This is our truth, tell us yours
Natasha Bolter is, apparently, distraught that her career in politics may have been harmed by her revelations about her experience of sexual harassment in UKIP.
Dear reader, we believe her when she tells the story of being sexually harassed by Roger Bird. We stick, unreservedly, to our policy of believing the victim. If you don’t, you’re telling us more about you than you are about Natasha Bolter. To quote a previous post ‘All you need to do is believe the victim sufficiently to form a hypothesis, to gather evidence to test that hypothesis, and to reach a conclusion.‘
Now, Natasha Bolter has told us what she believes happened. There seems to be some clear evidence that something went on between her and Roger Bird. We know, too, that men in political parties seem to have a problem understanding the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, and the extent to which position and power can influence the behaviour of others. Jem wrote brilliantly here about the Rennard case, and we’d argue strongly that men in political parties, especially men with power, need to realise that any sexual approach to someone ‘below’ them in the hierarchy, no matter how delicately couched, may be construed as harassment, or potentially abusive.
You don’t need to believe Natasha Bolter about her qualifications, or her career, or the significance of her defection from the Labour Party (where hardly anyone appears to have heard of her) to believe that a relationship with a powerful man in UKIP may have been abusive.
You don’t need to believe or disbelieve Natasha Bolter to understand that there is something potentially abusive about the candidate selection process in all our political parties. All too often it attracts political wannabes, the Jedwards of their university debating society, people whose narcissism blinds themselves to the obvious conclusion that they are temperamentally or personally unsuited to the pressure cooker experience of political life. Those people, those annoying, self centred, self regarding intellectual vacuums with their pretensions and their padded CVs full of half truths and exaggerations, also deserve to be protected from the attentions of the powerful and the lecherous.
You don’t have to believe, or disbelieve Natasha Bolter to understand that the way she was parachuted into prominence by UKIP, because of her race and gender, was exploitative and risky for all concerned. It was cynical, nasty, and it appears now to have ended in a very unpleasant outcome for Natasha Bolter. The way in which, in turn, the UKIP spin machine is portraying her a a Labour Party plant sent to destroy UKIP is nastier still, and demands a touching belief in the power of a Labour spin machine so ineffectual they can’t even avoid their leader being photographed with an embarassing bacon sandwich.
At heart, despite my prejudice against anyone who bemoans their loss of a career in politics, especially when they have risen without trace, I feel a deep empathy for Natasha Bolter. Having seen the interviews, read the articles, and having seen it all before, I feel she has been exploited as much as any tone deaf karaoke queen paraded on the X Factor auditions for the nation to gawp and laugh at.
It turns out that Natasha Bolter’s whole CV is now up for question; her qualifications, her relationship with the Labour Party and even her employment record are being questioned.
Political parties know this happens. The most challenging question on the Labour Party candidate self-nomination form is not the one about how you’ll do the job, but the one about anything embarassing in your past that might come out to embarass the party. It’s clear that UKIP didn’t do any of that kind of due diligence with Natasha Bolter; possibly because they knew that she would be the one who paid the price.