Dear LibDems; Sex Work is NOT the Same as Accountancy

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Councillor Dennis Parsons on sex work:

He said: “The fact that we are asking ‘should we seek to prevent people entering sex work?’ is part of the problem. You wouldn’t ask the question ‘should we prevent people becoming accountants?’ You’d just take it for granted.”

The Lib Dem said careers officers are not allowed to suggest prostitution, but added: “Why shouldn’t they?”

Ok I accept, as long as people have been able to write about each other in the press there has always been the temptation to misconstrue or to construct a facade of horrified moral affronted’ness for the purposes of furthering divisions between schools of political thought. The Lib Dems are regarded by many as the specialists in this area, with the ability to be more personally hurt and to exhibit greater hand-wringing outrage than anyone after seeing what they regard as an insensitive comment from a rival political party. I totally accept this, it’s why I usually don’t go there when commenting on social media or in other situations. It’s easy to see a comment from one member of a party and to then take the next step of linking the entire party with the nonsense spouting from one individual.

HOWEVER: when I saw the headlines coming out of Lib Dem conference in Brighton regarding a councillor Dennis Parsons, who had taken up a position of ‘normalising sex work’ and was attempting to justify it, I thought that was a step too far. The councillor made a whole series of comments at a meeting including equating sex work with accountancy as an occupation and suggesting it be part of careers advice at school. In fact Dennis Parsons has now resigned, he seems to agree that it was inappropriate, or else just realised he’d gone too far and continues to hold those views. Either way, he made the phone call and asked for a “dust filter for a Hoover Max Extract® 60 Pressure Pro”. It’s what you do when you have no other option.

Being offended in public on behalf of all the people you assume will want to be protected from the likes of Dennis Parsons is not the way to feel about this. Instead what we must look at is how the man came to be in a position where he felt safe to broadcast his unfiltered thoughts on sex work to a room full of people. Looking at it from this view point is the reason why I don’t regard this the same way as your everyday common or garden party political scandal.

Dennis Parsons did not turn up out of the blue at Liberal Democrat party conference with an out-of-step attitude and an intention to swing a wrecking ball. The party had organised, or allowed and not specifically prevented a special session at conference to discuss sex work. This is the point, the party provided the platform and created the climate where these sorts of views were going to be aired. There is a whole world of difference between this and the usual environment of someone drunk and lonely with a laptop and a facebook account where these sorts of comments usually incubate. The party has disassociated itself with Dennis Parsons, but in this case I believe it is actually the party which is at fault, this is playing the ball (debating the issue), not playing the man (blaming Dennis).

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