CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. Novelty won't sustain this alliance (Independent)

David Cameron has always been a brilliant choreographer, and he will manage the Tory right and the Lib Dem left with attentive charm. However, Steve Richards points out, ideology does matter, and the coalition cannot last long.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. Cameron's daring will change politics for ever (Times)

Daniel Finkelstein argues that a Tory partnership with the Liberal Democrats has wiped out the anti-Conservative majority at a stroke. Cameron now has the potential to lift himself and the party above normal partisan politics.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. The political infighting won't be over until we have another election (Daily Telegraph)

Simon Heffer predicts that the coalition government will be unsatisfactory and short-lived. The parties have agreed to the pact, but neither will like what it means in practice.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. Congratulations, Mr Cameron. Now learn the lessons of a dismal campaign (Guardian)

Tim Montgomerie looks back at the Conservative election campaign. The Tory leader is No 10-bound, but a sensible strategy would have put him there last week with no need for alliances

5. A coalition with the Tories comes with huge risks for Clegg (Independent)

One of the paradoxes of the third party is that it wanted and yet feared a hung parliament, observes Andrew Grice, who explores the negotiating process of the past few days. Was Nick Clegg's true intention always to do a deal with the Tories?

Read the CommentPlus summary.

6. Brace yourself, Britain, for higher taxation (Financial Times)

The British have no appetite for fewer public services, but, as John Kay points out, Britain cannot aspire to continental European levels of public services with lower tax rates. Much of the rebalancing of public finances will come from higher taxes.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. As a fraught Tory-Lib Dem era begins, Labour must renew itself once more (Guardian)

Cameron has limped into No 10 and Clegg may pay heavily in vote losses for the Lib Dems. But now, argues Jonathan Freedland, Labour, recast as truly progressive, can forge a bright future for itself.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

8. Labour's leadership needs the stamp of a genuinely new era (Independent)

Donald Macintyre argues that Labour needs to occupy the opposition benches with its taste for power intact, as it failed to do after Margaret Thatcher's victory in 1979.

9. Stop making sacrifices to the market gods (Times)

Anatole Kaletsky warns that politicians are being bullied into making rash decisions to satisfy arbitrary deadlines laid down by supposedly implacable financial markets. Instead, more attention should be paid to deeper economic and business interests.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

10. Governments up the stakes in their fight with markets (Financial Times)

The eurozone must create a system that recognises and responds to reality, writes Martin Wolf. In the eurozone's first crisis, governments must confront big choices -- including the need for greater integration or disintegration.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

Sign up now to CommentPlus for the pick of the day's opinion, comment and analysis in your inbox at 8am, every weekday.

 

 

Parliament TV screengrab
Show Hide image

MP Michelle Thomson's full speech on rape at 14: "I am a survivor"

The MP was attacked as a teenager. 

On Thursday, the independent MP for Edinburgh West Michelle Thomson used a debate marking the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to describe her own experience of rape. Thomson, 51, said she wanted to break the taboo among her generation about speaking about the subject.

MPs listening were visibly moved by the speech, and afterwards Thomson tweeted she was "overwhelmed" by the response. 

Here is her speech in full:

I am going to relay an event that happened to me many years ago. I want to give a very personal perspective to help people, both in this place and outside, understand one element of sexual violence against women.

When I was 14, I was raped. As is common, it was by somebody who was known to me. He had offered to walk me home from a youth event. In those days, everybody walked everywhere - it was quite common. It was early evening. It was not dark. I was wearing— I am imagining and guessing—jeans and a sweatshirt. I knew my way around where I lived - I was very comfortable - and we went a slightly differently way, but I did not think anything of it. He told me that he wanted to show me something in a wooded area. At that point, I must admit that I was alarmed. I did have a warning bell, but I overrode that warning bell because I knew him and, therefore, there was a level of trust in place. To be honest, looking back at that point, I do not think I knew what rape was. It was not something that was talked about. My mother never talked to me about it, and I did not hear other girls or women talking about it.

