US "pickup artist" Julien Blanc promotes the use of physical and sexual assaults against women to "seduce" them.
Show Hide image

Why Julien Blanc should not be let into the UK

The US "pickup artist" has crossed a line by promoting violence against women. 

In one week we have seen the debate about Dapper Laughs, the ongoing campaign against Ched Evans going back to train with Sheffield United, and the news of Julien Blanc planning an imminent tour of the UK. We have also seen thousands standing up taking a stand – and making a real difference. Dapper Laughs has lost his TV show and "retired" his character; Charlie Webster – herself a victim of abuse – and Jessica Ennis-Hill have drawn a line in the sand by telling Sheffield United they do not want to be associated with a club that employs Evans, and Blanc has had his Australian visa revoked after a petition to the immigration minister.

There is a real question to ask about whether we should allow Julien Blanc into the UK.  In his seminars he promotes the use of physical and sexual assaults on women in order to "seduce" them. He has explicitly endorsed behaviours associated with domestic abuse to sexually manipulate women.

Today the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, wrote to Theresa May to ask her to consider using her powers to exclude him if she assesses that his presence is not in the public good. There is a clear precedent for this - our border controls mean we are under no obligation to allow people into our country if there is evidence they intend to incite violence. When we know that reports of incidents of domestic violence and sexual assaults are on the rise, are the "dating tricks" from Blanc really what we want to see in Britain? And at the end, he will leave the country with his earnings, while young men and women will be left with the impression that things he says and the actions he promotes are acceptable here in Britain.

We all defend free speech, but we also need to make choices when free speech crosses a line towards promoting or inciting acts of violence. If Julien Blanc's language had been about the way white people should behave towards black people (or the other way round), or the way able bodied people should treat disabled people, rather than being about male attitudes to females, would our response be different? Would we think he was inciting hate crime? The values Blanc espouses are hateful. He suggests women are worth less than men and can be used and discarded at will. These aren't the values parents want their sons and daughters to grow up with. 

The Labour Party has been lobbying the government hard to have compulsory age-appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE) taught in schools to help promote the understanding that no form of violence in relationships is acceptable. Last week I also wrote to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan again to urge her to change the government’s stance on SRE. We need to push back against misogynist attitudes in society, not encourage them.

At a time when we know one in three teenage girls experience unwanted groping at school, when sexting and revenge porn is on the rise, it’s clear we need a broader conversation about what we see as acceptable and in line with our values. One thing is clear, Julien Blanc is not.

Seema Malhotra is shadow minister for preventing violence against women and girls

Seema Malhotra is Labour MP for Feltham and Heston and shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Like it or hate it, it doesn't matter: Brexit is happening, and we've got to make a success of it

It's time to stop complaining and start campaigning, says Stella Creasy.

A shortage of Marmite, arguments over exporting jam and angry Belgians. And that’s just this month.  As the Canadian trade deal stalls, and the government decides which cottage industry its will pick next as saviour for the nation, the British people are still no clearer getting an answer to what Brexit actually means. And they are also no clearer as to how they can have a say in how that question is answered.

To date there have been three stages to Brexit. The first was ideological: an ever-rising euroscepticism, rooted in a feeling that the costs the compromises working with others require were not comparable to the benefits. It oozed out, almost unnoticed, from its dormant home deep in the Labour left and the Tory right, stoked by Ukip to devastating effect.

The second stage was the campaign of that referendum itself: a focus on immigration over-riding a wider debate about free trade, and underpinned by the tempting and vague claim that, in an unstable, unfair world, control could be taken back. With any deal dependent on the agreement of twenty eight other countries, it has already proved a hollow victory.

For the last few months, these consequences of these two stages have dominated discussion, generating heat, but not light about what happens next. Neither has anything helped to bring back together those who feel their lives are increasingly at the mercy of a political and economic elite and those who fear Britain is retreating from being a world leader to a back water.

Little wonder the analogy most commonly and easily reached for by commentators has been that of a divorce. They speculate our coming separation from our EU partners is going to be messy, combative and rancorous. Trash talk from some - including those in charge of negotiating -  further feeds this perception. That’s why it is time for all sides to push onto Brexit part three: the practical stage. How and when is it actually going to happen?

A more constructive framework to use than marriage is one of a changing business, rather than a changing relationship. Whatever the solid economic benefits of EU membership, the British people decided the social and democratic costs had become too great. So now we must adapt.

Brexit should be as much about innovating in what we make and create as it is about seeking to renew our trading deals with the world. New products must be sought alongside new markets. This doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or cutting jobs, but it does mean being prepared to learn new skills and invest in helping those in industries that are struggling to make this leap to move on. The UK has an incredible and varied set of services and products to offer the world, but will need to focus on what we do well and uniquely here to thrive. This is easier said than done, but can also offer hope. Specialising and skilling up also means we can resist those who want us to jettison hard-won environmental and social protections as an alternative. 

Most accept such a transition will take time. But what is contested is that it will require openness. However, handing the public a done deal - however well mediated - will do little to address the division within our country. Ensuring the best deal in a way that can garner the public support it needs to work requires strong feedback channels. That is why transparency about the government's plans for Brexit is so important. Of course, a balance needs to be struck with the need to protect negotiating positions, but scrutiny by parliament- and by extension the public- will be vital. With so many differing factors at stake and choices to be made, MPs have to be able and willing to bring their constituents into the discussion not just about what Brexit actually entails, but also what kind of country Britain will be during and after the result - and their role in making it happen. 

Those who want to claim the engagement of parliament and the public undermines the referendum result are still in stages one and two of this debate, looking for someone to blame for past injustices, not building a better future for all. Our Marmite may be safe for the moment, but Brexit can’t remain a love it or hate it phenomenon. It’s time for everyone to get practical.