Prostitution Proposals (or lack of them) in the Election Manifestos

Green Party

“The Green Party supports full decriminalisation of the sex
industry. Respected research by Amnesty International and the UN has shown that it is the safest legal model for sex workers.”

Terribly poor to not recognise the huge criticisms of Amnesty’s decision, including the entry-ism involved and the rejected research and Pimp involvement. Greens are displaying themselves to not be principled at all, but political faddists, more concerned with maintaining the vote of a small band of University based ‘Gender Equality’ soldiers. In any case, hugely likely to be decimated in the next election, and to return to former obscurity. Sad really, because their tendency to try and spread themselves thin on ‘any an all topic’ means their good record on the Environment has gotten lost in the mad mix.

Liberal Democrats

“Decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex, and the management of sex work – reducing harm, defending sex workers’ human rights, and focusing police time and resources on those groomed, forced, or trafficked into the sex industry. We would provide additional support for those wishing to leave sex work.”

At least they bother to mention that ‘management’ is a factor in full industry decriminalisation, (not that it is THE factor, mind you). They don’t mention what kind of ‘additional support’ they’d provide for those who want to leave (who can be bothered?!) or tell us why they think that anyone would want to leave an industry they believe should be legitimized and industrialized. Something tells me this part of the pledge would soon get lost down the back of the sofa….but again, they seem to be falling not rising in the polls as the have been unable to establish a narrative of difference outside of Brexit, which most people seem to have decided to now ‘just get on with’, so, meh, whatever…

Labour Party

Nothing on the subject (but does have stuff on women’s refuges and instating a VAW commissioner.) Interesting. Preferable of course to the above two, as the playing field is left open. One imagines due to the fact that there is dissent on this topic within the Labour Party itself, including in the Unions (with TUC Women voting for the Nordic Model recently). Could also just be because their manifesto has focused mostly on big issues as opposed niche ones, but somehow feels like a willful omission, especially given this is John McDonnell’s hobby horse. The ECP must be spitting feathers, thinking this one was a shoo-in.

SNP

Can’t seem to find anything, and seems generally quite sparse on women more generally. Disappointing given the recent vote that showed major support for the Nordic Model. But perhaps I’m missing it, if anyone knows more, do let me know.

WEP

Obviously the most thorough examination of women’s issues of the lot, and rightly calls for the Nordic Model on prostitution. Slight bone to pick; their motivation, they say, is not to win seats so much as put pressure on the major parties to adopt their policies, which is a a good way of looking at things given the slim chance of WEP ever winning a seat in the near future. But some of their actions, such as trying to pin their leader Sophie Walker into the Shipley constituency and asking the Labour candidate to stand down, despite the fact that she is an unknown quantity in that region… compared to the Labour candidate who came second against the MRA Tory MP Phillip Davies, and is likely to have a wider appeal. Walker said she felt Labour believed they have ‘a monopoly on virtue’, but it rather seems more likely that people are just very anxious to try and unseat Tories. This all tinged a little of political, personal opportunism and rather let them down.

Plaid Cymru

Nothing. To be fair to them it seems a party mostly concerned with more general Welsh issues and representation (but is good on the Environment and EU stuff) but a little sparse compared to the other manifestos in other places.

Conservative

Nothing to see here.


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Why I Still Support Corbyn, Despite Decriminalization

 

When I was kid, I remember the general adult riposte to my regular protestation ‘Its not fair!’ being, ‘Well, life is not fair.’ Yes, the superficial vein was (dis)honest cynicism, but the adage has a more profound subtext. And it continues to be the most important political lesson I have learnt to date.

Life is nefariously, continuously, and variously always unfair. How it is unfair, in what capacity and to what degree, changes with the tide, the generations, in line with political, social, cultural and technological shifts. Sometimes unfairness is beaten like a bass drum. Social hierarchy is not only forgiven but taken as an absolute, a natural state of affairs. Sometimes such unfairness is more insidious. Women gain access to the vote, but not to full political representation. People of colour can no longer be kept hostage as slaves but suffer residual discrimination and social brutality. Working class people are no longer openly discussed as being intellectually and morally lesser, but blind eyes are made of the fact that social mobility is basically a myth, and meritocracy is a thin plaster atop a ripped off extremity. No real bandage against the chronic blood spewing of infrastructural, socio-economic inequality.

