Don't turn the other cheek over sexual harassment

I CAN'T imagine the behaviour of men towards women has improved much since Ken Barlow were a lad.

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The Lord Rennard case has shown the Lib Dems to be weak when it comes to investigating claims of sexual harassment
The Lord Rennard case has shown the Lib Dems to be weak when it comes to investigating claims of sexual harassment

The difference is that many females are no longer prepared to turn the other cheek to an unwelcome pat on the bottom.

That response won't dissuade Neanderthal man, but a surprising number of their own sex believe some ladies doth protest too much about the Lord.

That's Lord Rennard, the unelected peer suspended by the Lib-Dems over allegations of sexually harassing four female members.

He denies it, but it sounds like: Not Proven — and don't do it again.

The police found no case and a Lib Dem inquiry couldn't find the criminal standard of proof party rules require. Maybe they should change their rules.

Unlike the police, however, Alistair Webster QC said the women had been "credible" witnesses and he told Rennard it would be common manners to apologise.

Manners? In Parliament? He's having a laugh.

Rennard says he can't apologise for fear of being sued and a second inquiry is deciding whether by refusing he brought the party into disrepute.

Disrepute? There's another joke.

Lib Dems have always presented themselves as the Nice Party, the coalition antidote to those Nasty Tories.

But they've had their share of black sheep — Jeremy Thorpe, Paddy Pantsdown, Cyril Smith, Chris Huhne to name but four — and last week they also suspended Portsmouth MP Mike Hancock for alleged sexual assault of a female constituent.

Now, I don't know if Lord Rennard has wandering hands. That's not the issue in this latest sexual shambles.

What's again highlighted is abuse of power and what constitutes acceptable behaviour in the workplace, whether that be Westminster, a factory, a newspaper office, or wherever.

And let me stress that not all victims are female, or in parliament confined to the Lib Dems.

Randy old peers and sundry aged male celebrities facing sexual charges would suggest such behaviour is largely of the past. Obviously it's not.

Folk question why women only now have outed TV stars such as Bill Roache. Why didn't they complain at the time?

Well, many did, but most feared for their jobs or that they wouldn't be believed. And they were right.

Hancock's victim complained in 2011. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was alerted in 2008 to Rennard's conduct and the deputy PM says he acted swiftly, detailing then chief of staff Danny Alexander to have a quiet word with his Lordship.

Alexander said he "in strong terms warned him that any such behaviour was wholly unacceptable".

Five years on, it's not just Clegg's definition of swift and Alexander's prowess as an enforcer that are under scrutiny.

What's to be made of Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael? He dismissed the allegations as "a scandal without the sex". He really is having a laugh.

Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies was forced to apologise after saying Rennard was "no Jimmy Savile" and likening his behaviour to "an Italian pinching a woman's bottom".

The old dukes and the duchesses in the Lords, cocooned from the real world in their ermine and gold, greeted Rennard with cheers.

Even Baroness Williams, the Lib Dem grande dame, dismissed the allegations as "hopelessly exaggerated".

She said that when she entered politics in the 1960s women would expect "people to take advantage of you".

So we should stay in the dark ages then, Shirley? Great, we can solve youth unemployment at a stroke by sending them down chimneys.

And this lot think they can run the country! We should believe that with them we're Better Together?

The Lib Dems are imploding. They face a wipe-out behind UKIP in May's Euro elections and in next year's general election.

You could rightly argue there are far more sinister threats to women to concern us, such as internet trolls, homophobia, slavery, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, not to mention the small matter of the UK economy.

So what's a pinched bum here or there set against that lot?

Is that a generational response? Calls for these women to toughen up largely come from older folk, like Shirley Williams, who did just that during their working lives.

But we're not talking here about Compo being enflamed by Nora Batty's wrinkled stockings.

Not everyone has the courage to complain, far less administer the knee to the groin advocated by that old Tory former rottweiler, Lord Tebbit, who predictably dismissed the Rennard affair as "a farrago of nonsense".

No-one today should have to endure harassment, male or female, sexual or otherwise.

With violence against women already endemic in Scotland, what kind of message are our kids hearing when victims are told to grin and bear it?

And talking of barefaced messages, I await Clegg begging the Lord and the ladies to kiss and make up.

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