Thigh-gate and death threats: the sad spectacle of victimhood

Women are leading the charge against Brexit by playing the victim. This is a disaster for equality.

Joanna Williams

Cast your mind back to 1999. All a bit of a blur? Turns out it isn’t for Charlotte Edwardes, formerly of the London Evening Standard, now proudly in possession of a new Sunday Times column to fill. She remembers that year very well indeed. Back then, she was working at the Spectator. At the time, those in the know nicknamed it ‘the Sextator’ in a wink to the tangled mess of bed-hopping sexual shenanigans that went on between the sheets of the oldest continuously published magazine in the English language – all edited and overseen by yet-to-be prime minister, Boris Johnson.

Now, 20 years later, Edwardes alleges that during a private lunch Johnson pinched her thigh ‘high up’ and grabbed ‘enough inner flesh beneath his fingers’ to make her ‘sit upright’ – something he now denies. As the second anniversary of the #MeToo movement comes around, it seems the correct response to this not-at-all shocking revelation isn’t: ‘Who cares?’ Instead, it seems we are supposed to be outraged on behalf of Edwardes.

Labour’s Dawn Butler has led the way in calling for an ‘urgent and thorough’ investigation into the ‘serious allegations of misconduct’. Really? A man with a reputation for philandering, running a magazine known for licentiousness, may or may not have touched a woman’s thigh 20 years ago, and we are meant to be taken aback? Who knows whose thighs, or even how many thighs, happened to be squeezed in that no doubt alcohol-fuelled private lunch? More importantly, why are we hearing about it now?

The #MeToo movement has shown us, time and again, that 20 years ago beautiful young women could use access to powerful men to their advantage – for self-promotion, career advancement, or simply to flirt and have fun – and today, those same beautiful women use the very same experiences to their advantage once more. Only this time, instead of writing themselves into the role of coquette, they star as victim. The exact same opportunities for self-promotion and career advancement arise – only all the better this time because they have the feminist sisterhood firmly onside. This leaves just one question: why didn’t Edwardes speak out about Boris’s roaming hands when #MeToo first took off?

It seems that there are no depths to which women hoping to land a blow against Johnson will not sink. Success carries with it not just a chance of personal glory (and clicks on that new Sunday Times column) but could, far more importantly in the eyes of Remainers, put a stop to Brexit. The narrative that Johnson can’t be trusted around women has long since been established. And over the past week, as attempts to have him thrown out of office and stop Brexit altogether have been ramped up, it is women who have led the charge. The accusations from Edwardes come hot on the heels of news that, as mayor of London, Johnson might have given money and a place on international trade delegations to US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri.

And of course, all of this comes in a week when the message from female Remain-backing MPs is that ‘abuse is virtually constant’. Death threats have become a particular source of performative victimhood enacted for maximum public attention. It was Paula Sherriff, Labour MP for Dewsbury, who summoned the memory of tragically murdered Jo Cox in parliament last week. She followed this up with her own claim in the Guardian that she had received ‘so many, too many, threats to detail. Threats on my life. Rape threats.’ Jess Phillips, never one to miss a passing bandwagon, reports feeling ‘jumpy and worried and frightened’ after receiving death threats. The notoriously outspoken Brummie also tweeted: ‘I’m not scared of an election, I am scared I might be hurt or killed.’ Another Remainer MP, Luciana Berger, joined in: ‘The threats are neverending: you can’t avoid them altogether. [They] range from sinister and abusive to physically threatening.’ Of course, you don’t have to be a Remainer MP to share a death-threat story – the nation’s most famous litigant, Gina Miller, has a plentiful supply, too.

Not only are these high-profile women blaming Boris for the death threats – his language apparently making people do it – but they then admonish him for insensitivity to their plight, for exclaiming ‘Humbug!’ rather than doling out the Kleenex. No doubt it must be distressing to receive a death threat and those that seem plausible should, of course, be taken seriously and reported to the police. However, there is a huge difference between a credible threat from someone who claims to know where you live or has a weapon and a more general, hyperbolic expression of anger from an exasperated constituent. The overwhelming majority of death threats that are reported to the police end in a conviction of harassment or malicious communications, not attempted murder.

This hysterical portrayal of the dangers faced by female MPs and a fresh-faced journalist we are currently being subjected to is clearly motivated by cheap political point-scoring designed to undermine the prime minister and stop Brexit. The hope is no doubt that this storm of allegations will detract from the betrayal of Brexit in the short term.