As they say, the price of liberation is eternal vigilance. A useful philosophical nugget, attributed to everyone from the Buddha, to Lincoln, to Jefferson, it lucks in to something rather fundamental about political progressivism. That if I or you or anyone wants life for humans (and variably other species) to be as fair as it can be now and proceeding, I recognise that I am always have to deal with some form of base level unfairness and I am always going to have to make some compromised decisions. Political pragmatism is dealing with the world as it is, not as I would like it to be. It is as though I am in a boat that leaks from multiple parts of the hull, as I mend one, so too another rips open. To stay afloat, I must be forever on my guard, forever mending, fixing… forever aware of the rain.

What has all this to do with Jeremy Corbyn?

As you probably know by now, Theresa May has gunned for a snap general election, in order to solidify her position and increase the Tory majority. Though Corbyn has welcomed the decision, you don’t have to be a political analyst to come to the conclusion that the timing is not exactly great. That we on the left could’ve done with somewhat more of it to shake off the rabid assault by the Murdoch presses on Corbyn’s leadership.

But no matter. We who support the party will have to do our best all the same. However, for me, the Jeremy Corbyn leadership has caused a small amount of difficulty for altogether different reasons. I was enthused by his election, excited by the growth of the movement that came with him and angered by the immediate backlash of hot potato throwing that occurred, painting him as any form of unreconstructed evil that the right wing presses could concoct. But, along came a quandary.

I am feminist who has vociferously opposed the full decriminalisation, industrialisation and neutralisation of prostitution. Not long after Corbyn’s ascent however, it was revealed that, to that political analysis he was at odds. My disagreement with his support for a laissez-faire economic policy surrounding prostitution is not, for me, a minority political sidewinder, but a fundamental core of my own personal and political life. Deciding to support him and the Labour Party nonetheless, has not been an easy decision for me to make. Bitter pills have been swallowed. But ultimately I have swallowed them because I still believe that a Corbyn led Labour Party would do more for those in prostitution, long term, than the Tories would in any term.

The growth of the acceptance of the commercialisation of usually poor women’s bodies, is inexorably linked to the conservative orchestrated neoliberal project which combines firstly, cuts to social security and an ever growing bifurcation of boss and worker wage slips, with a boisterous and delirious form of cultural individualism. The latter adequately preventing the sort of collectivisation needed to tackle the former. The desire to industrialise the sex industry is not simply an organic reaction to such a context, it is also an extension of the project. Corbyn, of course, understands and wishes to tackle this first issue, even is it is true that he hasn’t fully made the connection to the second. So half baked as it is, this still means he supersedes Theresa May in my estimation, who both supports austerity measures and has been opposed to progressive industry sex critical legislations.

Added, Corbyn himself is contextualised by the fact that the most open and vocal political party critics of the sex industry come from within the Labour Party’s ranks, with affiliated organisations such as TUC Women supporting the Nordic Model. Even if Corbyn himself supports industry decriminalisation, the idea that it would become party policy any time soon, seems hugely unlikely. Much more unlikely that the damn near probability that the Tories will continue on with lawn mower austerity cuts that disproportionately affect women and place working class women in particular within prostitution’s avaricious sights.

This is a compromised position. I, as a left wing feminist, would love to see a party on the ballot that fully and energetically stood against austerity cuts and understood the fact that the sex industry sits on an axis of sexed and classed based oppression, which would only be cemented or even furthered by industrialisation. But I don’t have that; I have a party that has been smashing up the welfare state and is looking to further its position as our absolute overlords on the right, and a party that seems to have a discordant and difficult relationship in its discourses between socialism and feminism on the left, with some of it admirable feminists such as Harriet Harman having previously supported welfare cuts on the one hand, and some its admirable socialists, such as Corbyn supporting, sex industry profiteering discrimination on the other.

But I have no choice but to veer left, with my nose held closed and my eyes stretched open. That willingness to compromise is needed, as is that eternal vigilance, to not allow any of the holes in our boats go unattended. It does not seem like a fair choice. But then as any good working class women will tell you, life is indeed, unfair. And it is that fact that gets me up each and every morning.


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Keith Vaseline

Image result for keith vaz cartoon

 

 

When Keith Vaz was discovered to have sought to rent sexual favours from two migrant men (and seems to have offered to buy cocaine for them and poppers for himself) it disrupted the lukewarm response to the largely agreed upon modest reforms that the HASC suggested. It proposed a decriminalisation of soliciting (and thus of street walkers) and a wiping of the slate of prostitute’s criminal records. It was ground safely and stoically observed to be popular on all sides and thus, on its own, politically shrewd.

There were  critiques of its dismissal of the Nordic Model and its long term suggestion to consider industry decriminalisation, but in all, the response to the report was muted because the actual propositions, not its wider problems and suggestions, were uncontroversial. Seas seemed calm.

