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Yes, let’s have a debate about teenage sex and the age of consent

17 November 2013

3:01 PM

17 November 2013

3:01 PM

Whenever a public figure says ‘we need a debate here’, as Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, has done, it doesn’t need much in the way of translation to interpret this as ‘let’s change the law to my way of thinking’. Alas, the debate he started so promisingly about lowering the age of consent to 15, with the pundits all nicely worked up, has been nipped cruelly in the bud by Downing Street. David Cameron, possibly taking the view that he has upset social conservatives quite enough with the gay marriage issue, has said the government isn’t going there. And given that Labour policy is getting quite a bit of direction from Jon Cruddas just now, I wouldn’t have thought that Labour will be touching this one either. It remains, as ever, for the Lib Dems to stir things up.

But since Prof Ashton would like a debate, let’s have one. His case seems to be premised on the notion that since about a third of young people are already having sex before 16, they should be able to do so legally.  He’s right about the sex of course. And it’s worth remembering that Spain lifted the age of consent from 12 only recently, which puts this discussion rather in context. There is, I may say, quite a lot of literary evidence to suggest that for much of British history, a 15-year-old girl would probably have been most men’s ideal bedmate. But then, until 1885, when the legal limit was raised from 13 to 16 to deal with the problem of child prostitution (which is still with us), the interest of the child wasn’t much discussed.


Simply shifting the age of consent to regularise what’s actually happening doesn’t necessarily leave us with an age of consent at 15, Prof Ashton’s preferred limit, you know. We could quite easily end up with the barrier put at 13 or 14, on the basis that this is the point at which lots of teenagers are starting to engage in sex. The Prof himself says that lowering the age of consent by a year would ‘draw a line in the sand’ against any possibility it might fall further. Well, the thing about lines in the sand is that they’re impermanent; why 15 should be any more sacrosanct than 16 isn’t clear.

Rather confusingly he’s also, like the PM, very exercised about the sexualisation of childhood and to protect them from ‘physical and mental abuse’ in relationships. I can’t quite see, myself, how lowering the age of consent is going to make the sexualisation of children less likely; if it affects the commercialisation of sex at all, it would probably go the other way. He is also emphatic that countries that have lower ages of consent have lower early teenage pregnancy rates; well, I’m not at all sure that this is what counts here. The one factor that really does militate against girls having sex too early is growing up with their own father in a two parent family, but I’m not sure we can legislate for that.

Let’s accept his contention that there are an awful lot of teenagers simply ignoring the law as it stands and that it would be a nuisance if every instance of fifteen year olds fornicating ended up in court. As Prof Ashton says, ‘they are doing it and we need to support and protect them’. What the legal position does do is to give us the option of taking the matter very seriously indeed when we want to. And what gives most parents the creeps is the notion of adult predators engaging in sex with children barely over the threshold of consent. We’re talking here, of course, of gay as well as straight predators, because the age of consent is the same for homosexual as well as heterosexual intercourse. The age of consent is a rough and ready way of protecting children from sexual exploitation; it’s there if we need to invoke it.

I suppose there are some 15 year olds who are mature about sex and relationships and lots of 16 year olds who aren’t. (And there is, obviously, quite a difference between someone just turned 16 and someone just before their 17th birthday.) But if we have to have a limit somewhere, 16 is probably the point where we’d assume that most teenagers are able to work out the consequences of what they’re doing and mature enough to tell a much older man trying to pressurise them into having sex where to get off. It’s arbitrary, of course, but that’s the thing about legal limits. I’m talking here, I may say, about what’s good enough for other people. My own children are half dozen a years and more away from all this but if I thought they were likely to have sex at sixteen, I’d lock them up.

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Show comments
  • Yarny O’Knitman

    I teach in a Category C prison. Four of the brightest, nicest and most able men I work with are teachers in for allowing 15 year olds to fall in love with them.

  • Emily Gblatt

    It’s just so true that 15 is just as arbitrary a figure as 16. What has come to light in this discussion over the last few days, from various sources, is that the age of consent does vary, hugely, across countries even just within Europe. I watched a philosophical debate on this topic recently where they imagine the consequences of abolishing the age limit altogether. Here’s a link if you’re interested, I’d like to know peoples’ thoughts.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Better hurry up and also make it retrospective, before all those aging rockers are charged with child abuse.

  • Frank Dux

    Really? You would “lock them up”? Pray tell, how old were you the first time?

  • Betty

    I think the age of consent should be lowered to 13 or 14 ,its just to stop teen having family and to depopulate the planet,so rich people can rob the resources of poor people .Germany and Netherlands have the age of of 14 and there doing fine

  • Andy M

    I don’t suppose this will be the popular opinion on these forums, but I am completely for completely reworking the Age of Consent laws, because they are flawed in every sense.

    Firstly, let’s take the obvious fact that they aren’t the same in each country. Now this immediately throws out any moralistic arguement, because not every country can be right and yet each one has laws that are different. There is no way of proving that our law is morally correct over another country that has an Age of Consent of 14, for example, and nor is there any way of proving that the US law of Age of Consent of 18 is morally superior to our law of 16, etc. etc. etc.