But in the long term, this move is disastrous for women. Every major victory for women – the right to vote, the right to equal pay, access to abortion and contraception – was won by strong women fighting as the equals of men to be recognised as equals to men. Women who present themselves as vulnerable and ask for protection – either because they can’t cope with hearing harsh words in parliament or they swoon over the memory of their thigh being touched 20 years ago – will end up being treated like children.

Joanna Williams is associate editor at spiked. Her most recent book, Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars, is out now.

Picture by: Getty.

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Tony Collins

5th October 2019 at 3:36 pm

These empty rape & death threats are mostly the equivalent of dirty words & obscenities on the inside of public lavatory doors, made by kids or immature idiots, safely hidden behind the cloak of anonymity and done purely to shock.
This is why the threats are mostly directed at women, being generally more shockable than men.
Why should we grant them a sense of importance they don’t deserve?

Marvin Jones

5th October 2019 at 12:47 pm

People like Boris, whether they are better endowed that the average man, or just use their wealth as an aid to succeed with bedding the opposite sex, have existed since Anthony, Troy, Samson and all the other lucky chaps. This cow waited 20 years to boast about this? anyone know what that scruffy rat, Peston has to do in this witch hunt? One has to be filled with a lot of hatred and bile to even give this sewage another look.

A Game

3rd October 2019 at 9:12 am

“Any passing bandwagon…”. Lol.

When it first broke, yeah, you groan… seriously, this, as a political tactic has been done. But thinking about it, I turned more to the careerist aspect. That her name wasn’t used for the initial headlines, I thought, right, Freddy No-Name wants a profile. I still go with that more than designed to politically derail BoJo.
And as Remainers just use fodder, changing as it gets burnt up, to another piece of fodder. Just keep moving, saying anything, any tactic, just got to keep talking.
If it was a genuine political tactic… um, not reading the room at all. She has been thrown on the “Who cares” pile, without pause.
What I’ve found most interesting is the story stops at the most interesting part. You’ve suggested what probably happened… and the rewards were hers.
He squeezed, you sat bolt upright and… you told him off. You slapped his hand. You made a joke of it, but letting him know that wasn’t on. Or sat there giggling and chuffed that the boss found you fu**able? Cool.
We all know this is unfashionable behaviour, disrespectful, unfair if it is from someone with power over you. But as J Williams describes… not back at the Sextator, 20 years ago.

I just think the problems of these opposition MPs is they just don’t know how to do politics anymore. They don’t know how to make a real argument because they haven’t had to. Corby and Co are all playing the same game. Just throw the clichés around. That they find it acceptable from their female colleagues in the form it is in… shows their contempt for them. They don’t see anything wrong with women acting like this. In fact, its almost as though they’ve unleashed the hounds.

Forlorn Dream

2nd October 2019 at 1:34 pm

I laughed when I heard of this allegation as it’s all too obvious. These days if you want to discredit a man you just need to find then motivate a few women to claim some form of low-level sexual abuse.
The correct response should be laughter as you have them thrown from the building.

harry briggs

2nd October 2019 at 12:48 pm

I watched the Parliament tv that day and have to agree, those female MP’s were a disgrace to women, what is cause for concern though is that it seems the majority of these threats are directed at female and ethnic minority MP’s and that’s clearly wrong, the vile twitter messages, facebook messages and letters should have been sent to all remoaner MP’s and not just women and ethnic minorities just for the sake of fair play, it cannot be coincidence that the Labour run GLA open investigations and the Times reporter accuse Boris of misconduct at this time, along with the planned nonsense over Jo Cox, remoaner MP’s are getting desperate and absent any real political skill they are resorting to character assassination instead.

Marvin Jones

5th October 2019 at 12:54 pm

No matter what the Banshees screech and scream about, there is never a shortage of backers, even when they don’t have a clue about the topic, as long as it is their own. The misunderstanding of this situation does not matter one jot, which intellectually leaves us light years away from real equality.

Uncle Meat

2nd October 2019 at 9:56 am

Todays Guardian reports that female opera singer Jesseye Norman grabbed male pianist Iain Bunside’s thigh in a taxi, “it made my life complete” he gushed!

Marvin Jones

5th October 2019 at 12:55 pm

We GUSH! they wait 20 years for revenge.

Ven Oods

2nd October 2019 at 7:46 am

It’s ‘interesting’ that this story has emerged only now, when BoJo’s been in the public eye for ages, and did two terms as London mayor.
Or am I just far too cynical?