When Vaz was exposed, the sex industry lobby went into full flurry mode, because those within it knew that the rejection of the Nordic Model would be  newly viewed in relation to Vaz’s sex buying, from many quarters. Some sought to affirm that the report could still be credited, however the basis made for this is no more than the pro-industry and problematic ‘listen to sex workers’ rhetoric itself, which has little to nothing to do with whether or not there is a problem with an undeclared vested interest chairing the committee.

Some pointed out that Vaz has previously supported the Nordic Model, using pop psychology to play to the idea that he is some kind of Fred Phelps character, obsessing over the criminalisation of punters as a response to his own desire to rent people for sex. However – seductive and prime time American drama though that is – his support for the Nordic Model could hardly be described as consistent, obsessive or easy to pin down. In 2014 he sat on the APPG panel, where he was a non chair member in a group of 27, that proposed the Nordic Model. In 2016 he sat on the HASC panel where he was the chair member in a group of 11 that, indeed, more or less rejected the Nordic Model. What to make of that? Probably not much.

Of course Magnanti, and others, have sought to argue that Vaz’s  sudden change of mind, is a result of the virtuoso of her and other industry ideologue’s testimony. Even in arrogance, that seems rather a stretch.

It could  be more sensibly argued, as the others outside of the political debates surrounding prostitution have done, that Vaz is simply a duplicitous, slippery, megalomaniac character whose views, self presentation and position cannot be trusted.

How often has Vaz paid for sex? When did it start? Has he always supported the Nordic Model? Has he always not supported it? Has he seen it as politically advantageous to do so at some times and not at others? How much influence did he exert on both committees? Is he actually just some Trumpian figure who believes and cares about nothing other than his own career trajectory?  Is he  willing to oscillate wildly and quickly between different forms of policies or values because he  imagines, simply, that they won’t extend to him? Questions, questions – and if you care about Vaz with respect of details of this report – no clear answers.

In the end, it is not with respect to the sex industry only that this sticky business of  Keith Vaz, and his almost shockingly exquisite Janus Face, is so bothersome.

The general public – general as in of all political stripes and persuasions – struggles to trust politicians, doesn’t see them as honourable members of the community whose integrity and intelligence of vision can be seen to represent us or care for our needs. Perhaps, because they talk often about being in Power, not Political Representation. Perhaps also,  because of the perception of politicians as serpentine circumnavigators of  their own manifestos, whose game playing serves to undermine the whole concept of parliamentary democracy . You have to know  what someone believes, at least broadly, to  want to vote for them. To really want to vote for them.

If they’re outright bloody liars whose political capriciousness comes served with a personal side ordering of self gratification, self indulgence and scandal, they are not fit for purpose. Vaz’s duplicity, in and off itself, is what fundamentally unseats his position  as a public servant, an occupation paid up by the public purse. Some may argue that it is a private matter – an argument made ridiculous by the specifities of the case  – but this is also to ignore the position of politicians more generally. These are people paid handsomely, in taxes, well above the average earnings of a British citizen (not to mention the expenses and second homes) who require no specific qualifications or experience to do the job. You don’t have to be a saint, or a political hero. You don’t have to solve all the problems or fight a war (and win) or reclaim the Empire or Make Britain Great or any other of the egocentric fantasies that some of you politicians no doubt have.

You can just be honest, and vaguely consistent.

You are also not being asked to only drink green juice, forego gluten, never have sex,  get drunk, fart, have a predilection for Status Quo or The Wombles, never go on holiday, or ever again make a silly face lest it gets snapped and shoved up on Have I Got News For You for yucks.  You are just being asked – as  a representative of a wide variety of politically minded people – to avoid ethically and legally contentious behaviours and to Tell The Truth as you understand it.

Being a politician might be difficult, but it is still one of the greatest privileges that anyone can have bestowed upon them, and it comes with responsibilities and sacrifices. In order for our parliamentary democracy to work we need at least to vaguely trust in its operators. It does not instill much trust when a politician such as Vaz, can be found to be as trustworthy as cat with a goldfish, and yet still sweep in to the Justice Committee of all things, with 203 MPs agreeing to only 7 in dissent. That doesn’t sound like he is being made accountable.

Westminster, you need to pluck the bugs off of your salad bed, if you want us to eat it with relish.


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Female’s Leading Doesn’t Make Up For Feminism Losing

 

So we, the British, such as we are, are to have our second female Prime Minister. As a woman who will, for the sake of brevity, refer to herself as a ‘person of the left’, the second inauguration of a female premier being a Conservative (by all accounts, with a capital C) leaves one, at best, rather ambivalent.

