I reported on the Lib
Dem conference motion last month but today it was reported in
The Sunday Times It is great to see that front bench
Lib Dems are supporting the motion. Whilst we wait for the politicians, the sex shop, One
on One, is due in court very soon re R18 mail order charges.
From the Sunday Times by Michael Prescott
The Liberal Democrats are to campaign for new laws making it easier to buy hard-core
pornography. They also want the age at which such material can be bought or viewed to be
reduced from 18 to 16.
Party leaders will allow a full-scale debate on the proposals at the Lib Dem conference
later this month. The policy is likely to be adopted, not least because it enjoys the
support of frontbenchers Simon Hughes, Norman Baker, Lembit Opik, Edward Davey and almost
every other Lib Dem MP contacted yesterday.
Senior figures in rival parties were stunned by the development, which comes just as
the Lib Dems boast that they are on the verge of overtaking the rump Tory party to become
the mainstream force of opposition in British politics.
Supporters of the porn reforms argue that a recent relaxation in censorship of sexually
explicit films and videos has caused no problem for society, and that further
liberalisation will enjoy widespread support. Hughes and his colleagues say it is
"absurd" that the law allows 16-year-olds to work, pay tax, marry and engage in
heterosexual or homosexual activity - but not view explicit pornography depicting such
The big danger is not sex on the screen, it is violence, Hughes, the Lib Dem
home affairs spokesman, said yesterday. The natural prude ought to be more concerned
about that. The Lib Dem porn proposal calls for cheaper sex shop licences, easier
availability of pornography and an end to censorship of any material depicting legal
consensual sex, whether gay or straight.
The call prompted immediate controversy last night. It sounds as though the Liberal
Democrats have gone mad, said one government minister. People will be concerned
that allowing 16-year-olds access to porn raises the danger of even younger children
getting their hands on this material.
The shameful Steve Webb, spokesman on work and pensions, was the only Lib Dem MP to
express reservations about the new policy yesterday. I am concerned about the widening
availability of pornography to younger people. More pornography demeans us all.
Opik, spokesman for youth affairs, said: Nobody has come up with evidence of harm
from hard-core porn. It probably works as a release valve for some people.
The Sunday Times editorial was hardly supportive. Not much of an
argument though: freedom should be denied because someone may be slightly embarassed
Groping for Ideas: An Abuse of the Law
There has been no moment like it in Liberal history since Lloyd George split the party
by toppling Asquith. The tectonic plates of history are shifting, the old ideologies are
dying. Even the ancient enemy, the Conservative party, which used to command the finest
brute vote in Europe, is on its knees. Under Iain Duncan Smith or Ken Clarke it could
disintegrate further. Now is the time for Charles Kennedy's Liberal Democrats to seize the
limelight. Now is the time to be taken seriously as a party, or even as the party, of
opposition. As stock markets tumble and a recession rears, the nation waits for the Lib
Dem answer. Arise the new John Maynard Keynes. So what do we get? The party is to throw
its energies into a campaign for new laws allowing 16-year-olds to buy hardcore porn.
Simon Hughes, the earnest chap who bears the home affairs portfolio, has been
by the discrepancy between the law and teenage interest in pornography. The rest of
us all thought teenage boys avoided smut like the plague. We have to be realistic and
modern and live to the realities of communication, says Hughes in the language of the
trendy vicar, adding in his right-on daddyo-ish way: This motion comes from young
people who know the score. Has he no idea how embarrassing he is?
Imagine the 16-year-old urged by Liberal Democrat activists to enjoy his new-won
freedom in libertarian Britain. He is hustled to the counter of
WH Smith by a Simon Hughes type. Hello, sonny, says the woman at the checkout.
What do we have here? That's two copies of Football Daft, one of Go-Kart weekly, one
British Babes and one Grope magazine. Beryl, she shouts across the crowded floor,
much is Grope magazine? The poor boy will die quivering with shame.
Maybe we are wrong. After all, the Lib Dems gained seats by offering higher taxes and
unfettered federal union with Europe. Maybe porn for 16-year-olds is another winner. But
somehow we don't trust Mr Hughes. The old joke rings true: tomorrow he really will want to
make it compulsory.
The story was also followed up by
James Whale on his TalkSport programme. A Lib Dem MP was interviewed postively. James
Whale bemoaned the fact that on his new
Men & Motors TV show he was allowed to show as many naked women as he liked, but not a
naked man with an erection. Callers comments backed the MP.