Jim Lawrie

1st October 2019 at 11:48 pm

When Dawn Butler demands “an ‘urgent and thorough’ investigation” she knows there is nothing to investigate. She is calling for further accusations, because this is trial by allegations, not evidence.

H McLean

1st October 2019 at 10:42 pm

It irks me when a strident dupe declares feminism is about equality. As this article clearly demonstrates it is about power. The female MPs who wield more power than the average pleb could ever dream of are strong, confident and independent women until politics and convenience dictates that they are not. How did we get to this point? The truth is we’ve been conditioned to see women as untouchable and completely above criticism, no matter how valid or deserved it may be.

Consider this, every step forward the feminist movement has made has had one goal – releasing women from personal responsibility. And with the advent of second and especially third wave feminism the focus changed from not just saving women from their own bad choices but shifting all responsibility onto men. After all, if it was about equality then there would be copious examples of feminist campaigns and progress that have been for the purpose of improving the lives of men. Yeah, good luck with that.

When it really counts, all notions of equality are discarded and chivalry is the only game in town. Sinking ship? Burning building? Women still elbow their way to the front with the full expectation that they will be saved first and the entitled view that men will unthinkingly give their lives in the process, if required.

Jess Phillips feels scared and worried whenever the occasion calls for it, apparently. Not enough to stop her abandoning her children to the front step of 10 Downing St or threatening to stab her Labour colleagues, or openly giggling at the notion that men might have issues that could be discussed in parliament, though.


1st October 2019 at 10:38 pm

Or maybe Brexit is just a really dumb idea in the first place. Thirty years of solid economic growth in the EU and you still don’t see everything it has given us.

Mike Ellwood

1st October 2019 at 11:17 pm

Well the EU, especially Germany, is about to go into recession, judging by recent figures issued. Good time to cut loose.

Bruce Patterson

2nd October 2019 at 7:16 am

30 years ? Are you mad – the EU central bank raised interest rates in 2010 in response to the GFC – causing mass unemployment across the region

Ven Oods

2nd October 2019 at 7:57 am

“solid economic growth in the EU and you still don’t see everything it has given us…”
Wouldn’t that include global warming?

Jerry Owen

2nd October 2019 at 8:01 am

Z Palmyra
Economics not your strong point then !

Jim Lawrie

2nd October 2019 at 2:17 pm

What 30yrs is that? EU GDP < 11yrs ago, -UK the figures are even worse.

Is there a difference between growth and solid growth? Pray tell.

source –

Jill W

1st October 2019 at 9:10 pm

One of the most horrific images I have seen reported is a rapper during a recent music award ceremony holding an effigy……depicting our serving PM. Given the need to protect our politicians, maybe a wise decision was made not to give this too much coverage. However after the spectacle in the HofC last week, and subsequent media attention, I do see outrage, but it seems inconsistent, focussed elsewhere. Stoicism demonstrated by many MPs should not mean they are fair game, victim blamed, undeserving of empathy while others own all the pain, claiming their rightful place in the hierarchy of victimhood. This is a poor example for the electorate. Yes, we are still here.


1st October 2019 at 10:39 pm

If that’s one of the most horrific things you have seen then I suggest you do not have a lot of life experience.

Jerry Owen

2nd October 2019 at 8:02 am

Was it okay to do though ?

James Knight

1st October 2019 at 8:44 pm

Profumo, it ain’t. I don’t give a toss if he did or did not. It obviously wasn’t important enough to report for 2 decades, I hardly see why it is considered important now.

Allowing people who make threats against MPs to dictate what language we can or cannot use is also MORAL CAPITULATION. People make threats to try to silence people, so to use those threats to try to silence people is the worst response possible. Good to call out the humbug those MPs trying to smear Johnson for inciting violence which he clearly did not. A buffoon and total bell end he maybe, but that is something else.

jessica christon

1st October 2019 at 10:10 pm

And the look on their faces when he said it was priceless. It really wasn’t what they expected – they expected capitulation because that’s what they’re used to. And Nigel Farage almost certainly gets more death threats than they do but they don’t give a monkeys about that.

Clare Simpson

1st October 2019 at 8:07 pm

So Dawn Butler wants an ‘urgent and thorough’ investigation into ‘serious allegations of misconduct’ does she?
How come a middle class, educated, articulate woman like Charlotte Edwardes deserves an urgent and thorough investigation into a thigh grope which she says happened twenty years ago, yet the industrial scale grooming, gang rape and brutalisation of more than a thousand working class girls and young women was ignored for years? The selective outrage of these supposedly left wing women makes me sick.