The most coherent form of political feminism has it that, it is not so much the cause of feminism to provide a shinning walk way for a female leader, so much as it is to arrive at a governance that takes issues that affect women seriously, point one. Point two, is that the most sensible way of doing this is to enable a critical mass of women to work in government, that at the very least equals, or slightly surpasses, the presence of men. One could argue, for the sake here of simplicity, that the Nordic countries do so comparatively well for women because they have such decent levels of representation, in the European context in any case. Indeed the Nordic countries have an average of 41% representation, compared with the rest of Europe’s measly average of 24%.

Britain doesn’t do well out of that. It seems to me rather suspect to be throwing garlands up in the air on account of the new leader’s vagina, when overall political power is but sand in women’s hands. Of course, just as those far right men with stubbly shaved heads and beady, forensic eyes (here’s looking at you Paul Nuttall) will become Dworkins when it comes to the malfunctioning of women’s liberty in the hands of their Muslim enemies, so too will conservatives dance on the podium of feminism when its stripped vernacular serves their cause. Here comes Theresa, girls, our work here is done!

But I have nothing, really, against Theresa May, especially when considered next to the rag bag bunch of Tory Etonian toffs that have being whipping the reins of power for the last ten years. Indeed, Andrea Leadsom aside, women conservatives seem to be the Tories best bet, if only because they are overall, slightly less annoying then their tripod counterparts.

Nonetheless, Theresa May’s appointment to power is no great success for feminism, but how much of an affront it will be will rather depend on what she does next to support women. And therein lies the kernel of my ambivalence: probably not a great deal.

If we shoot over to the Labour Party, in all its glistening disarray, it is equally hard to feel enthused by the potential for Angela Eagle to become leader of the opposition. Yes Labour has never had a female leader (other than the interim Harriet Harman) and yes there is a real conversation to be had about why a left wing (well, you know) party has been so inept in this regard . The Conservatives, of course, bought in the euphemistically termed Welfare Reforms which disproportionately affected women and now, despite our conviviality about having two women top dogs, Britain finds itself far down the list of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, at number 26, lower than most other European countries despite us being one of the richest. I’ve never been much of a patriot, but what little patriotism I do have is looking more and more like a sweaty ball of old socks.

Those feminist Labour supporters who want to run head first into Angela Eagle’s pink suits and willingness to play the political game, need to remind themselves that she abstained on voting for the aforementioned Welfare Reform Act. I never quite understood why so many Labour MPs did; did they imagine that if they simply voted it down Tories, Middle England and The Daily Mail would creep into their second expense homes at night and apply cling film to their toilet seats, shave their dogs and put several dozen mackerels down the sides of their sofas? Is Labour so fearful of having political clout, decisiveness or initiative? These Blairites tell us they want power, but one gets the distinct impression that if they ever got it, they’d not have a bloody clue what to do with it, so wholesome and distended is their political, existential crisis.

Added to which, Eagle also voted for the Iraq war, Syrian airstrikes and the hike in University fees. Given that the latter happening, more or less obliterated the Liberal Democrats, it seems quite a stretch to imagine that her leadership would galvanize and unify the party in the way that is being proposed.

Look, I don’t have any real ‘loyalty’ to Jeremy Corbyn, but one feels that the perpetuating failure of the Labour Party has little to nothing to do with him, and indeed, will not be solved by her. Labour lost a massive chunk of its historical support when Scotland went for the more politically cohesive and very ably led SNP, and there is more hemorrhaging of support to the far right party, UKIP. The fact is that, those areas that have voted enthusiastically for Brexit in England and Wales, are just more socially conservative than what any side of the Labour movement can speak too, Eagle or Corbyn.

The only glimmer of hope would arrive if they stopped peeing their pants over being showered with denigrating generalities such You Urban Metropolitan Elites! you Rabid Multiculturalists!, you Bull Dyke Feminists and Haters of the Queen!, and actually curated some willing compromises and tried to colonize us namby pamby liberals, socialists and jaded centrists as best possible. Corbyn has tried to reach a compromise, but the compromise on the other side is predicated on him leaving and taking his bloody mandate with him. Which, for those taking a nap at the back, isn’t really a compromise at all.

The simple fact of having female leaders of either the right or the left won’t be enough to bring feminism and socialism back from the brink of their swansongs. Women have received dramatic cuts to their social security,  women’s refuges are closing, and a government panel seems long term hellbent on enacting policies to enable the industrialization of prostitution.

We are in a crisis, one from which no politician alone, male or female, can currently save us, irrespective of the colour of their jackets or the strength of their steel.


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