What has Ken Clarke done wrong — other than commit the political sin of making a
media gaffe? Nothing. In yesterday’s now infamous BBC interview, he was simply attempting to explain his position on rape sentencing, which may or may not be the right one. It’s a
difficult question — and, under some antagonistic interrogation, he stumbled and got flustered. “Rape is rape,” said the radio interviewer. "Not it’s not," the
Justice Secretary replied. He later talked about “serious, proper rape.”
Bad phrasing? Certainly. Injudicious? Sure. But Clarke’s essential argument — that not all rapes are the same, that some rapes are worse than others — is quite obviously true. How
can one have a sensible discussion on the subject without accepting that point? By raising it, however, and by losing his cool with the press, Clarke has offended news morality and given his
opponents something to attack. Ed Miliband pounced, and now the consensus is that he must go. The headlines are saying that he has ‘endangered women.’ The Sun has even taken to calling
him ‘rape storm Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’. This is hysterical nonsense. It implies that, following one radio interview, all those potential rapists out there — ie men –
might think that rape has suddenly become ok.
Ken can expect a rough old time on Question Time tonight. It will be more like an episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show. If there is one thing a studio audience relishes, it’s the opportunity to
get worked up about something like rape. Or paedos. But this mau-mauing of Clarke is demented. It means that the important and complicated issue of what we should do about sexual crimes has been
reduced to a shouting competition in which people scream ‘RAPE’ at each other with increasing volume.