Harman denies conflict over rape law

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The Independent Online

Her brief spell in charge of the country has been marked by Cabinet fall-outs and accusations that she was attempting to launch a leadership bid. But Harriet Harman warned yesterday that she has no intention of changing her outspoken approach.

Labour's deputy leader said she was not about to become a "shrinking violet" in the wake of a tumultuous fortnight that has seen her demand reforms to her party's leadership structure, chastise the City for its lack of women executives, and force through a major revision of new rape laws.

Ms Harman told the BBC's Woman's Hour that she would not "tippy toe" around the issues over which she felt strongly but added that she was "absolutely not" making a pitch for the leadership. Ms Harman said: "If I had been tippy-toeing around I never would have raised the issue of should we have a criminal offence for men who exploit prostitutes and who exploit victims of human trafficking. Sometimes things start as a controversy and then they become conventional wisdom." She also tried to play down reports that she had overruled the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, and Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, by widening the scope of a review of rape laws, delaying its publication until the autumn. "What there is going to be is a lot of action to tackle rape. It is not true that there's been conflict in Government on this."

However, she acknowledged that she and Lord Mandelson, the de facto deputy Prime Minister, operated in "different eco-systems" amid rumours that the pair had clashed over reforms to maternity leave and flexible working.

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