman who should be ashamed of herself. I am certainly ashamed that I ever canvassed for her, and I apologise to the good people of Corby for having done so.
The Times (Oct 1st) has some more on this story – and maybe some stuff that Louise would have preferred not to see. But you’ll need to get past their pay-wall to see it.