Low life

Lord Rennard's hand-brushing is nothing. I'll tell you what true violation is

'I will demonstrate to you, Jeremy, that there is infinitely greater pleasure in making love with a man than with a woman.'

22 February 2014

9:00 AM

22 February 2014

9:00 AM

‘In my opinion,’ says Alistair Webster QC, author of the Liberal Democrats’ internal report into Lord Rennard’s droit de seigneur-style pulling technique, ‘the evidence of behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants was broadly credible.’ I’ll tell you what behaviour that violates personal space is.

I was on a Nile cruise press trip: Aswan to Luxor. We were three hacks and a woman from the PR company. We’d done Edfu, Kom Ombo, Karnak, Thebes, the Valley of the Kings. In bed at night, if I shut my eyes tightly, I could see hieroglyphics emblazoned on the insides of my eyelids.

Our last night was spent at one of Cairo’s better hotels. The other two hacks were abstemious. The PR woman was permanently on duty. Every night had been an early night. I was ready for a good drink and this looked like a good place to have one. We dined with the hotel manager at a table in an enormous banqueting hall of gilt and polished marble.


He sat next to me. He was a courteous, civilised, sceptical man with Cupid’s bow lips and a feminine delicacy in the way he held his cigarettes low down between his middle fingers. In both appearance and spirit he reminded me of the Alexandrian poet C.P. Cavafy, of whom I am a devotee. He drank steadily and smoked throughout the five courses, eating little, and his staff attended to him with grave respect, replacing his ashtray with a clean one after each cigarette. His English was perfect and his conversation ranged far and wide. He had tried all the mainstream religions, he said, and believed Hinduism to be the most profound. Tomorrow he was leaving for a week of solitary contemplation in the Sinai desert. While grinning dancers thrust their tasselled bellies at us, he successfully flattered me by listening with concentrated stillness and attentiveness to my glottal-stopped inanities as though I were a Solomon or a Kant.

We talked intensely throughout the meal. The others, after a week in each other’s faces, were glad to watch the show. Finally, pushing his dessert bowl wearily aside, he lit yet another cigarette, regarding me with a slightly fatuous glint in his eye. ‘But tell me, Jeremy,’ he said, ‘have you ever made love with a man?’

I was a pretty boy as a teenager and so I was happy to have, and well practised at, the conversation which I now knew was coming up. ‘No,’ I said. He leant back in his chair, placed a hand over his heart and studied me with patient amusement. ‘Why not?’ he said. ‘Too busy,’ I said. ‘Come with me to my bed tonight,’ he said. ‘I have an uninterrupted view of the pyramids, and I will make love to you like you have never been made love to before. I will demonstrate to you, Jeremy, that there is infinitely greater pleasure in making love with a man than with a woman. Come. Please. Open your mind.’

The others, true to form, hared off to their beds as soon as was decently possible. I stayed to drink. I had only to look significantly at a waiter and seconds later another drink would arrive. Marvellous. Meanwhile the manager pleaded, cajoled, insisted, argued, begged and mocked until he became boring about it. Finally he tried subterfuge. ‘Come to my office,’ he said. ‘I have something very interesting to show you.’ I scoffed. He held up a hand to bid the universe stop for a moment while he solemnly swore there would be no funny business.

His office was just off the palatial marble foyer. As we went in he slammed the door behind me and launched himself at me. He pinned me against the door with fanatical strength and clamped his cherubic lips on to mine. His strength amazed me, and it took the entirety of mine to prise his face away and then force the rest of him off. And then he came back at me with even greater fury than before and I had to wrestle him to the ground. He fought me every centimetre of the way. He was so strong I wondered whether mine wasn’t going to be enough and I’d have to get my thumb in his eye. And then his strength gave out and I got up off the floor and made it through the door. I’d walked perhaps ten yards across the marble to where a concierge was standing behind a desk, when the manager came flying out of his office, slipped over and glided for a good five yards on his shirt front along the marble. I looked at the concierge. He looked back at me as if to say, ‘What?’

Now that is having one’s personal space violated. It is not, surely, having a hand brush against your leg so lightly that it is uncertain whether it was intended or not.

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  • Andy Mayer

    Jeremy, what you are describing is an allegation of sexual assault, potentially attempted rape by a stranger. That is indeed extremely serious. The relativism in comparison to the allegations against the Liberal Democrats former Chief Executive, which he denies, however is ill-judged.

    That dispute is principally around abuse of power, harassment, abuse of due process, and hypocrisy, not the detail of alleged offences, currently known in great detail, only to the Police and independent investigator.

    What happened to you is appalling and in most modern states would have led to the accused’s arrest, rightly. What is alleged to have happened to several Liberal Democrats candidates, volunteers and staff, may end up changing the sleazy culture in some parts of of British politics. It will make some politicians and their professional help think twice about using the candidate casting couch.

    That surely is to be welcomed and treated seriously, not trivialised as “nothing”?

  • Doggie Roussel

    Er… I thought I was reading the Spectator then thought I might have tuned into the Gay Times But, Jeremy, this is a mea culpa too far… I doubt I will be able to digest tomorrow morning’s breakfast and Cairo is now definitely scrubbed from my bucket list….

  • Michael H Kenyon

    Frankly, many of us chaps have been in a similar predicament, and had to extricate ourselves from such situations with with both finesse and force. I’m glad of my aged corpulence and declining looks.

  • Llamamum

    Now try the same story – only you’re a girl. See? You would not have won the tussle. You would have been raped. If you’d told anyone you would have been blamed for staying up late and drinking with a man. Not only in Egypt. And definitely for going into his office with him. Even if you were a flattered, entertained 22-year-old. Happens all the time. Yes, really. All the time. And he would be defended by those who don’t see how such a charming gentleman could possible be a rapist. So (see ‘blamed’ above) we don’t tell anyone.

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