Thursday, December 21, 2006

Labour Failure to Grasp the Ipswich Nettle

In view of the recent events in Ipswich, the arguments put forward in my article, Legalise Prostitution are more urgent than ever. Even before Ipswich, the murder of street prostitutes was the largest group of unsolved murders in this country.

Evidence and logic are screaming at us that legalising prostitution is the only way to make the situation any better. Yet the Labour government continues to show its cowardice and lack of imagination over the issue.

The Observer published an article in last week's edition describing how a move by David Blunkett to liberalise prostitution law was blocked by Downing Street.

Blunkett's aide, Katherine Raymond, "worked closely with ministers in drawing up a consultation paper called 'Paying the Price', which she said was designed to trigger a 'serious debate' about legalised brothels and red-light zones managed by local councils. She said the consultation paper she helped to write - which proposed, among other options, managed zones patrolled by police, where sex workers could safely take their clients and a register of licensed prostitutes - ran into trouble almost immediately: 'In Whitehall, only a handful of politicians and officials wanted 'Paying the Price' to see the light of day. Raymond says there was 'opposition from Number 10, which was terrified of a hostile media response'. The paper eventually surfaced only because Blunkett wanted what he called a 'grown-up debate'. However, a few months later he resigned and the issue passed to his successor, Charles Clarke. The result, says Raymond, was a 'watered-down series of proposals' that has still not been implemented."

Five working-class women in Suffolk have died so that a few senior civil servants and ministers can continue to claim their fat salaries. I hope they feel it was worth it.

Later in the week, we were treated to the spectacle of Harriet Harman, the (guffaw) Justice Minister, calling for a change in the law to make 'paying for sex' a criminal offence. Matron is wagging her finger in the hope that the whole nasty problem will go away. She must think she is in charge of a room full of naughty toddlers. It's a bit like a politician in Prohibition America saying that if prosecuting the bootleggers is no longer acceptable then let's prosecute the drinkers instead. My message to Matron is: Your disapproval, your moralising, your desire to prosecute, is itself the very source of the problem. Casual sex, like drinking alcohol, just isn't going to stop, no matter how much you might want it to. But New Labour can't afford to offend the feminists, and ironic as it might seem, women will continue to die.

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