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Lords, MPs go down on to the Erotic Awards

Hob-knobbing with the hoi polloi, fighting for your freedom. With flying penises

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Or as Lord Faulkner put it, echoing analysis carried out by El Reg earlier this year: “Government research on the topic is bogus: this legislation is based on a lie.”

The atmosphere of the event was oddly wistful — reminiscent, perhaps of how Londoners must have felt during the phony war, when hostilities were expected any minute, but hadn’t actually commenced. The politicians and campaigners were painfully aware that although this government’s mandate may now be time-limited, it still has the capability to wreak immense damage.

Legislation on prostitution in the last session of parliament was pushed back because those opposed to it argued that it could be brought forward for more thoughtful consideration in this session. The new session has arrived, and so has the revised and extended legislation. For the other side, academic and campaigner for the rights of working women, Belinda Brooks-Gordon, suggested that the opposition to government proposals was also far readier than it had been a year ago.

So where’s the IT angle? Apart from legislation on extreme porn, this event is also the antithesis of a trend that is both uniquely British and seriously chilling both in terms of how people use the net in future, and how we are allowed to express ourselves more generally.

One of the most perceptive comments of the evening came from performance artist, “Mouse”. She said: “The UK is pants. Over the last ten years, we have just gone backwards sexually. A lot of things are going underground. Although from a completely selfish point of view that’s not all bad — it just means people pay more to see me perform.”

In other words, the present government has presided over a decade of growing puritanism, which in turn is fertile ground for legislation on porn, on prostitution, and yes, for much broader regulation of the internet.

One of the reasons Labour has been able to get away with this is a view the Reg has encountered many times when talking to members of the Lower House — they simply dare not argue the case for sexual freedom because they are afraid of how it would be portrayed to the electorate. Much of what is being proposed or passed into Law at present may – just — have majority support. But only just. Yet, if one listens to debates in the House of Commons, there is almost no opposition.

Whilst the noble Lords could not agree quite on the solution – Baroness Miller teased Lord Faulkner with the suggestion that proportional representation might help – it does underscore the need to retain a body such as the Lords. Because at present, almost the only people prepared to put their necks on the line for topics that won’t play well with the Daily Mail sit in that House, not the Commons. ®

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