It could have been a watershed moment for the party or, if I am being optimistic, even British politics way back in 2013 if the party’s leaders had taken seriously allegations made by female members on their encounters with Lord Rennard.

If the leaders had acted differently on the claims and given the women the respect that they deserved it may very well have opened the Pandora’s box of sexism within British politics. I say this not as though it were a missed opportune moment for party political kudos but rather as a lost opportunity for a Liberal party to demonstrate that women’s rights was something the party practised and not just spoke about from podiums at conferences.

With news coming through about MPs harassing females in Parliament I have no doubt that in the days to come the Tory party and the Labour party will throw up sexist perpetrators too. This is not, however, the type of level playing field that the Lib Dems want to be aiming towards.

Many female members of the party, including me, watched with disbelief at the extent to which the women who had been victims had to go to to even get their story across. At one point, I even wondered about the wisdom of letting my then 14 year old daughter carry on being a member of a party that seemed to care so little about something so serious.

I had a conversation with a Lib Dem councillor who told me how she was often intimidated at party meetings because of her gender. I personally approached a female Lib Dem MP over these concerns and her reply was that female members should not feel afraid to speak up. That was the gist of it. It profoundly conveyed a lack of a deep understanding or, even, care about the level of sexism that had taken root in the party.

It doesn’t pay to rake over the details four years on if anything out of respect for those women who must be reading and following the current unfolding of events and wondering whether it has come too late for them.

I can’t help but wonder though whether British politics may be in a different place now if our leaders had stepped up to the plate. The culture of the party in coalition was largely to blame. It was very macho. Members were constantly told to toe the line which largely translated into being a culture of obedience. Questioning what the leaders were doing in the coalition was actively discouraged. I remember attending conferences where opposition to austerity policies was almost ridiculed for being immature in content. The message was that we were in power and had to act as grown ups. 

The women who complained of sexual harassment and intimidation were seen as interlopers. They threatened the party’s reputation and politics was more important than morality.

The tide is turning, thankfully. The Mexican wave ripple effect of the dismantling of sexual harassment as an acceptable act because ‘men will be men’  has reached the doorstep of British politics. It is only a matter of time before the full scale of women’s experiences of sexual harassment within the hallowed halls of Parliament is unmasked.

It really is time for British politics to stop being projected as a strong man’s political playground. The baying, the shouting, the hand gestures and smirks in Parliament resemble a zoo at feeding time. With all that testosterone it is not surprising that women are made victims of all that male micro aggression. If there is any good to come out of a Hollywood mogul’s shameful, evil and possibly criminal behaviour against women it is the unmasking of sexual harassment as an act that knows no boundaries.

I don’t mean to suggest that the Lib Dems could have solved the huge problem of sexism in British politics single handedly but I do think that we could have made a difference that may have, in retrospect, been seen as a watershed moment.

Four years on and I still feel a sense of anger. Apart from Lord Rennard himself and the party’s leaders, I reserve the last vestiges of my anger for Shirley Williams who gave unstinting support to those who undermined the women who put themselves on the line to speak up. What does it say when a doyenne of the party lets members down? 

‘Mong’
is a word commonly used by apes masquerading as humans to describe people
with disabilities, especially people with Down’s Syndrome.

Given the current psychological condition of the convenient use of one’s age as an abdication of responsibility for irresponsible talk that comes out of one’s mouth, I thought I would set in context right at the start of this post how old Guido Fawkes was when he tweeted the above message.


Guido Fawkes, the well known British blogger, was 46 years old when he tweeted the extremely offensive word ‘mong’.


At that age I don’t believe that there is much one would say either unintentionally or in anger about a disadvantaged group of people. Disability rights and issues has been well publicised enough as a socio-justice issue that one would have had to have been living in a cave to be ignorant of it.


I care because I have a niece with Down’s Syndrome whom I have blogged about before.


Lest anyone was in any doubt as to the crux of Guido’s intended slurs, which was to use disability, he gold plated the tweet with ‘retarded’.  


Way back in 2004 the BBC published a list of  ‘worst words’ to use when referring to people with disabilities with ‘Mong’ featuring at Number 4.  There has been more than a decade of sufficient awareness of disability rights. Guido’s tweet came a year after the UK hosted the Paralympic games in 2012. The games were the apotheosis of disability awareness raising.


