Ken Clark got into trouble trying to be fair with rapists. It is his job as the justice secretary, to set the agenda for the debate on agreeing a tariff for sentencing convicted rapists.
This is grown up stuff trivialised by a radio phone-in. When Ken Clark was confronted by an unhelpful rhetorical comment, “Rape is Rape”, Ken Clark said that he did not agree, and in due course what he said was categorised as going soft on rapists, and within an hour Ed Miliband called for Ken Clark to be fired.
What Ken Clark actually said has been repeatedly broadcast over the last 24 hours, but I am finding it hard to reconcile the media reports of what he said with what he actually said.
Every TV news panel joined in the vilification of Ken Clark, accusing him of apologising for rape, going soft on rape, excusing rape, diminishing the crime of rape. For some reason the news panels were formed exclusively of women, all of whom repeated the mantra of “rape is rape” as if the tariff should be mandatory whatever the circumstances of the crime.
Ken Clark was clearly reluctant to apologise for what he did not say, so the other government ministers decided to come forward and to categorise what he said as clumsy. We were told that Ken Clark intended to draw a comparison between rape and statutory rape, or consensual rape between minors. That would be a good point but not the point Ken Clark was making nor should have made unless he intended to misrepresent the matter in hand.
Ken Clark needed to make the points that rape has degrees of severity that needed to be assessed objectively by a judge with the guidance of the proposed tariff. All the less than objective female news panelists felt that there should be more female judges, since men were the problem.
Not content with misrepresenting Ken Clark, Jeremy Paxman suggested to his female panel that Ken Clark was too old. Apparently he is too old to learn the new skills of misrepresentation and spin that younger politicians have already learnt.
Perhaps we should increase the tariff for ageism.
I wonder if Jeremy Paxman is brave enough to suggest that women judges are too female.
BBC radio phone-in transcript.