Minister for what?

Lynne Featherstone is not up to the task

(photo: Lynne Featherstone)

When Lynne Featherstone was promoted to Minister of State for Crime Prevention last month, after the useless Norman Baker resigned, I could not quite believe it. If the woman had any fewer brain cells she would require watering twice daily. I make no secret of my dislike for the Liberal Democrat, who is unfortunately my MP in Hornsey and Wood Green. I find it bizarre that Ms Featherstone should have responsibility for crime prevention, given her wilful ignorance and perverse views about rape, prostitution, pornography and other women’s issues.

Ms Featherstone came to prominence in 2006 when she proposed to grant anonymity to men accused of rape. It was pointed out to her by rape charities that naming those accused of sex crimes often enables previous victims to come forward, but she simply refused to engage in debate. She is now supported by the former Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans. During the 2010 election campaign, she defended the parliamentary candidacy of a female pornographer. In response to a question about the harm caused by porn, she declared: “There is nothing wrong with sex.” Despite the uproar, she refused to apologise or even qualify her comment. When the Conservative-LibDem coalition was formed she was appointed Minister for Equalities.

In an interview with the Guardian in 2012, the minister — who by then also rejoiced in the title of International Violence against Women Champion — defended cosmetic surgery: “When you’ve had five children and your breasts are hanging around your waist, and it’s affecting your life, then I wouldn’t really have a problem with that woman getting that sorted.” Needless to say, she has failed to be an effective champion for women victims of violence.

A year later, Featherstone called for a newspaper editor to be sacked after he published an opinion piece by Julie Burchill about transsexuality. Forgetting that politicians in a democracy should not be able to act as press censors, the minister also called for Burchill to be fired, despite the fact that the writer is a freelance and was not employed by the newspaper.

Featherstone is at best wildly inconsistent and at worst an outright hypocrite. In May last year she was petitioned by lawyers and human rights campaigners to oppose coalition government policies that threaten civil liberties. Yet she has failed to intervene or take a stand. It would appear she has forgotten the liberal and feminist principles she claims to stand for. The only consolation is that, with a majority of under 7,000, she is more than likely to lose her seat in next May’s general election. For me, that day cannot come soon enough.

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