Thomas Sutcliffe: Why sexism works in Hillary's favour

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Am I allowed to call Hillary Clinton a witch? I might as well confess, slightly shamefacedly, that the question is now academic. Because I already have called her a witch, several times, usually just after reading yet another report on her increasingly debased campaign to secure the Democratic nomination.

Another confession is probably in order: when it comes to Barack Obama I've pretty much bought the bumper-sticker. His response to the Reverend Wright derailment seemed to me exactly what you would hope for in someone seeking high office – empathetic about the feelings of those who oppose him; prepared to take a risk in refusing simplistic condemnation; trusting that an electorate would want to think about an issue rather than merely have their prejudices parroted back at them. And, while I can see that poetry isn't enough, it doesn't exactly hurt to have a candidate who understands emotional cadence.

When I watched the You Tube anthem which set one of Obama's speeches to music I didn't find it mawkish and exploitative – as several people whose judgement I respect did – I got a lump in the throat at the idea that people might still be moved by a political process. So you can see that, from an admittedly partisan position, I feel the need of something to fling back at the enemy.

"Monster" might do, I guess, given the absolute cynicism with which she has imitated Republican attack techniques. I think it probably trembled on my lips the other day when Hillary sanctimoniously rebuked Obama for his "negative" campaigning – after weeks in which she had deployed innuendo, misrepresentation and mockery against him. But then "monster" has already got one Obama supporter into trouble.

"Liar" would be incontrovertible, given Hillary's inexplicable conversion of a Bosnian meet-and-greet at Tuzla airport into a front-line sortie under sniper fire, though it was less the original "misspeaking" that shocked me in that case than her ability to show her face in public without a paper bag over her head after the lie had been exposed. "Shameless liar", perhaps.

But whatever the epithet is I think it's probably important that it shouldn't contain a whisper of gender-distinction. Misogyny, after all, is one of the Clinton campaign's secret weapons – a means of rebranding legitimate contempt as illegitimate. Camille Paglia may feel able to use a phrase like "Hillary will scratch, claw and morph through every gender trick if it rakes in votes", but it would be an unwise male journalist that would deploy its association of the feline and the feminine.

Obviously "witch" is out anyway, particularly, in my case, because I actually believe Hillary's gender is one of the few things still left in her favour. But if equal opportunities means anything it surely also means equal exposure to invective – and here I do find myself guilty of sexism. If a male candidate had behaved with the same shabby expediency and the same autocue aggression, I wouldn't hesitate to characterise him – in my private mutterings at least – as a "shit" or a "prick".

And yet I can't quite bring myself to use the first of Hillary, and wouldn't dream of adapting the second. Perhaps that's as it should be. The equality should spread the other way and that politesse should be extended to all. Insults such as these shouldn't really be voiced about candidates of either gender. The contempt should always be reserved for the actions not the person. In the case of Hillary Clinton, a whole thesaurus of disgust would then become available.

Flipped out in Folkestone

The sentencing of two men to fines of £350 each and 120 hours of community service for "harassing" a dolphin, after they'd drunkenly swum with it off Folkestone seemed rather harsh to me. Had they manhandled it out of the water, stuck it in a shopping trolley and wheeled it off to McDonald's for breakfast I could understand the punishment. But given that they were out of their depth while the dolphin was in its element, it's hard to feel they had the upper hand.

I have a suspicion that the dolphin could have got away if it had wanted to. The "abnormal behaviour patterns" detected by expert witnesses were probably its way of saying: "Not sure what these things are, but they're a lot more fun than fish."

* I was a little confused by the mass rally of curry-house workers in Trafalgar Square, protesting against EU regulations which will make it more difficult for proprietors to recruit staff from the subcontinent. The Bangladesh Caterers Association says the change has made it difficult to hire trained Bangladeshi cooks and staff –and with second-generation Asians reluctant to work in the catering trade there's a growing staff shortage.

The unstated argument here seems to be that only Bangladeshi cooks and waiters can, or perhaps will, fill these positions – though any explicit racial qualification for a job would be illegal. And since the cuisine has now been comprehensively integrated into British life isn't it time that the creation and serving of it was as well? You don't have to be French to cook French food. You shouldn't have to be from the subcontinent to make – or serve – a decent curry.

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