We’ve read a lot covering the Lord Rennard case over the last week or so and have, so far, held our tongue on the issue. Something Lord Rennard is probably wishing his four accusers had done.
Most shocking of all are the comments from some of his supporters. That a grown woman can be made to feel in the wrong for coming forward about actions that made her feel uncomfortable at best and harassed at worst because she’s ‘not 12’ are absurd. The fact they come from a woman somehow makes them worse. Our favourite was when she advised women that ‘if somebody touches your leg, you ask them to move their hand’. If someone is touching our leg uninvited, they’re lucky we’re not putting our fist through their face. Or calling the police. Or vomiting in our mouths if they happen to be anyone like Lord Rennard.
What’s surprised us more than all that is the nonchalant approach to the actual problem – sexual harassment in politics – and the fixation on how Lord Rennard has refused to apologise to the women involved. Yes, on its basic level, it’s rude and petty and unprofessional, but worse than that, it shows just how out of touch our political parties are with the public.
The Lib Dems’ popularity has plummeted since they got into bed with the Conservatives four years ago and broke most of their promises to voters. The fact Lord Rennard was accused of then trying to bed some of the women around him on some power-hungry man-ego trip is neither here nor there in terms of the popularity of the party. We’re fairly certain a pig sex episode of Black Mirror scenario could present itself to Clegg and things will stay exactly the same in the polls. And why are we concerned with that anyway?
When did politics become about looking good rather than addressing the tough subjects? Our guess is when David Cameron decided he wanted to be Prime Minister.
When Nigel Farage said that women were ‘worth less’ to City firms if they have children earlier this week we were reminded of the seemingly losing battle we are fighting. Every step forward seems like five back, particularly in our political arena.
Rennard is now considering suing the party for not allowing him back in after the court case collapsed. That’s what we’ll be talking about now and the concerns will focus on whether a party leader has the right to disallow members when they refuse to do as he says. There may or may not be a case in that – this is democracy not dictatorship – and political parties need diversity in their ranks to deliver their manifesto in a way that’s meaningful to the people of this country. What they don’t need is someone feeling up the rest of the people in those ranks.
What this case needed to do is open up a debate about sexism in politics. What it’s done instead is made us focus on the popularity of our politicians and how much power they have over their party members. Wasted opportunity, if you ask us, lucky for us we’re sure we won’t have to wait long for another one.
Angharad is a former radio journalist balancing a career in PR with an insatiable writing habit that spans more topics than she can count on her smaller-than-average hands. She's passionate about the media, women's rights and politics with a love of travel, culture, entertainment and all things lifestyle on the side. Interests include prolific online shopping (bit of a reputation in the office), musicals, dinosaurs (be honest, they're awesome) and tweeting anything and everything from @Welsh_PR