Even by the dismal standards of the Conservative Party, the actions of Christchurch MP, Sir Christopher Chope, reached a new low the other day. Chope managed to block a proposed bill to make upskirting (the act of taking unsolicited pictures up women’s skirts) illegal. Chope claimed that he objected not to the content of the bill itself, but to it not having been properly debated in parliament. Due to the rules of parliamentary debate, his actions blocked the entire bill. In so doing, he undermined months of campaigning across the country to prevent the harassment of women.
According to current laws in England and Wales upskirting is not illegal as an individual act, meaning that anyone can take unsolicited pictures of a woman’s underwear without facing legal consequences. Startling figures released in February show that girls as young as 10 have been targeted by upskirting and that many cases are left unrecorded by police, as there is no legal framework in place to protect victims. The proposed bill, before being blocked by Chope, aimed to make upskirting punishable with sentences similar to those for already illegal forms of voyeurism. As a result of Chope’s objection, however, the act will remain unpunishable for the time being. This flagrant display of misogyny has revealed the outdated, backwards mindset of some representatives of the British ruling class.
Theresa May came under great pressure, from all sides, to force through the legislation anyway. On Sunday, she tweeted “Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed. I am disappointed the bill didn’t make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through parliament – with government support.” However, she established no timelines, and did not condemn Chope for his actions. Instead, she deflected blame from the disgraced MP, stating the matter “is not an issue of individual concern.”
May also failed to justify, when interviewed on BBC News, why she saw fit to grant a cretin like Chope a knighthood six months ago. This is especially galling given Chope’s history of blocking bills on justice for Hillsborough, gay marriage, anti-racial discrimination and a posthumous pardon for British computer scientist Alan Turin (who was chemically castrated by court order for his homosexuality in the 1950s, and later committed suicide).
Some Tory politicians have tried salvage their party’s sullied appearance by throwing Chope under the bus. For instance, Dorset MP and defence minister Tobias Ellwood branded him “a dinosaur”. The presence of such a specimen in his party should perhaps lead Ellwood to reflect on the company he keeps.
In truth, while Chope is a particularly repulsive individual, his backward views are not the exception, but the norm for the Tory Party. Let us not forget that no fewer than eight Tory politicians have deployed the ‘n-word’ in public, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is on record describing black people as pickaninnies with “watermelon smiles”, leadership contender Jacob Rees-Mogg opposes abortion even in cases of rape, and Shipley MP Philip Davies recently caused uproar by stating that “black people…are more likely to be murderers”. Davies also helped Chope ‘talk out’ the upskirting bill. This is not to mention the mounting pile of sexual abuse and harassment scandals. Despite the crocodile tears of a shrewder handful, the entire British establishment is rotten to the core.
Capitalism in its state of senile decay is throwing up ever-more degenerate leaders. Women and other oppressed groups are increasingly falling victim to the backwardness of Tory rule. As Marxists, we must demand meaningful gains for women and for all the oppressed. We set ourselves not just against the Tories, but also against the brutal, regressive ideology that they represent.
by Ollie Brotherton, KCL Marxists