I stopped reading Guido’s blog years ago because of the constant references to female genitalia and the use of various forms of obscene language. The intellectual content displayed in the comments left by readers is something that one hears from football fans on tube trains during match days.

The use of hashtags on Twitter may be a great social media innovation for getting a specific message across in the way the #metoo hashtag has drawn attention to rampant global sexual harassment of women. The flip side of the coin is the power of the eponymous hashtag to further reinforce and disseminate stereotypical demeaning messages and pictures of women.


I looked up the hashtag #Asians because I had attended an Asian Writers Festival and was seeking to reach the right audience with my tweets. What I found was a stream of naked women and nothing of any relevance to being ‘Asians’. In a further twist, most of the images (I only went as far as today’s tweets) were of White women.  Am I to conclude that #Asians=naked sexy White women? 


In a world of increasing complexity I am still trying to figure this conundrum out especially given that under the hashtag of ‘sex’ one finds only a scattering of naked women pictures.


Could it be that Twitter, as an organisation, is managing a soft porn messaging service that caters for Asian countries where pornography is outlawed?


Twitter’s refusal in the past to take down rape threats or such like dire tweets against women is increasingly making it a misogynistic social media application. Come on Twitter, for goodness sake. #Asians are walking, talking brown skinned human beings who live lives with dignity. While you aren’t responsible for twats posting porn surely you can do something about a hashtag that refers to a whole humankind. The sexualisation of a hashtag that refers to a race of people is deeply immoral and racist. Replacing pictures of white naked women with ones of Asian women will not do the trick either. That’s the Hugh Heffner faux model of female empowerment.

The clear blue sky,
The scent of flowers,
The colours of Rangoli,
And the sound of crackers.

The gifts and sweets from dear ones,
And the getting of their love,
The light of the candles below,
And the dazzling fireworks up above.

Lighting lamps at our homes,
Making the less fortunate smile,
Putting on new apparels,
Show our friends some style.

Paying respects to the gods,
And decorating for them the thali,
This is what the occasion is all about,
This is the spirit of Diwali

It has been more than a week since the news of the sexual harassment carried out by the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein broke. The scale of his evil acts has become apparent subsequently with more and more victims coming forward with their accounts.


On 15 October the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted asking women who had been victims of sexual crimes to tweet her using the hashtag #metoo. The request has spawned a movement in itself with #metoo being actively used for a number of days now. 


Sexual harassment is endemic and even a quick read of the #metoo twitter stream shows just how widespread it is not only in the countries that it takes place but in the spaces in women’s lives in which these acts of harassment and rape take place.


Women are vulnerable everywhere in the spaces that they inhabit on a daily basis for the normal functioning of life.


It’s taken me a week to write this blog post because I could not decide which incident of sexual harassment to blog about. This revelation has shocked even me and I was there each time! Are we mere playthings for men in the way that a cat toys with a mouse?


The concept of ‘choice’ associated with the women’s movement is as far way as possible from the choice that I have had in trying to decide which attack to write about. 


Should it be the time when I knelt on the floor to pick something up that I had dropped only for a male work colleague to quip, “while you are down there”?  There was the time during a windy day when I held my skirt down while running to get onto a bus only for the bus driver to tell me that I ought to have let my skirt blow up to make his day.


I have chosen to write about the time I was groped at a work meeting because it is an example of the indiscriminate and sick opportunistic nature of male sexism.


I was co-chairing a round table meeting some years ago quite close to Christmas.  I left the room during break time to get something and as I re-entered the room one of the attendees came up behind me and wished me ‘Merry Christmas’ with a grope. He picked his moment because the meeting was due to restart any second. He had compromised me not only with the use of his hand but with his timing too. As it happens I did report him to my boss who wanted to take action but I did not want a confrontation and chose not to take it further.  A marker of his behaviour was sufficient for the moment in case it happened again.


The details of incidents of sexual harassment are quite often secondary to the context within which it occurs and by this I mean that men have gone unchallenged for far too long over their stronghold of a power base which demeans women. Male privilege is a dangerous anomaly.