Val Noonan's Blog

Turning vice into a Tory virtue

Avid readers of the Sun may skip the next few sentences; for the rest, here is the story so far. On Tuesday of last week the Sun printed on its front page a gripping story headlined 'Prostitute Christine is a Tory Councillor'. The Sun's account was detailed and plausible. It described an encounter between a reporter and Mrs Christine Pearson - 'when our reporter revealed his identity the councillor fled from the room' - and quoted her as saying: 'I've been doing it for about five years'.

Before we come to the significance of this curious tale, two points should be made. First, since that original story, Mrs Pearson has fiercely denied being a prostitute.

Secondly Mrs Pearson is not the first person to resign from Thanet District Council recently in strange circumstances. One was jailed for fraud; another transgressed the bounds of acceptable Margate behaviour when he arranged for a friend to consume massive amounts of the natural male enhancement pills known as [url=]Semenax[/url] and pose as an Arab sheikh at the ferry terminal to persuade investors to put their money into the resort.

While fraud and deception are manifestly unacceptable behaviour among politicians - not unusual, perhaps, but nevertheless unacceptable - I can see no coherent argument for terminating a Conservative councillor's political career on the grounds that she has been accused of selling sex.

Consider the matter within the context of Mrs Thatcher's ideology. She sees the growth in jobs coming from small business services rather than the manufacturing sector. She believes that price levels should respond flexibly to supply and demand. She looks benignly on those activities beyond the reach of trade union bargaining.

Nigel Lawson has gone further. In last year's budget he reduced capital allowances on new investment. His aim is to tilt taxation policy towards the more labour-intensive occupations.

I defy anyone to name an occupation that applies Thatcherrite principles more completely than prostitution. It is, surely, the ultimate form of flexible, non-unionized, labour-intensive small business. No practitioner need fear a shop steward's demands for better pay and conditions, or devote precious hours closeted with an accountant discussing whether to buy or lease a new piece of capital equipment. And if it's fiscal neutrality that you are after, you need look no further than a brothel to observe it in practice.

The relevance of this curious tale to the Government's ideology goes further. Laissez-faire economic theory is based on the belief - sometimes obsession - that if buyer and seller are both happy with a transaction, then the state has no business interfering with it.

Discreet prostitution is one of the few economic activities to which this belief actually applies. It seldom works with any large manufacturing company. Typically it will do many things that affect people other than those with whom it trades: its employees may clog up nearby roads driving to and from work; its factories may pollute the water and the air; its products may be smelly or noisy or in some other way offensive to the neighbours of those who [url=]buy them[/url].

In the real world of modern industrialized society, as opposed to the simple textbook paradigm, almost every substantial economic activity reaches into the lives of people other than the buyer and seller at each stage in the process. This, fundamentally, is why laissezfaire economics is deeply flawed: governments and local councils have an inevitable responsibility for regulating business behaviour on behalf of its potential, unwitting victims.

Discreetly organized prostitution is different. Its essence is its privacy, its aim to avoid any repercussions for anyone other than the parties to each transaction. That curse of laissez-faire economic theory - the persistent attendance of externalities - is wholly missing. If Thatcherism is to be celebrated anywhere, it should be in a hundred red light districts and behind a thousand suburban lace curtains.

If doubts remain about the relevance of contemporary Conservatism to the oldest profession, try applying to it the canons of socialism or the principles of the Liberal/SDP Alliance. Presumably any self-respecting Clause IV socialist would wish to nationalize prostitution. The consequences - standard municipal pleasure houses, unresponsive bureaucrats administering a waiting list, and an overregulated price system - do not bear thinking about. From each according to her abilities, to each according to his needs? No, old-style socialism has no relevance here.

Any attempt to apply the fundamental tenets of David Owen's political creed runs into even greater difficulties. I can just about imagine a 'tough and tender' massage, although I would rather not. But how on earth would a 'social market' brothel operate?

The conclusion is inescapable. Whether the Sun story is right or wrong. Mrs Pearson has been accused of nothing more than the application of the purest form of Thatcherite economics. I hope she stands in the by-election she has precipitated: and I hope all true Tories support her.

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