Jim Lawrie

1st October 2019 at 11:42 pm

Good to be reminded of that.

I would expect a woman to say “he squeezed the top of my leg” – but “grope”? That is further up the scale, sexual assault, rather than an unwanted advance. Words have meanings.

Hugh Bryant

1st October 2019 at 6:53 pm

What is most striking about this is that the article in question really does not read like the work of its supposed author at all, but rather like the sort of badly written soft-core porn that Alistair Campbell used to churn out. Step forward Robert Peston, I think.

michael savell

1st October 2019 at 6:34 pm

This victimology is never taken seriously and that is perhaps the ladies who comment on Spiked are not of that persuasion.Does nobody here ever read radfem sites because this victimhood game is not just a few women determined to get their own way but a concerted attempt at bringing down the whole political system..Never mind that their idea of Patriarchy is,in their minds, still alive and kicking, their end game is that there should be no male authority at all, no men in any area of power whatsoever ,everything must be passed on to the sisterhood.They have been spectacularly successful in the last 40 years in every sphere because the male elite have given them a pass so their sphere of influence has created a nightmare for men especially those who work with children.Check any occupation which had male involvement and read what became of the men who worked in it.The sisterhood is banking on a Corbyn Government but he won’t last too long and then the fun will start.

Hana Jinks

1st October 2019 at 6:18 pm

What a surprise that it’s leftists. They really shouldn’t be allowed out, these women.

Christopher Tyson

1st October 2019 at 6:08 pm

Quoting myself I have said that ‘some find belligerence and passive aggression more palatable coming from a woman’. Spiked’s own Brendan O’Neill was recently rounded on for suggesting that the frustration over Brexit might lead to civil disobedience. Some called for O’Neill to be banned from things, amongst them even Billy Bragg if one of spiked below the line commentators is to be believed. There a guy called Ricky something who’s often on the telly judging talent shows, He was in a band call Kaiser Chiefs (cultural appropriation’s okay for Ricky too), they had a hit with a song called ‘I predict a riot’, people were cool about that. Actually today’s establishment would no doubt regard themselves as on the side of punk, I bet they all love the Clash, who had hits like English Civil War, Guns of Brixton, White Riot, it’s probably easier to list songs by the Clash that weren’t about Guns and fighting. Not long before his death, Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 news did a fawning interview with Mark E Smith (I love Smith’s attitude more than his music to be fair), the current establishment don’t even regard themselves as the establishment, they think that they are cool and countercultural. There’s no shortage of black politicians and ‘community leaders’ who’ve made names for themselves by predicting riots. ‘If you don’t listen to me, give me a grant, an OBE an interview with Channel 4 News, all hell will break out’. Maybe Brendan is the wrong colour to be predicting riots. Quoting myself again I have previously referenced former Blair adviser Jonathan Powell who wrote a book explaining why it is important to talk to terrorists, I said ‘…an adviser to a party who would cross the road to avoid talking to their own working class. Maybe we will have to take up arms before they take us seriously, hopefully it won’t come to that’. No one suggested that I should be banned, I guess maybe there is nothing to ban me from, or maybe I’m just not someone that they’ve heard of or feel the need to worry about, I’m not sure how that happened, I suppose they can always ask Sir Lenny Henry when they want to know what black people are thinking.

Marvin Jones

5th October 2019 at 1:19 pm

Chris, you are a bit too intellectual for them to call for a ban, because they don’t read or understand the topic, they only go by names they have heard of, merely for the hate and spite for thinking differently to these commies.

jessica christon

1st October 2019 at 5:27 pm

The day after the Paula Sheriff/Humbug exchange, Johnson was being interviewed about it and he said something like he takes threats to MPs – especially female MPs – very seriously. To someone who truly believes in equality between the sexes surely this is an overtly sexist and patronising thing to say, yet it sailed by completely unchecked and without any objection from anybody. A man would’ve been no more likely to survive the attack which killed Jo Cox (she was shot and stabbed, there was no contest of physical strength) yet the implication has always been that it was ‘worse’ because she was a woman.

Why is a threat to a woman worse than a threat to a man if you presume equality between the sexes? I think what this speaks to is that barely anyone truly believes in this – in fact, even feminists don’t – because they’re really quite accepting of sexist and patriarchal ideas as long as they’re correctly packaged. If Johnson had said that women MPs are less able to cope with what is par for the course for their male counterparts, he would have been howled all the way down – but that *is* really what he said. Same jam in a different jar.

