[CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of sexual abuse, paedophilia, rape]
Rarely has the title “Weekly Wanker” been quite so literal. When news first emerged that Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, had been caught sending explicit messages to a 17 year old who’d applied to do work experience for Labour, I assumed there could be only one outcome: apology, resignation, by-election, the end. It was one of those stories where no checking back would be necessary, a prominent campaigner against child sexual exploitation couldn’t be caught using his position as an MP to gain access to young women and even bother trying to keep his job, right…right???
Since being elected as an MP in 2010, Danczuk has been at the forefront of campaigns against prominent paedophile and former Rochdale MP, Cyril Smith and his investigative work has contributed to the public pressure which has resulted in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Despite the fact he’s a right wing roaster, who’s been trying to stage a coup against Jeremy Corbyn since before he was even elected, I have respect for what he’s achieved. But after these last few weeks and some not-so-light reading, I’ve lost any respect I had for him.
Rather than just standing down, Danczuk’s been on the offensive, in every sense. In his “apology” in the Sun, for which he earned £5,000, he claimed that younger women were his “Achilles heel” and said an alcohol problem led him to send the texts. Danczuk told the paper,
My first wife was 10 years younger than me, my second wife was 17 years younger, my last girlfriend is 17 years younger. Some men like older women, some men like younger women, some like brunettes, some like blondes.
He was drunk, horny and is into younger women anyway. So, that’s alright then! Queue sympathetic coverage from across the media, with multiple pieces in the Guardian talking about how “complicated” he is, and how if you don’t like what he‘s done, it must mean you just hate democracy.
Fuck accepting this dangerous nonsense. Dismissing the importance of age in the context of sex undermines so much of the work done by those who campaign for child protection. No-one gives a shit if you’ve winched someone who’s a few years younger than you but there’s a huge disparity in wealth, age and status between an 46 year old MP and a 17 year old and that power dynamic matters. If you’re 16 or 17, there are specific laws which protect you, in the event your doctor, your teacher or your employer misuse their position for sex – because we recognise those positions are based on power and trust. There are be few positions more based more on trust or power than being an MP.
As if to make the whole situation worse, Danczuk’s been attempting to stage a photo op with the women he texted and contacted her asking if she’d be prepared to get her picture taken, for a fee, to show everyone it’s all definitely fine between them. That’s just rank, although excuse me for pissing myself at the faux Daily Mail fury, given how much space they’ve given to the MP to stage manage his “private” life in the past…
Serious questions must now be asked about the money that’s been made by Danczuk and those close to him and about his cosy relationship with the media. After divorcing his first wife, who this week described him as “a sexual predator who made my life hell”, Danczuk married Karen Burke in 2012. Danczuk’s office was the highest claimer of overtime payments, with £10,000 being given to…Karen. While no full accounts are due for a few months,“Danczuk Media Ltd,” which they set up together in 2014, earned a reported £17,000 for work in the first 6 months of 2015. When the Parliamentary Commission for Standards investigated the MP, it uncovered over £19,000 of income, mostly from media appearances, which he hadn’t declared in the register of members interests on time.
That he may have been paid for his work exposing paedophiles is perhaps not shocking but that he’s now benefiting financially from texting a 17 year old to ask for a spanking is detestable. Is that what a campaigner for the rights of vulnerable children should be doing?
I hate to do #notallmen chat but it’s utterly depressing to be told by an elected representative that we’re incapable of anything better than constantly fucking up people’s lives because we’re prone to drinking or depression – and that society will just have to accept us for the feeble, hapless, irresponsible arseholes we are, especially if some in that society happen to be young and have nice brown hair. But can we still have all the power please and a fee for another column to talk about what we‘ve learned during our time being awful to women? Thanx.
We have a right to ask whether our politicians live by the values they claim to fight for, if kids are made safer by an MP repeating the view that age is just like hair colour, what message we send about protecting young people if we say a man should still be allowed public funds, expenses and access to young women, despite being the subject of a rape investigation and having confessed to sending a young women sexually explicit texts – or if we deserve better, if we have a responsibility to stop giving space to men in politics to make awful excuses (and get paid for it, for no reason other than they’re in office) and to prioritise the safety of those who don‘t have their own private media empires.
While I normally write these pieces in a rage, I became more depressed and despondent as I realised beyond doubt that Simon Danczuk was a truly awful human. I wish someone who campaigned on such vital issues had a shred of credibility left but he doesn’t. That’s why he needs to go and go now, before he does any more damage to the important campaigns he was previously associated with.
A better kind of politics, including a better sexual politics, will only happen if we make it happen. Insisting that we can do better than wankers like Simon Danczuk would be a good place to start.