Oona King and the Sex Bandits

The Evening Standard (which I don’t buy, but which has a tendency of being full of interesting-looking letters while I’m buying lunch) has devoted its front page to telling us how Oona King, MP for bits of London where you can get a blowjob only slightly more easily than cocaine, was offered cash for sex while an assistant at the European Parliament.

Most of the page is spent wittering on about this in tones of mild disgust (whether at the MEP in question, or Ms King herself, was somewhat unclear from a cursory glance, but I’ll assume they’re shocked at the offer), waiting until the last column to reveal that he offered to pay out of his cost allowance. Which, as far as I understand, means he was offering to defraud the European Parliament for a bit of nookie. I don’t want to belittle people who are unjustly treated like whores, but isn’t fraud serious enough to get a little higher up? Perhaps MEP’s fiddling their expenses is just too common these days, although doing it to fiddle your assistant isn’t something I’ve heard before.

The Scotsman also covers it, citing an article by Ms King in the Daily Mirror (which I’ll let pass). They print some of her words, which make interesting reading:

“People complain that with all-women shortlists you end up with mediocre candidates,” she said. “But, my God, has nobody noticed that the Commons is stuffed with mediocre men? That’s because the system has effectively put forward all-men shortlists for 500 years or more.”

If the Commons is stuffed with mediocre men (something I’m not convinced about, but never mind) then most of them are Labour. The total number of ministers is large enough to be a reasonable sample of the House of Commons, so a fair number of them must be mediocre men as well. Which perhaps isn’t quite what she meant. But what really gets me is the use of the word ‘effectively’ in that last sentence – I wish she’d just come out and say that the system favours men. And that “500 years or more” – parliament extends back, in a broken and somewhat jittery line, to the thirteenth century: is she saying that corrupt male primacy had probably disappeared by the nineteenth century? The first woman MP was elected in late 1918, but did not take her seat; the first who did wasn’t until nearly a year later. It’s a horribly misleading statement – which perhaps explains why Mirror readers are so horribly misled.

The Scotsman is also notable for using reported speech to present something it really could have fact-checked for itself:

Ms King said that the record 120 female MPs elected to Parliament in 1997 made up more than half of the total of 239 women who had ever been MPs up to that point.

Had they bothered to check, they might have pointed out that of those female MPs, a whopping fifty were defending their seats in 1997. So only seventy or so new female MPs were elected.

But we’ll accept her numbers; it would be churlish to argue over points of mathematics. Now: who’s in favour of declaring Disraeli a girl to make that an even half?

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