But there are limits in civilised society, even for the master of bon môts Winston Churchill, who, after being accused of drunkenness by a lady, replied: "Madam, you are ugly: tomorrow I will be sober". Another apocryphal story has him confronted by a female politician who called him a "toothless bulldog on a tattered union jack"; he replied that, as much as he disagreed with the lady, he would hesitate to call her a dog.
Yesterday, the Telegraph's Tom Whitehead reported a Government press release stating the principle that "it is wrong to hit girls" would be included in schoolchildren's education as part of an initiative to combat violence against women. Very laudable, of course - witness the high-profile case in the US this year when singer Rihanna, used as a punchball by her boyfriend Chris Brown, briefly returned to him. But given that this comes in Labour's twelfth year of power, I wondered how women were faring against man's other best friend (or at least his equal in terms of dependence and intelligence).
Labour was elected on 2 May 1997, with a manifesto commitment for a Parliamentary vote on whether hunting with hounds should be banned by legislation.
Vulpes vulpes, the red fox, is a member of the Canidae family and is therefore a cousin of Rover, Rex and even Afterglow The Big Tease. Two years after Labour took power, then Home Secretary Jack Straw instigated a six month governmental enquiry into foxhunting, and after great deliberation and an Amazon of documents, hunting with hounds (ie traditional foxhunting) was made illegal in England and Wales in 2004.
It was, of course, a political move: Labour had identified its traditional base as subsisting in cities, and didn't see itself losing many votes in pandering to its those traditional prejudices of its members involving rural matters.
Just so, the 1997 manifesto, while stating that "Labour has taken the lead in proposing action to tackle the problems of stalking and domestic violence" (17 words), also promised that "We will ensure greater protection for wildlife. We have advocated new measures to promote animal welfare, including a free vote in Parliament on whether hunting with hounds should be banned by legislation" (32 words, before a bizarre paragraph on angling).
The 2001 Labour Party manifesto has nothing to say on domestic violence, but continues to rattle the class-war sabre:
The House of Commons elected in 1997 made clear its wish to ban fox-hunting. The House of Lords took a different view (and reform has been blocked). Such issues are rightly a matter for a free vote and we will give the new House of Commons an early opportunity to express its view. We will then enable Parliament to reach a conclusion on this issue. If the issue continues to be blocked we will look at how the disagreement can be resolved. We have no intention whatsoever of placing restrictions on the sports of angling and shooting.In 2005, the pendulum started to swing back, with nothing on hunting, but the promise of "Expanding specialist courts to deal with domestic violence and specialist advocates to support the victims of such crime and of other serious crimes like murder and rape" (27 words).
But 27 words do not a safer country for women make. At a recent course I attended on domestic violence, a shocked hush fell over the room a the trainer, a powerful, passionate and energetic speaker, informed us that in Britain there were 300-odd womens' shelters, and over 3000 homes for stray or rescued dogs.
While the question of whether it's better for a fox to be killed by dogs or by snare is a vexed issue by itself, my blood runs cold at the thought of Labour politicians using the issue of violence against women as a vote-gathering stunt, and doing so by the classical Platonic top-down method; by casting every boy as a wife-beater. There are already educational means in place, and all those MPs, including Labour ones, who quietly work to keep them in place and improve upon them must be praised. For example, when I returned from the domestic violence course, the first thing I said to Minora was that if she meets a boy whose last girlfriend does not have a name but is constantly referred to as "bitch" and such epithets, she should walk. "Da-ad!" she replied. "That's what the teachers tell us!"
A friend told me recently she'd had her Chinese Horoscope done, resulting in her being a Dog of some composition. I refrained from commenting, but wondered if she should thank her lucky stars.
Related post: Women and children first