Ven Oods

2nd October 2019 at 7:51 am

I always assumed that women get more of this stuff, because of all the sad gimps and incels out there.
But that’s just an impression: I’ve not made a study of it.

jessica christon

2nd October 2019 at 12:17 pm

There is probably some of that goes on, but Nigel Farage claims to get the most deaths threats, and I think that’s nearer the truth than someone like Paula Sherriff who isn’t even a household name.

A Game

3rd October 2019 at 9:00 am

V Oods:
Yeah, that is the truth of it… but the use of that truth for the political gain is still so awful. It actually diminishes the pre-Brexit, post-Brexit problem.

Danny Rees

1st October 2019 at 4:39 pm

Now imagine Sadiq Khan had such allegations made against him.

Am sure Spiked would write the same.

Steve Gray

1st October 2019 at 4:15 pm

As discussed by Brendan O’ Neill recently, there is something Stepfordesque about the notion that politics is much too complicated for the likes of Josephine Public and she is best off trusting the men to take care of that, while she concentrates on buying new curtains and looking pretty.

The ironic thing, of course, is that these experts have made a bit of a pig’s ear of things but since they’ve been beyond democratic reach for some time, they only have themselves to blame.

cliff resnick

1st October 2019 at 3:52 pm

We Josephine and Joe public are being subjected a “bitcher’thone” every time we dare to take a peek at the MSM. How journalism has gone to the dogs.

Dominic Straiton

1st October 2019 at 2:44 pm

The flak gets the heaviest as your nearing the target.

Jane 70

1st October 2019 at 2:16 pm

These women and their victim -claiming -status are so boring!! All this is being done-complete with shed loads of manipulative emotional incontinence-to undermine the PM and to stop Brexit.

Why don’t they just cast off the teary,poor me eruptions and try some honesty?

Most of us have been groped during our lives,and fended off unwelcome attentions and yes, some have been seriously disturbing and damaging, but most of us,the lesser folk, get over it,get on with it and wish, most sincerely and frustratedly, that these endless shenanigans would stop!

They should get over themselves and allow democracy to take its course with no more games, distractions and delays.

Claire D

1st October 2019 at 3:01 pm

Entirely agree with you Jane.

The only time I can remember being groped was on a bus in Egypt, when I turned round and shouted at the man the whole bus joined in shouting at him, old ladies thumped him, I almost felt sorry for him. It was hilarious really.

Claire D

1st October 2019 at 3:05 pm

Sorry, that’s a bit of a distraction.

Jane 70

1st October 2019 at 4:11 pm

Good for you! And a very colourful distraction!

In Negative

1st October 2019 at 6:07 pm

@Claire – hopefully you’re still reading the woke thread, but if not, I’ve left you an explanation of my seemingly obnoxious “turn off the internet” comment there. Was me and my clumsy, short on time way of expressing myself.

Claire D

2nd October 2019 at 4:33 am

In Negative, yes I have responded on the Woke thread, not to worry, typical social media misunderstanding, all too easy, best wishes.

Marvin Jones

5th October 2019 at 1:29 pm

It is their kind of PTSD. If they had a modicum of confidence and resolve to treat an act like this as part of life to be dealt with, in the case of Julia Hartley Brewer, who told Michael Fallon to remove his hand or she would punch him in the mouth, or yourself, but instead squeal to Bercow and the sentimental cowards of the house.

Jim Lawrie

1st October 2019 at 1:37 pm

“‘I’m not scared of an election, I am scared I might be hurt or killed.’ Are women MP’s to be exempted from having to stand for re-election? Will we see them with rock ‘n’ roll style security retinues, acting out their importance, well insulated from what they really fear, the electorate?

Jerry Owen

1st October 2019 at 12:58 pm

Can the woman in question remember the time, day, and month she was pinched ?
We are talking twenty years ago for goodness sakes, it’s embarrassing to listen to these women.
A Sky news anchor woman ( don’t know her name ) at the tory conference asked Boris about this claim , he rebutted it outright and tried to move on , which any normal person would think that’s that then let’s here about their manifesto , but no , said anchor woman said to Boris ‘ but I have to go back to this claim ‘ .
No she didn’t.


1st October 2019 at 12:58 pm

Treated like children – does that mean getting a free ride to New York on a Formula 1 racing yacht and an audience with the UN General Assembly?

Jane 70

1st October 2019 at 4:32 pm

Only if you’re wealthy ,annoying ,Swedish and suffering.

Jim Lawrie

1st October 2019 at 11:48 pm

You mean a poor little rich girl?

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