Monday, June 3, 2013

Rhoda Grant and the elusive consultation response

I haven't been following the news compulsively of late, so I only discovered a couple of hours ago that Labour MSP Rhoda Grant recently published the results of the consultation on her ideological desire to criminalise the purchase of sex. As regular readers will know, I responded to the consultation (to oppose the proposal), and my first thought was to quickly double-check that my response had actually been taken into account. I was slightly disturbed to see that my name didn't seem to be on the list of 953 respondents. It was hard to be 100% sure because the names weren't presented in alphabetical order, but I went through them three or four times without any luck. My fears were not allayed by the shorter list (which appeared to be intended as comprehensive) of the types of individual who had responded -

"campaign and community workers (in a personal capacity but with experience of working in relevant organisations (Wellcome Trust, Exodus Cry Houston Prayer Watch, Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil group, Street Ministry, NGO, Navigators, Stop the Traffick, Act for Justice, Youth with a Mission (YWAM), Stellas Voice charity, Act for Justice group, Dunfermline)
Queens Park Baptist Church Action for Justice Group, Glasgow
co-ordinator & befriender for Destiny Lifeline which is part of Destiny Church
workers with a faith-based justice non-profit organisation
anti-trafficking workers and supporters
director of Prevention for Exodus City
worker with homeless and city mission
worker with victims of abuse
worker in a women’s hostel
volunteers with Glasgow City Mission
workers with homeless charities
worker for Women’s Aid refuge
sex workers (male and female)
homosexual sex worker
migrant and sex worker
independent escorts
worker in a massage parlour
contributor to an escort forum
people who use escort services
worker in psychosexual somatics
parish minister
parish worker
church goer
baptist minister
member of the North Devon House of Prayer in Barnstaple
local church Senior Pastor in east end of Glasgow
manager of a Christian drop-in centre
guidance teacher
undergraduate Law student
independent researcher on male violence against women
German researcher based in Berlin
retired solicitor and criminal prosecutor
trained paediatric occupational therapist
military doctor
addictions medical officer
health visitor
social worker
family mediator
victims and offenders mediator
workers in nursing
scientist and scientific journal editor
freelance writer
writer and performer
business owner
foster parents
worker with Barnardo’s Scotland
registered child minder
worked in the Police force
retired police officer"

None of those descriptions apply to me. The only one that is even vaguely close is "freelance writer", but that would be a bit of a stretch, and certainly isn't how I described myself in my submission. I had horrible visions of having to trawl through hundreds of responses to see if I had been incorrectly put in the 'anonymous' column, but first of all I decided to check similar names. To my relief, I discovered that my submission was there, but under the name 'James'. Quite why my surname had been withheld is a bit of a mystery, as it certainly wasn't something that I requested.

I don't have much experience with parliamentary consultations, and I must say that the process of responding to this one hasn't filled me with huge confidence. It just doesn't seem satisfactory that responses have to be sent to a person (ie. Ms Grant herself) who has a vested interest in the consultation having a particular outcome. OK, in this instance she seems to have processed the responses conscientiously (although I had my doubts for thirty or forty minutes), but there's an important principle at stake here - sporting events use neutral referees for a good reason. Apart from anything else, the mere perception of bias in the conduct of a consultation could be enough to deter responses from one side of the debate, and thus skew the outcome.

Whether that's the explanation for the depressing outcome of this consultation is anyone's guess. But there's not much doubt that the majority of submissions were from a narrow bunch of ideologues who were encouraged to reply en masse. Hopefully parliamentarians will once again be able to wade through the sea of dogma, and home in on the evidence-based responses from academics that ripped Ms Grant's arguments to shreds.

* * *

UPDATE : Perhaps I spoke too soon - this blogpost refers to 70 submissions that are missing from the consultation, "all opposed".


  1. So you didn't see Rhoda G on Newsnicht?

  2. No, but I heard about it. I'll look it up and see if it's still available on the iplayer.

  3. You should see her Scotland Tonight appearance against the fantastic Laura Lee. It's blatantly obvious which woman knows what she's talking about, and which one is just spouting agenda-driven ideological nonsense.

    Although fair play to her, it takes some guts to basically say "all sex workers are prostituted women and none of them had a choice" when your opponent is a strong,independent woman who is clearly nobody's slave.

  4. Time to round up every feminist and exterminate them.

  5. No it isn't! As I pointed out to James Mackenzie when he became abusive a few weeks ago, I'm a feminist myself by the standard definition. (But it's an inadequate word because gender equality is self-evidently about both genders, not just one.)