It was mercifully quick and I remember first of all feeling surprise, then fear, then horror as I realised that I quite simply could not escape, because obviously he was stronger than me. There was no sense, even initially, of any sexual desire from him, which, looking back again, I suppose I find odd. My senses were absolutely numbed, and thinking about it now, 37 years later, I cannot remember hearing anything when I replay it in my mind. As a former professional musician who is very auditory, I find that quite telling. I now understand that your subconscious brain—not your conscious brain—decides on your behalf how you should respond: whether you take flight, whether you fight or whether you freeze. And I froze, I must be honest.

Afterwards I walked home alone. I was crying, I was cold and I was shivering. I now realise, of course, that that was the shock response. I did not tell my mother. I did not tell my father. I did not tell my friends. And I did not tell the police. I bottled it all up inside me. I hoped briefly—and appallingly—that I might be pregnant so that that would force a situation to help me control it. Of course, without support, the capacity and resources that I had within me to process it were very limited.

I was very ashamed. I was ashamed that I had “allowed this to happen to me”. I had a whole range of internal conversations: “I should have known. Why did I go that way? Why did I walk home with him? Why didn’t I understand the danger? I deserved it because I was too this, too that.” I felt that I was spoiled and impure, and I really felt revulsion towards myself.

Of course, I detached from the child that I had been up until then. Although in reality, at the age of 14, that was probably the start of my sexual awakening, at that time, remembering back, sex was “something that men did to women”, and perhaps this incident reinforced that early belief.​
I briefly sought favour elsewhere and I now understand that even a brief period of hypersexuality is about trying to make sense of an incident and reframing the most intimate of acts. My oldest friends, with whom I am still friends, must have sensed a change in me, but because I never told them they did not know of the cause. I allowed myself to drift away from them for quite a few years. Indeed, I found myself taking time off school and staying at home on my own, listening to music and reading and so on.

I did have a boyfriend in the later years of school and he was very supportive when I told him about it, but I could not make sense of my response - and it is my response that gives weight to the event. I carried that guilt, anger, fear, sadness and bitterness for years.

When I got married 12 years later, I felt that I had a duty tell my husband. I wanted him to understand why there was this swaddled kernel of extreme emotion at the very heart of me, which I knew he could sense. But for many years I simply could not say the words without crying—I could not say the words. It was only in my mid-40s that I took some steps to go and get help.

It had a huge effect on me and it fundamentally - and fatally - undermined my self-esteem, my confidence and my sense of self-worth. Despite this, I am blessed in my life: I have been happily married for 25 years. But if this was the effect of one small, albeit significant, event in my life stage, how must it be for those women who are carrying it on a day-by-day basis?

I thought carefully about whether I should speak about this today, and it was people’s intake of breath and the comment, “What? You’re going to talk about this?”, that motivated me to do it, because there is still a taboo about sharing this kind of information. Certainly for people of my generation, it is truly shocking to talk in public about this sort of thing.

As has been said, rape does not just affect the woman; it affects the family as well. Before my mother died early of cancer, I really wanted to tell her, but I could not bring myself to do it. I have a daughter and if something happened to her and she could not share it with me, I would be appalled. It was possibly cowardly, but it was an act of love that meant that I protected my mother.

As an adult, of course I now know that rape is not about sex at all - it is all about power and control, and it is a crime of violence. I still pick up on when the myths of rape are perpetuated form a male perspective: “Surely you could have fought him off. Did you scream loudly enough?” And the suggestion by some men that a woman is giving subtle hints or is making it up is outrageous. Those assumptions put the woman at the heart of cause, when she should be at the heart of effect. A rape happens when a man makes a decision to hurt someone he feels he can control. Rapes happen because of the rapist, not because of the victim.

We women in our society have to stand up for each other. We have to be courageous. We have to call things out and say where things are wrong. We have to support and nurture our sisters as we do with our sons. Like many women of my age, I have on occasion encountered other aggressive actions towards me, both in business and in politics. But one thing that I realise now is that I am not scared and he was. I am not scared. I am not a victim. I am a survivor.

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.