Wednesday, 21 October 2009


If you want a good chuckle, track down Tuesday night's Newsnight where Denis MacShane gets very stroppy over the trafficking non-issue with Paxman and a representative of the English Collective of Prostitutes. And for some reason Denis keeps digging here:-
I honestly don't know how many girls are trafficked into Britain. I once quoted a Daily Mirror report in the Commons. Its headline talked of 25,000 women and was based, so the paper reported, on Home Office and Amnesty International statistics.
What Denis actually said in Hansard was:-
The Minister kindly gave me a parliamentary reply showing that 16 men were convicted for trafficking last year and just 11 had been so far this year. Given that, according to Home Office estimates, 25,000 sex slaves currently work in the massage parlours and brothels of Britain, those conviction figures are derisory.
 Note no mention of "The Daily Mirror" then. The Home Office report for 2005-6 said:-
Though this has not yet been published, the Government told us that it showed that there were an estimated 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in the UK during 2003 at any one time. Because the research has not yet been published, we have not been able to judge the validity of this figure. We note that there are no reliable estimates for the numbers of children or adult men who have been trafficked into the UK for labour exploitation purposes.
And the Mirror's own piece said:-
AT least 25,000 girls and women have been smuggled into Britain and sold into the booming vice trade, a Mirror investigation reveals.
Which made no reference to that 25,000 being home office figures (instead quoting the 4,000 number).

Denis continues:-
Rahila Gupta demolished the Guardian report on Comment is free.
No she didn't.
She also drew attention to an outfit of former prostitutes called Esso, which believes only 2% of women freely chose prostitution.
"Believes" doesn't count as an argument, Denis. They also seem to be largely invisible on the web. I'd also suggest that the only former prostitutes who put their head over the parapet are those who want to complain about it, the rest would rather not talk about it too much.
Esso is new to me, and I hope the BBC and other media turn to it instead of always to the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP). I mean no discourtesy to this organisation, which grew out of the Wages for Housework campaign started by the International Marxist Group in the 1970s, but I cannot find on the web any details of its constitution, internal democracy, funding, or membership. The ECP spokeswoman said on Newsnight that only two trafficked women had come to her attention. This sounds far-fetched.
But you can't disprove her claim, nor do you have any alternative figure on this.
The Newsnight report managed its investigation without talking to a single prostituted woman or a single trafficked victim. Instead we had self-appointed "experts" indulging in a futile war of statistics in which the victims are voiceless. But to say that the reports of every international outfit that has highlighted sex slave trafficking do not apply to our blessed isles is silly.
Well, Denis, as you started the ball rolling in 2007 by talking about the number of women involved. If you'd wanted to just make a moral case aga? inst prostitution, then that's what you should have done then then.
Regional newspapers publish advertisements from brothels offering "new girls every week", and the web is awash with offers of paid-for sex from young women brought into Britain to service male needs. The Poppy project, which seeks to help trafficked girls and other prostituted women who try to flee from their pimps and controllers, can house a few dozen at its refuge, but it turns away hundreds more who seek to escape from the slavery of offering themselves to dozens of men a day in massage parlours and brothels. Perhaps Newsnight might go and interview these victims instead of "experts" pooh-poohing the problem.
Oh dear. Denis citing the "Poppy Project" which has been utterly debunked. They turn away hundreds of women escaping from slavery? How come there hasn't been a single prosecution based on Poppy's work?

The real debate turns on what is to be done. Male politicians rarely challenge the conventional wisdom of the Belle de Jour or Happy Hooker books and articles that becoming a prostitute is a voluntary business of pleasure and profit – and just another profession. I pushed the House of Commons and Tony Blair to sign the Council of Europe convention on trafficking, despite opposition from Whitehall and some boy members of the cabinet. Now Labour women like Harriet Harman, Vera Baird, Fiona Mactaggart, Jacqui Smith and others who suffer unspeakable condescension from the media – and, if truth be told, too many patriarchical masculinist Labour MPs and current and former ministers – have edged the debate into new territory.
Straw man. Most MPs don't consider prostitution as "Belle de Jour"/Happy Hooker. It's a mix of sordid street walkers, single mothers making a living, and a few high class types. But what's at stake is the numbers in each of these categories, and the bizarre assertions from some of the New Labour Wimmin about why women are involved in it.
They are seeking to switch the focus of responsibility from women to men in the debate over how to deal with trafficking and sex slavery. The idea is simple. Instead of penalising women, make men accept that paying for sex with a trafficked woman or under-age girl is a criminal activity. If that means more appearances in front of magistrates and naming and shaming, so be it.
If you want that, you bring in regulation of the industry, which would be able to check identification and age of women AND would then drive a wedge between legal women and illegal workers, and the legal women would be able to report illegal women and would have an incentive to do so (reducing competition).
The rough analogy is with kerb-crawling. It was commonplace until police and councils started photographing and publishing the number plates of the kerb-crawling cars. Nothing eliminates the willingness of some men to pay for sex, but there is no need to use this desire as an excuse to turn a blind eye to the tragic exploitation of women, often with murderous consequences, that the sex industry entails.
Kerb-crawling is still quite commonplace. And I guess a lot has just gone "off-street". I guess the internet is used a lot now too.
Last night's Newsnight debate showed how difficult it is to get a serious discussion on this important issue. Perhaps it is time to ask middle-aged male grandees from the Guardian and Newsnight to step aside and allow a different journalism to examine the problem.
Translation: I looked like a joke on Newsnight and completely avoided the points from Paxman and the other women.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed he looked an idiot and also lost his cool completely several times shouting about being patronized. Hardly a recipe for the cool analytical discussion he pretended to want.