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ODD ONE OUT

“I am not a dinosaur,” insists the MP who blocked Britain’s ban on “upskirting”

Olivia Goldhill
By Olivia Goldhill

Investigative reporter

One British politician has single-handedly blocked a bill that would criminalize “upskirting” in the UK. Politicians had planned to make the practice of surreptitiously taking sexual images, often by photographing up women’s skirts, punishable by two years in jail. On June 15, they were stopped by Conservative party MP Christopher Chope.

Chope’s decision to seemingly protect perverts’ interests at the expense of women’s privacy was met with anger from those from all political parties. But the 71-year-old MP has defended himself, claiming these attacks are unfair.

“I feel a bit sore about being scapegoated over this,” he told Bournemouth Daily Echo, a local paper that serves his constituency of Christchurch, in Dorset. “The suggestion that I am some kind of pervert is a complete travesty of the truth. It’s defamatory of my character and it’s very depressing some of my colleagues have been perpetuating that in the past 48 hours.”

Chope said he hadn’t done detailed research on upskirting before opposing the bill, but supports criminalizing upskirting in theory. He objected because it was a Private Members’ Bill, he said, meaning it was introduced by an MP who hasn’t been appointed by the Prime Minister to cover a specific area of legislation. Only one MP need cry “object” to stop a Private Members’ Bill from proceeding, which is why Chose was able to have such unilateral influence.

Chope has long campaigned against Private Members’ Bills, believing that only those appointed by the Prime Minister should be able to introduce legislation. “The government cannot just bring in what it wants on the nod. We don’t quite live in the Putin era yet,” he told Bournemouth Daily Echo. But he says he’d support moves to make upskirting illegal if it was introduced by the Conservative government.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said she plans to do just that. And so, despite Chopes’s intervention, upskirting should soon become illegal in Britain.

This isn’t the first time Chope has been decidedly out of step with contemporary society. The MP previously objected to pardoning computer scientist Alan Turing for “gross indecency” in 1952 for having a gay relationship, and referred to members of staff as “servants.” But, though Chope was criticized by members of his own party, he said he has no plans to retire from politics.  “I am not a dinosaur,” he insisted.

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