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  1. Politics
1 November 2017

John Humphrys worries MPs won’t “date” or “marry” assistants if we call out assault

Are we going “too far”, the Today programme presenter asks. No.

By Media Mole

Your mole would love it, just for one morning, if it could wake up without the aggressive yet plaintive roar of a dinosaur ringing in its ears.

For, yet again, John Humphrys on Radio 4’s Today programme has shown himself not to be of this age – or, indeed, even to want to engage with it.

Quizzing the Tory peer and former Foreign Secretary William Hague on the sexual harassment and abuse claims against politicians – or, as Humphrys delicately introduced the topic, “sexual abuse or whatever, scandals in the Palace of Westminster” – he feared that MPs will no longer be able to “date” their assistants:

“Is there a danger that we could go too far in the other direction and people will be afraid to ask somebody else out for the evening or indeed ask them out for a proper date – maybe, eventually, to marry them or something, I mean, you know. There are risks in this aren’t there?”

To which Hague, rather baffled, replied: “I don’t think we’ve reached that point, I think there is a real problem here to be dealt with.”

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But Humphrys wouldn’t let go, adding:

“But we’re heading in that direction, aren’t we? Where, seriously, where MPs would be terribly nervous – an unmarried MP asking an unmarried assistant for a date?”

Earlier in the interview, he asked Hague twice if this is “a witch hunt”, pressing him a third time by asking: “Is there a danger of that?”

Hague avoided this line of questioning, arguing: “We’re in a new age of accountability.”

After discussing inequality and misogyny across the world, Hague was subjected to one final, idiotic question on the subject by Humphrys:

“There’s not a danger, is there, that if you conflate mass rape with somebody touching somebody’s knee perhaps accidentally in the House of Commons that we get it out of proportion?”

The only thing that defies proportion here is Humphrys’ ludicrous conclusion that MPs will no longer be able to go on dates, or get married. First, why doesn’t he understand the difference between normal human interactions and abuse? Second, why should MPs feel a right to ask their assistants out on dates, anyway?

This mole assumes that Humphrys’ old-fashioned views mean he’s more willing to preserve a culture that puts women at risk than confront sexist behaviour. After all, in the Eighties he did proposition newsreader Moira Stuart after being on air – in front of an audience that could lip-read what he was saying to her:

“You’re the most sensationally sexy lady I know. The best thing we can do is to make mad passionate love in the basement.”