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Why there was nothing wrong with Jeremy Corbyn suggesting women-only carriages

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  • "Jeremy Corbyn faces backlash over women-only train carriages idea" - The Guardian.
  • "Corbyn's women-only carriage plan comes in for criticism" - ITV News.
  • "Labour leadership rivals condemn Corbyn's women-only train carriages suggestion - BT.com.

Just a fraction of the headlines condemning Labour leadership favourite Jeremy Corbyn for his idea that women should have their own carriages on trains to avoid unwanted sexual harrassment. A throwback to the era of segregation from an out-of-touch, sexist, 'loony lefty' who wants to take us back to the three-day week and eating coal for tea?

Not quite.

In fact, read Corbyn's actual words and he says the following: 

"Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women-only carriages. My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone."

Adding:

"I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcomed."

In short: he'd ask people what they thought about the situation and what would make them feel safer, and then consider that. Exploring all options.

Meanwhile, leadership rival Andy Burnham has come under fire for saying that Labour should have a woman leader, “in time, when the time is right”.

Supporters of Yvette Cooper, among others have decried the MP as being sexist, with Labour MP Diana Johnson saying, "are we really saying we don’t think a woman can do the top job? I think the big question to Andy is:If not now, then when?”

Which is a question that essentially asks Burnham to stand down from his own run for leader. Realistically, what is he supposed to answer other than: "Well, probably just after I've had a go?" Nonetheless, he's now been tagged by many on Twitter as an outdated sexist.

Is this really the level of political debate, analysis of material and public response that we are now at? While there's nothing wrong with the odd exaggerated headline to draw people in from time to time, the utter absurdity of both of these witch-hunts, mixed with lashings of outrage, is hard to believe.

Political sniping is nothing new - Burnham was in a no-win situation: if he says the next leader should be a woman he'd be accused of throwing the towel on his own prospects; if he doesn't, he's a sexist pig. 

The Corbyn 'crisis' however is altogether more worrying: no wonder politicians are terrified of ever thinking outside the box or giving their opinion when this is the response.

Corbyn's comments were perfectly legitimate - he wasn't saying that women-only carriages are the answer - far from it, he seemingly does not support the idea - but merely wanted to open up the debate, like an adult, to consider absolutely every possible mechanism that might help tackle an important and, sadly, enduring problem.

While many dismiss the idea as ludicrous, they also overlook the fact that it's something that operates, successfully, in Japan, Brazil and India so - while it may not be the solution, while it may even be a step backwards, it's hardly an idea beamed in from outer space.

Various parts of the media have always been biased one way or the other, and will report the same event with a different slant, but the propagation of outright untruths, which gather pace via social media and the rest, soon becoming widely-accepted 'fact' is undoubtedly growing.

All that results is a narrowing of politics, with people too scared to suggest anything too far from the mainstream centre for fear of being misrepresented. And that does no one any good at all.

Great ideas can come immediately in the footsteps of stupid ones, and brainstorming is, without doubt, often a useful tool to get the debate going.

It'd be wise for us all not to forget that.

(Image: Rex)

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