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You're not allowed to punch people. Since when is that a left-right issue?

Jeremy Clarkson wasn't fired because of the PC brigade or the leftie BBC. You're not allowed to hit people - end of story.

The news will come too late for many of Louise Mensch’s former colleagues in Westminster, but just for the record, if there are any MPs reading this, she wouldn’t have minded if you’d punched her in the face.

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that’s the only conclusion I can draw from a set of bizarre tweets sent out by the former Tory MP, successful author and Sun columnist this afternoon in the wake of the BBC’s announcement that Jeremy Clarkson will no longer present Top Gear after he punched a producer in the face.

An angry Mensch tweeted to her 93,000 Twitter followers from her New York home: “Britain has got so pathetically wimpy #Clarkson”.

Apparently the much-publicised Clarkson “fracas” was not in fact down to an over-indulged middle-aged millionaire with anger issues but entirely the fault of “our culture of effeminacy” which, she says, “knows no bounds”.

Mensch went on to justify her point to a follower querying her first tweet, saying: “I definitely do think it [violence] is OK. Between equally matched, and no serious harm done? Yep.” She then added for good measure: “Assuming equal rank etc as in this case”.

So what exactly is Louise Mensch saying? That it’s okay if you hit a colleague of roughly the same fighting ability or size?

Clarkson is a big man and I imagine on a good day he can throw quite a punch, using that huge belly as ballast, so I assume Mensch is only happy for him to punch colleagues who fit the same bill.

Which is strange because, from the photos I’ve seen of Clarkson’s victim, Oisin Tymon, he doesn’t look like he’d be any match physically for Clarkson, a veritable featherweight to Clarkson’s heavyweight.

Some of us might also quibble over whether Mensch is right to think that a jobbing BBC staffer such as Tymon does indeed enjoy “equal rank” with the multi-millionaire star of the TV show he produces.

And I suppose we all have different definitions of what constitutes “serious harm” in a fight. Personally, I think I’d be quite cross if someone gave me a cut lip and I had to spend hours in A&E to get it treated, but I guess that just makes me a bit of a wimp.

But then I’m also a woman. So would it be okay for Clarkson to punch women at work as well, Ms Mensch?

After all, some of us are big strapping lasses who can more than hold our own in a bar fight (I know, I’ve done it).

According to her Twitter feed, Mensch later insists that, no, it is not okay for male colleagues to physically attack female colleagues – although, interestingly she doesn’t clarify whether it’s okay for women to hit other women or not, so it’s apparently still a goer for Mensch’s former female MP colleagues to swing a punch or two.

In Mensch’s utopian future, it will mostly be be men who face going into work every day with their fingers crossed that the boss doesn’t smack them in the face because they forgot to put sugar in his coffee. After all, no harm done, eh?

Except there was harm done. To a BBC producer’s face and self-respect. But, in Mensch’s world, that’s just yet more proof of how pathetic we in Britain are.

What Mensch really means is that the fault lies not with Clarkson, who is just a man’s man doing what men do, but with his producer, who failed to fight back and, well, give as good as he got.

Like many of the million-plus signatories to the “Bring Back Clarkson” petition delivered to the BBC, Mensch sees Clarkson not as the workplace bully he is but as the poor victim of political correctness gone mad.

Mensch is not alone, of course. Indeed she is backed up by her employer Rupert Murdoch, who also tweeted: “How stupid can BBC be in firing Jeremy Clarkson? Funny man with great expertise and huge following.”

So if you’re funny, good at your job and lots of people like you, then you can do pretty much anything you like to anyone and get away with it? (Hmmm, now where have we heard that before..?)

The truth is that when people like Louise Mensch imply that Clarkson is a victim, they are basically saying that it’s okay for people to go around punching people who irritate them.

This is not a case of Left versus Right, or about BBC political correctness, or even about whether you’re a fan of Top Gear or not.

I am a big fan of Jeremy Clarkson and I love watching him on TV and reading his various columns. I think he’s funny and irreverent and adds to the gaiety of nations. But I also think the BBC were quite right to terminate his contract.

And if Louise Mensch genuinely believes that it’s okay to punch your colleagues then she may find a queue of people waiting outside her New York apartment block tomorrow morning keen to test out her theory in practice.

Still, no serious harm done, eh?

Julia Hartley-Brewer is a journalist and commentator.

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Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.