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Old ideas in new political clothing

If you hang around on leftie Twitter you’ll encounter Scott Nelson, AKA @TheMockneyRebel. Scott is an astute social media operator who has a significant social media following. His claims about himself are a little unusual; apparently Scott has always been a Labour supporter but only joined the party in the aftermath of Corbynmania. We are asked to believe that Scott suddenly sprang, fully formed, into action.

Hohum.

Scott is no longer a Labour member. He was expelled because, amongst other things, he’s an anti-semite. Now, that rings alarm bells with me, because the more unattractive members of the Galloway faction in Respect and its various offshoots also tended towards anti-semitism, even as George deployed the world’s most expensive lawyers to threaten anyone who suggested he might be guilty of the same sin. It’s hard nottowonder whether Scott, far from always being a faithful Labour supporter, has maybe spent some time drinking from the poisoned chalice that is the drink of choice for the ultra left.

Now, to be fair to Scott Nelson, he has denied being an anti-Semite and has sought to explain his tweets which got him expelled from the labour Party as just clumsy language. It’s hard to believe however, not least because, whilst he seems venal, aggressive and unpleasant, he doesn’t appear to be stupid. He might pretend to be to get himself out of a mess, but Scott strikes me as a shrewd operator perfectly capable of using a dogwhistle as effectively as a megaphone.

Why do I give a shit about Scott Nelson? Well, this weekend Scott rushed to Twitter to announce that it is scandalous, and an example of Tory sleaze, that a Tory minister had a relationship with a sex worker. The story has been blown up by a vanity publishing site, Byline media, which asserts in its manifesto that facts matter. So let’s have a look at the facts marshalled by Nick Mutch of Byline media and endorsed by Scot Nelson.

Now, call me a social pioneer, but I’m not persuaded that a relationship with a sex worker is scandalous. I have something to declare here. My co-blogger, and sexual partner, is a sex worker. However, with me, she’s not being a sex worker; she’s being a kind and lovely friend with benefits that reflect her brain, her generosity far more than her astounding sexual skills.

The article by Nick Mutch, with its headline, can be found here. Apparently, the minister in question has been caught in a prostitution scandal. Leave aside the fact that sex work is legal in the UK, and therefore not automatically scandalous. The article doesn’t present any evidence that sex work is what’s being described. What are the elements of sex work? Payment, either in cash or in kind. The article falls at the first hurdle; there is no evidence presented that the minister’s partner was being rewarded for her time.

Now, one of the elements of whorephobia is that whorephobes can’t see sex workers as anything more than their work. They might be wives, husbands, parents, political activists or artists, but the whorephobe only sees sex work.

Scott Nelson only sees the subject of the article as a sex worker. He’s a whorephobe. Combined with being an anti-semite it’s a pisspoor CV for a socialist.

Now, just like anti-semitism, whorephobia is a very old idea. It’s no accident that Nelson, Nick Mutch, who wrote the article at Byline.com, and Tim Fenton at ZeloStreet refer back to the Profumo affair. Their reference point is more than fifty years ago, and in an affair that was characterized not so much by the actual risks incurred – no-one ever proved that any material leaked via Profumo’s shared relationship with a sex worker – as by the hamfisted attempts at a coverup and the moral panic that resulted.  In case you’ve forgotten, the sixties were also the era of the Lady Chatterley trial. Would anyone now ask, in a court of law, if a man would want his servants reading a pornigraphic book? But that, apparently, is Scott Nelson’s reference point.

Part of the problem for Nick Mutch as a journalist is that, without the hyperbole about the minister’s partner being a sex worker, he doesn’t have a story. He hasn’t nailed down why the Minister failed to declare the paid for trip to the MTV awards, and it could just look like an administrative error. Despite what Tim Fenton claims, he hasn’t proved that the Minster was blackmailed by the press into abandoning further press regulation by the trheat that he would be exposed as a man in a relationship with a sex worker. Supposition isn’t enough, especially when it’s been obvious since 2010 that the government would avoid press regulation if it could.

One caveat here; Fenton claims, here, that more will follow. I’m no journo, but if you want people to read part two of aseries, you need to put some hooks in part one.

Despite what Scott Nelson and his audience claim, the article doesn’t produce any evidence that the Minister paid for the company of the sex worker on expenses; as I said above, there’s no evidence that he paid her at all.

All that’s left to Mutch is the spurious, and grotesquely inflated claim that somehow, a sex worker who may have also had a relationship with a criminal, somehow represents a risk to the security of the Palace of Westminster. As a way of displaying that Mutch was either desperate, or completely ignorant of how security works at the Palace of Westminster, it’s absolutely spot on.

The Palace of Westminster is a public building. The public are admitted on every day that it is open. Its security depends upon a mix of screening, segregation and surveillance, not on ascertaining the bona fides of each visitor. For the benefit of idiots like Scott Nelson, I’ll explain what that means. Screening means, whoever you are, you’re checked for weapons and explosives as you enter the building. You may not even know you’re being checked, but you are. Segregation means that your access to the building is controlled according to the extent to which your bona fides have been checked, and surveillance means that the building is watched with great care, in proportion with the degree to which bona fides have been checked. So, for instance, the bars and restaurants are watched much more closely than the offices, because the unchecked public are much more likely to be in the bars and restaurants than the offices.

A sex worker is, proportionately, much less of a risk to the security of the Palace than, say, a religious fundamentalist or a nationalist from an ethnic minority. That’s based on history, not assertion. The last time the security of the Palace was fatally penetrated, it was by an Irish nationalist, who blew up Airey Neave, not by a sex worker having a meal with an admirer as a prelude to a blowjob. The claim that sex workers represent a threat to security is whorephobia dressed up in jingoistic language to justify its prurient bigotry.

You have to feel sorry for Nick Mutch. He’s done a piece of journalism which lacks one key ingredient; a hook. What is the public interest in this story? He casts about for one, trying to link in expenses, security, anything that will let him claim a public interest in his story. He fails. It’s just not very good.

Tim Fenton and others claim the story was killed by editors keen to get control via blackmail of a minister; it’s an hypothesis. However, Occam’s razor requires us to consider the most obvious explanation; it’s not much of a story, with no smoking gun that turns speculation into fact.

As someone on the left, who’s mildly amused by an arriviste like Scott Nelson calling me an apologist for Tory sleaze, I think part of our job is to make clear the reasons why we despise this Tory government. Being friends with sex workers isn’t one of them.

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2 comments on “Old ideas in new political clothing

  1. dwpandme (@dwpandme)
    April 4, 2016

    Very incisive and well-written post.

    I find the lack of integrity shown by the eagerness with which political ideologists will abandon any coherent, principled standpoint at the whiff of an opportunity to leverage populist sentiment to discredit political opposition absolutely contemptible.

    I suspect this is one of the main factors that have reduced political discourse to the sham, toothless carry-on that we now have to endure.

    Like

  2. dwpandme (@dwpandme)
    April 4, 2016

    I mentioned in my last comment the lack of integrity in modern politics and this is a theme that seems to surface often in your writing. There is a particularly insightful post at: https://surplusenergyeconomics.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/62-the-integrity-deficit/ on the importance of integrity both in the political and economic domains that I think you would find worth the time to read.

    Like

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This entry was posted on April 3, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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