…And in the red corner, weighing in at 8 stone exactly…” There’s a reason that the ring announcer in boxing gives the weight – and possibly height and reach – of both competitors. The numbers are part of understanding the nature of the match that’s about to take place.
That reason doesn’t apply to politics. When the Mail on Sunday asked Liz Kendall (one of the Labour Party leadership contenders) how much she weighs, it was completely irrelevant to the job. It’s unnecessary press intrusion. I don’t bandy about words like ‘sexist’ lightly When you do, they lose their meaning – in a similar way when the word ‘racist’ is used to describe a children’s nursery rhyme, or to describe the Black Country flag designed by a 12-year-old girl (symbolising glassmaking, heavy industry and foundries), the real victims of racism are demeaned. Reserve the word racism for racists, and it has a bigger meaning.
I don’t swear, so if anyone heard me swear they would know I was fuming with rage. The swear word has a greater meaning and impact if used sparingly than if it litters every conversation. Liz Kendall asked whether the journalist would have asked the same question of a man. The journalist did sort-of did ask George Osborne a similar question last year, when he was busy losing weight on the latest fad diet, though that’s none of the national media’s business either in my view.
The two situations are different in reason and tone. When a journalist suggests that she might weigh ‘about the same as the Duchess of Cambridge’, for me that clearly crosses a line. These comments are only being made because she’s a woman, and that’s not acceptable. Whether Liz Kendall should lead the Labour Party is nothing to do with her gender. Incidentally, that’s why I also believe that Labour are wrong to have all-women shortlists for Parliament. They should choose the best candidate irrespective of gender or ethnicity. In the straight-talking UKIP way, I’m going to call out the treatment of Liz Kendall for what it is. Sexism.
New Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has been subjected to a barrage of questions about his Christianity. Does he personally believe that gay sex is a sin? What’s his view on abortion? When you first think about it, this seems (slightly) more relevant than the questions to Liz Kendall. But have you ever seen a Muslim or Jewish politician hauled over the coals over a similar issue?
I personally choose not to smoke; I don’t believe it’s right for me personally to do that, because of the health risks involved, but I don’t seek to force my personal feelings upon society. All that matters from a political perspective is my stance about society. So if – and he hasn’t said that he does – Tim Farron actually personally believes that gay sex is a sin, that’s his personal business. Or if he believed it would be sinful for him personally to do it, that would be a private opinion. I say, so what? On the other hand, if he supported a public policy change to take rights away from gay people, that would be our business. But he doesn’t, and there’s no evidence that he even believes any of the above either.
He hasn’t called for tougher limits on abortion either – though he has said that every abortion is a ‘tragedy’. I’d go further myself actually. I would call for a change in the law: a 24-week limit for abortion when babies now often survive without long-term harm being born at less than 24 weeks is just plain wrong. I’ve seen Lib Dems leave their party because of Tim Farron’s personal views. I could think of many reasons to leave the Lib Dems, but leaving because the leader is a Christian? How illiberal; how intolerant!
The ‘job’ in politics should be about what legislation not what we look like, about public policy not gender. It’s about representing my constituents and working as hard as I can on your behalf – despite covering a vast area that stretches from Darlington to Berwick. Earlier in this article I said that I don’t use swear words: to do so regularly spoils the impact. I won’t swear myself, but when Liz Kendall told the Mail on Sunday journalist to “f*** off” I did allow myself a little smile.