THERE is nothing admirable in the tale of the Tory MP who blocked a parliamentary bill that would make “upskirting” a criminal offence, apart that is from the malleability of the English language.
I wasn’t aware of the word or the voyeuristic deed it conveys until recently. On making that unhappy discovery, I remained puzzled about why any man would wish to take such an intimate and intrusive photograph.
However odd the offence, and some people truly are strange, you can at least appreciate the way the language has had to adapt. The English language always finds a way, even if what is being described could happily have been left undescribed.
According to a quick Google, “upskirting” has been used to describe sexually intrusive photographs taken up women’s skirts since around 2004 – long before the word or the activity were known to me. While the activity might be weird and threatening and demeaning, the word is a no-nonsense label leaving little doubt as to its meaning.
A woman who suffered such surreptitious photographs alerted the police, only to be told that what had occurred wasn’t against the law. Gina Martin took up the cause and brought it all the way to Parliament, where the LibDem MP Wera Hobbhouse yesterday introduced a bill to have “upskirting” made a criminal offence punishable by up the two years in prison.
All political parties supported the bill, so here was an encouraging tale of a young woman managing to bring about a change to the law. Or it would have been apart from the actions of Christopher Chope, a 71-year-old Tory MP who makes a habit of blocking private bills put forward by members.
All Chope had to do to block the bill was shout “Object” – and that, thanks to the arcane ways of parliament, was that.
It turns out that he is a serial objector, and that he didn’t even understand what “upskirting” was but had blocked the bill on principle because he doesn’t approve of legislation that isn’t discussed properly.
Does this odd principle make him appear any less of a fool? That would be a “no”. He looks like the sort of caricature backwoodsman twerp you still expect to encounter in the Tory party. His actions rendered him ridiculous and brought condemnation from all sides, including members of his own party.
Incidentally, Chope is known for his social illiberalism, having frequently voted against gay rights. Yesterday he also delayed a bill aimed to protect police dogs and horses. He is also, you may not be surprised to discover, an ardent Brexiteer, who only yesterday was to be found ranting in the Daily Express about how naïve Britain was being in its negotiations with the EU.
The “upskirting” bill will be given another chance next month, at which point the Conservatives should perhaps consider locking Chope in a cupboard – or uplocking him to prevent further upcocking