Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy speaks in Glasgow after his election on 13 December, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Jim Murphy unveils plan to rewrite Scottish Labour's Clause IV

New leader emulates Tony Blair by announcing five new principles for the party's constitution, including commitment to patriotism. 

Twenty years ago, Tony Blair stunned the political world by declaring his intention to rewrite Labour's hallowed Clause IV and end the party's formal commitment to mass nationalisation. The move, endorsed at a special conference in 1995, was a defining point in the birth of New Labour. Ever since, leaders of all parties have been challenged to display similar daring and achieve their own "Clause IV moment".

Today, following his election as Scottish Labour leader last Saturday, Jim Murphy will seek to do quite literally that by vowing to rewrite Clause IV of his party's constitution. Mindful of Scottish Labour's tarnished reputation, which allowed the SNP to win majority control at Holyrood (and to surge in the polls), the former cabinet minister is attempting to redefine his party's purpose for the post-referendum era. He will say in a speech in Glasgow:

Once Labour’s challenge was that too many people felt they could not be Labour and make an aspirational choice.  Today Scottish Labour’s challenge is that some people feel they can’t be Labour and make a patriotic choice. The change we need goes deeper than the leadership style of a new team. If this is to be a genuinely fresh start for our party we need to make more fundamental change.
 
That is why I can announce that I will ask Scottish Labour’s Conference in March to agree a new 'Clause IV' for our Scottish constitution. A new statement of purpose for a new generation in the Scottish Labour Party. It's the biggest change in Scottish Labour's history. This is a 'Clause IV' moment for a different time and a different purpose. Tony Blair rewrote Clause Four of UK Labour to bring us closer to the centre of politics. I want to rewrite 'Clause IV' of Scottish Labour to bring us closer to the centre of Scottish life.
Murphy will go on to outline five principles for the new Clause IV. They are:
 
1. Making it clear that Scottish Labour is a "patriotic party"
 
Murphy will say: "One: we will make it clear that we are both a democratic socialist party and a patriotic party. We are a socialist party yes, but we recognise that our political faith grew out of something deeper which is ingrained in our Scottish character. It was there before our party in the ethics of Burns' poetry, the economic vision of New Lanark, the actions of the Highlanders who took on brutal landlords. A belief that we stand together, look after those who need our help, and make sure that everyone gets a fair shout." 
 
2. Declaring Scottish Labour a party that "represents Scotland first"
 
"Two: while we do not give up on our belief in active solidarity with people across the United Kingdom and around the world, we will make it clear that this is complementary to, and not in conflict with, the national interest of Scotland. 
 
"We will declare ourselves a party that represents Scotland first, and where, as Scots, we work with others to achieve the potential of all."
 
3. Committing to "total devolution" of policy making in devolved areas
 
"Three: we will set in stone the total devolution of policy making in devolved areas. Policy will be made in Scotland, for Scotland, by our Scottish Party, putting the needs of Scotland first."
 
4. Committing to a "permanent and powerful" Scottish Parliament
 
"Four: we will make the same commitment in our own party constitution, as the Smith Agreement did in the UK Constitution, to a permanent and powerful Scottish Parliament."
 
5. Renewing Labour's mission for "a more equal and fairer society"
 
"And Five: we will renew our historic mission for a more equal and fairer society where power, wealth and opportunity are more fairly shared by our fellow Scots and our fellow human beings around the world.
 
"This will represent the refounding and rebirth of our Scottish Labour Party.  
 
"A clear statement of our party’s beliefs. A changing Scottish Labour Party for a changing Scotland."
 
These principles are designed to draw a distinction between patriotism and nationalism (number one), to answer former leader Johann Lamont's charge that Scottish Labour was merely a "branch office" of Westminster (number two and number three), to enshrine the party's commitment to further devolution, including the full transfer of income tax (number four), and to reaffirm its egalitarian values. 
 
With the SNP 20 points ahead of Labour in Westminster voting intention, a lead that would cost Labour 34 of its 40 seats, the scale of the task facing Murphy is daunting. But with the promise of a new Clause IV, he has shown the kind of imagination and creativity that will be required in the months ahead. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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A rape-able sex robot makes the world more dangerous for women, not less

Eroticising a lack of consent is no answer to male sexual violence. 

