David Ruffley MP speaking in the House of Commons.
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What David Ruffley's resignation tells us about attitudes in power to domestic violence

The Conservative MP will stand down at the 2015 election after accepting a police caution for a common assault on his former partner earlier this year.

At the start of this year, David Ruffley MP accepted a police caution for common assault on his then partner. Last night he resigned. (Or rather, he promised to resign in 2015 – after taking another ten months of wages from the taxpayer.)  

Reading Ruffley’s resignation letter – much like his "apology" last week, you would be excused for thinking this was a man who had been forced to quit over nothing. An assault that left his then girlfriend “wincing in obvious pain” was, according to Ruffley, a "very regrettable incident".  Objections to him being allowed to continue to be a member of Parliament was, to the Conservative MP, “a protracted media debate” on his “private life”.

What has had the biggest stench in this has been the way all – both Ruffley and the ones rushing to brush it under the carpet – have strained to say they would never “condone domestic violence under any circumstances". What was this, then? What Ruffley was cautioned for doesn’t "in any way qualify as domestic abuse", according to his local association chairman. Ruffley accepted a caution for common assault - the incident took place in his home with a woman he was in a relationship with. It’s not clear which part of that doesn't qualify as domestic abuse. Perhaps the part where he is a wealthy, elite, white man.  

This week, David Cameron vowed to consider making domestic violence a specific crime. The same David Cameron who has overseen the slashing of services for victims of domestic violence – and who did nothing when Ruffley accepted the caution months ago. Just left Chief Whip Michael Gove to say how "sorry” he was that Ruffley will be standing down at the next election and that he “fully respect[s] his reasons". All they need is to chip in for a leaving present at this point; perhaps a commiserating bottle of whisky and a card signed “Chin up, from the boys”.

If it feels like the Ruffley events tell us something about what male-dominated powers think of domestic violence, it’s because it does. It tells us they wish to call it “an incident”. That they prefer to excuse abuse as “regrettable”. That they believe a man leaving his girlfriend in visible pain should be “private”.

"All these things happen behind closed doors,” Ruffley’s local Conservative chairman told the BBC. "It was a private matter, and as in most domestic issues, I suggest it was six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. Nobody really knows what went on."  

Every week in this country, two women die at the hands of their partners or exes. Thousands of others, in every street, are controlled, raped, hit, scarred. Around 90 per cent of abusers are not even prosecuted by police. We know what goes on. And worst of all, we know the men in power don’t really care.

Frances Ryan is a journalist and political researcher. She writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman, and others on disability, feminism, and most areas of equality you throw at her. She has a doctorate in inequality in education. Her website is here.

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John Major's double warning for Theresa May

The former Tory Prime Minister broke his silence with a very loud rebuke. 

A month after the Prime Minister stood in Chatham House to set out plans for free trading, independent Britain, her predecessor John Major took the floor to puncture what he called "cheap rhetoric".

Standing to attention like a weather forecaster, the former Tory Prime Minister warned of political gales ahead that could break up the union, rattle Brexit negotiations and rot the bonds of trust between politicians and the public even further.

Major said that as he had been on the losing side of the referendum, he had kept silent since June:

“This evening I don't wish to argue that the European Union is perfect, plainly it isn't. Nor do I deny the economy has been more tranquil than expected since the decision to leave was taken. 

“But I do observe that we haven't yet left the European Union. And I watch with growing concern  that the British people have been led to expect a future that seems to be unreal and over-optimistic.”

A seasoned EU negotiator himself, he warned that achieving a trade deal within two years after triggering Article 50 was highly unlikely. Meanwhile, in foreign policy, a UK that abandoned the EU would have to become more dependent on an unpalatable Trumpian United States.

Like Tony Blair, another previous Prime Minister turned Brexit commentator, Major reminded the current occupant of No.10 that 48 per cent of the country voted Remain, and that opinion might “evolve” as the reality of Brexit became clear.

Unlike Blair, he did not call for a second referendum, stressing instead the role of Parliament. But neither did he rule it out.

That was the first warning. 

But it may be Major's second warning that turns out to be the most prescient. Major praised Theresa May's social policy, which he likened to his dream of a “classless society”. He focused his ire instead on those Brexiteers whose promises “are inflated beyond any reasonable expectation of delivery”. 

The Prime Minister understood this, he claimed, but at some point in the Brexit negotiations she will have to confront those who wish for total disengagement from Europe.

“Although today they be allies of the Prime Minister, the risk is tomorrow they may not,” he warned.

For these Brexiteers, the outcome of the Article 50 negotiations did not matter, he suggested, because they were already ideologically committed to an uncompromising version of free trade:

“Some of the most committed Brexit supporters wish to have a clean break and trade only under World Trade Organisation rules. This would include tariffs on goods with nothing to help services. This would not be a panacea for the UK  - it would be the worst possible outcome. 

“But to those who wish to see us go back to a deregulated low cost enterprise economy, it is an attractive option, and wholly consistent with their philosophy.”

There was, he argued, a choice to be made about the foundations of the economic model: “We cannot move to a radical enterprise economy without moving away from a welfare state. 

“Such a direction of policy, once understood by the public, would never command support.”

Major's view of Brexit seems to be a slow-motion car crash, but one where zealous free marketeers like Daniel Hannan are screaming “faster, faster”, on speaker phone. At the end of the day, it is the mainstream Tory party that will bear the brunt of the collision. 

Asked at the end of his speech whether he, like Margaret Thatcher during his premiership, was being a backseat driver, he cracked a smile. 

“I would have been very happy for Margaret to make one speech every eight months,” he said. As for today? No doubt Theresa May will be pleased to hear he is planning another speech on Scotland soon. 

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.