Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ken Clarke should go, but let's be clear about why

So Ken Clarke is in the firing line for offending a weird modern piety, the one that says "rape is rape" and there is no distinction for sentencing purposes to be drawn between one rape and another. So, no distinction between a forcible rape committed by a 15 year old sibling on his ten year-old brother, on the one hand, and, on the other, a rape of a woman too drunk to know what is happening by a man who, because she's so drunk, needs use no force. No distinction, then, between the rapist who beats a woman senseless, drags her into a darkened alleyway in the dead of night and forces himself on her dimly cognisant, perhaps feebly struggling body and the husband who tires of his wife's headaches, or who learns of her adultery, and finally loses his self-possession. None? Golly, who knew it was that simple?

Meanwhile, in sentencing any other offence, judges assess the gravity of the offence for an offence of its type. Murder may be murder, but a premeditated hit, planned and paid for is treated more seriously than a crime of passion. Just for example. Theft from an employer is treated more seriously, as a breach of trust, than "dipping" from a stranger's handbag in a cafe. Of course we can differ as to the merits of these varying assessments, but it's surely clear that the commission of a nominally identical offence is capable of being sentenced for a variety of differing aggravating and mitigating features.

As I understand Ken Clarke's gaffe, he was explaining that if the average sentence for rapists is five years then that average, as is the way with averages, hides a wide variation of actual sentences for more or less serious rapes ... just as is the case with any other offence. I'm not here expressing any sentiment as to the rectitude of the sentences handed in this country for rape, or for any other offence, much less am I considering Clarke's proposal - and this was why he was being interviewed this morning - to discount sentences by half for early pleas, and I certainly don't mean to defend Clarke, for reasons which will become apparent. I'm simply noting 1) the plain construction of his words, 2) the drearily predictable response to them with its attendant illustration of the bounds of political discourse as determined by the High Priests of What May Be Thought and Said and, finally, 3) Clarke's own increasingly, as today has progressed, craven response - which is the real reason why he should go.

As to 1), enough said...for those governed by rationality.

So far as concerns 2), this is closely related to 3): the cravenness of most of the political class when confronted by icky, sticky altercations of the type witnessed this morning in Clarke's interview, tells us all we need to know about the real quality of such "big beasts" as Clarke. Granted he is not a pigmy in the Jacqui Smith mould but he is a very good example of the principal reason for the triumph of those odd people who, among other things, demand that they be recognised as victims of greater moral standing than others, and the militant feminists are of course foremost among this unedifying, enervated crowd. "Rape is rape", they cry. Well, yes. And? Murder is murder and theft is theft and robbery is robbery and so on. Assuming these people are not completely stupid - which may be a big assumption - what they really mean when they demand obeisance to this catechism is not, "there is no distinction to be drawn between one rape and another", it is, "do not argue with my suffering, which is above all others or I'll scream and scream until I'm sick". And this is only slightly more pathetic and tedious than the collective rolling over of the political elite whenever the catechism is repeated, whether or not, as in this case, by a news media Tribune of the People on behalf of the High Priests, or by the rape victim to whom Clarke was speaking. And if it is only slightly more pathetic and tedious, it is infinitely more sinister. Which is why a serious parliamentarian would stand up to it, or damn yer eyes. Clarke didn't. He never was made of the material that would. That's why he should go, and that's why he shouldn't never have returned.

And by they way, if there are any sob sisters reading this then swivel on the following: three and-a-half years ago I was stabbed and almost killed. The attack has left me with, in all likelihood, permanent parasthesia, in other words a disability from which I will never recover rather than a few minutes of profound unpleasantness and fear (which I also experienced). Some months after the attack, the culprit having been identified and sentenced to "seven" years (ie three-and-a-half) on a guilty plea, I was contacted by email by a genius at the Probation Service who wished to know whether I wanted any conditions attached to the licence of my attacker when he was eventually released. In his email, this genius referred to my assailant as "the victim". Doubtless this was the result of carelessness, and perhaps a man ill-suited to his exact job within the Probation Service. So seriously, girls, get a grip.

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