On Wednesday, the Independent reported a new setting had been added to the personality range of a sex robot made by the company True Companion. Called “Frigid Farrah”, the setting allows men who own the robot to simulate rape. If you touch it in a “private area” when it is in this mode, the website explains, it will “not be appreciative of your advance”.

True Companion says the robot is not programmed to participate in a rape scenario, and the idea is “pure conjecture”. Nevertheless, the news has reopened the debate about sex robots and their relationship to consent. What does a rape-able robot say about our attitudes to consent, sex, violence and humanism? Do sex robots like Frigid Farrah eroticise and normalise male sexual aggression? Or does allowing men to “act out” these “most private sexual dreams” on inanimate objects actually make real women safer?

The idea that allowing men to “rape” robots could reduce rates of sexual violence is fundamentally flawed. Sex robot settings that eroticise a woman’s lack of consent, coupled with male aggression, risk normalising rape. It sends a message to the user that it is sexually fulfilling to violate a woman’s “No”.

It’s important to remember that rape is not a product of sexual desire. Rape is about power and domination – about violating a woman’s body and her sense of self. Raping a robot is of course preferable to raping a woman, but the fact is we need to challenge the attitudes and sense of entitlement that cause violent men to rape in the first place.

There is little evidence to back the claim that giving men sexual “outlets” reduces violence. The research that exists is focused on whether a legalised sex industry can reduce sexual assault.

Studies on Dutch “tippelzones” – spaces where soliciting is legal between certain hours – claimed the areas led to a reduction in sexual violence. However, the research lacked precise data on incidents of sexual violence and abuse, and the fact that sex workers themselves can be victims. As a result, it wasn’t possible to determine exactly how the number of rapes and assaults fell in the population at large.

Similar claims made by social scientist Catherine Hakim also failed to prove a causal link between legalised prostitution and reduced levels of sexual violence – again, because low reporting means a lack of accurate data.

Other research claims that access to the sex industry can in fact increase incidents of sexual violence. A 2013 report by Garner and Elvines for Rape Crisis South London argued that an analysis of existing research found “an overall significant positive association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women in non-experimental studies”.

Meanwhile, a 2000 paper by Neil Malamuth, T Addison, and J Koss suggested that, when individuals considered at high risk of acting sexually aggressively are studied, levels of aggression are four times higher among frequent consumers of pornography.

However, just as the research fails to find a causal link between access to the sex industry and reducing violence, there is no research proving a causal link between violent pornography and gender-based violence.

Instead, we have to look at the ethical and moral principles in an industry that creates models of women for men to orgasm into. Sex robots are, at their heart, anti-humanist. They replace women with plastic and holes. They create a world for their owners where women’s voices and demands and desires and pleasures – and right to say no – are absent.

That should trouble us – we are creating products for men which send a message that the best woman is a compliant and silent one. That the best woman is one who lies back and “likes what you like, dislikes what you dislike”, to quote the True Companion website, who is “always ready to talk and play” but whose voice you can turn off whenever you want.

“By transferring one of the great evils of humanity from the real to the artificial, sex robots simply feed the demon of sexism,” says Professor Alan Winfield of the Bristol Robotics Lab. “Some might say, 'What’s the problem – a sex robot is just metal and plastic – where’s the harm?' But a 'fembot' is a sexualised representation of a woman or girl, which not only invites abusive treatment but demands it. A robot cannot give consent – thus only deepening the already chronic and dangerous objectification of real women and girls.”

What research does tell us is that there is a clear link between violence and the perpetrator’s ability to dehumanise their victims. That, and a setting designed to eroticise a woman’s lack of consent, suggest that Frigid Farrah will have no impact on reducing sexual assault. Rather, it creates a space where rape and violence is normalised and accepted.

Instead of shrugging our shoulders at this sexualisation of male violence, we should be taking action to end the belief that men are entitled to women’s bodies. That starts by saying that rape is not an inevitable part of our society, and the danger of rape cannot simply be neutralised by a robot.

Sian Norris is a writer. She blogs at sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.com and is the Founder & Director of the Bristol Women's Literature Festival. She was previously writer-in-residence at Spike Island.