    So really the only arguement can be that it is to protect individuals from being forced into something they aren’t mentally able to decide for themselves. The trouble with this is that this is related to mental health as much as it is mental maturity. There are individuals of all ages who could be deemed mentally unfit to consent to something – and I am not referring to people who are mentally ill to a degree that they need care. There are plenty of people who fully function in society, who suffer from mental health issues, many of which lead them to behave in ways and expose themselves to things which others in society would find deeply troubling. With that in mind it seems obvious that the crucial thing to do here is not to stipulate a random age that will never be accurate for all individuals, but to have clear criteria for what constitutes the mental and physical ability to give consent, at whatever age. The obvious factor will be fertility and physical development. If someone is not physically developed to the proper degree to fully function sexually, this is clearly the first legal limit. Then mental and emotional readiness would be the second factor. We over-analyse almost everything these days, we have stipulations, checks, red tape and criterion in every walk of life, so why is it always with this area that people refuse to look in more detail, rather than just arbitrarily deciding a random age?

    Let’s remember that many countries are different. They have a variety of ages which are deemed correct as the Age of Consent. Not only does that rule out a moralistic arguement, but it also means that randomly stipulating a single specific age is completely unscientific. We need to look closer.

  • Ian Walker

    Perhaps what is needed is two ages of consent – a lower one for which there is a lesser offence when committed with someone of a similar age (perhaps up to two or three years older) and an upper one where full responsibility can be assumed?

    No-one except the most prudish wants to prosecute a pair of 15 year olds having a teenage fumbleusing the full force of the law – that’s where parents should be responsible. But equally no-one wants Britain to turn into a haven for Europe’s creeps to come and scoop up girls and boys only three years out of primary school and lead them who knows where.

  • Daniel Crowley

    Why even have an age of consent? If there’s an assault commited, then bring it up with the law. If not, then don’t bother. No victim = no crime.
    The reason why we have so many underage pregnancies is because we keep young people as children for too long, so they they do not learn responsibility or how to excercise their rights. They’re dependent on ‘adults’ for everything. We have raised a race of giant babies.
    If a 12yo and a 17yo decide to get married and spent the rest of their life together, then what does it matter? Go back to traditional marriage customs, and that will prevent abuse; parents, priest and community must be involved (marriage banns and all that).

    • Oliver Pereira

      A priest and marriage banns? How quaint. What if, as is increasingly the case these days, the young couple are not religious? What, for that matter, if they don’t want to get married? What if they have an intimate relationship outside marriage? Should they be punished for their extramarital union?

      Nobody is going to turn the clock back to Victorian times, however much you yearn for it.

      • Daniel Crowley

        Well if they are not religious, then why would they want to get married? It is, after all, a religious ceremony. And if they don’t want to get married they don’t have to, they can go on living in sin and deal with the consequences of that.

        Let people deal with the consequences of their actions. If they want to mess up their life then leave them to it. People will soon realise that we have these institutions for a reason.

        It was after the WWI & II that families were left without adults to pass down the traditions that kept society going. So by time the post-war babies grew up in the 60’s, nobody had any idea why we had all these ‘stuffy and quaint’ traditions. Since then we’ve had an unending river of degeneracy and look at the state of society now.

        • Oliver Pereira

          Are you pulling my leg? Have you been asleep for two hundred years? There has been a civil institution of marriage in England and Wales since 1837.

          Look at the state of society now? I’m pretty sure that it’s in a better state now than it was in 1837.

          But as long as you’re not calling for people to be punished for extra-marital relations, you can’t be all bad, so I’ll just roll my eyes and leave you to wallow in your reactionary fantasy.

          • Daniel Crowley

            Technology masks decline. People are not better now. They are worse. Think of all the things that people do now that would have been unthinkable in 1837. I’m pretty sure children weren’t talking about their sexual preferences, coming out as gay or transexuals. Men and women who sleep around and spread disease were ostracized. There were no fat people. Marriage was a sacred thing. People were civil to eachother.

            But no, everything is better now, of course.

            • Fergus Pickering

              There were no fat people? How did G.K. Chesterton come about? And in the US there was President Taft. Pretty god President too. And Churchill was no sylph. What a lot of tripe you do talk, to be sure. And nowadays most people have their own teeth.

              • Daniel Crowley

                He was a skinny sod by todays standards. They were ‘portly men’, hardly obese by todays standards. Have a google for
                Leonard “Baby” Bliss.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Heavens. An unending river of degeneracy. And now we are swinging from the trees. If only we could go back to days before universal suffrage. That ought to do it. It’s the women’s fault, you see. The muslims have got one thing right.

      • Daniel Crowley

        Don’t take this the wrong way, but are you Jewish by any chance?

        • Oliver Pereira

          Er, no. Why would I be? That is a very strange question. And by saying, “Don’t take this the wrong way,” you certainly give a strong impression that you meant it in the wrong way.

          • Daniel Crowley

            You kind of talk like a Jew, is all. You kind of look like a merchant, too. Ah you must just be a run of the mill socialist then.

  • greggf

    “….. it would be a nuisance if every instance of fifteen year olds fornicating ended up in court.”

    But mothers under sixteen are a big “nuisance” by most standards, so surely they (and their partners) should be prosecuted if only that it might deter others.

  • Eddie

    The fact is that Britain has the highest rate of single parent families and the highest rate of teenage pregnancy. The two are not unconnected. Girls with no fathers at home even start puberty 6 months before those who do have fathers at homes, and their consequent behaviour is more promiscuous.

    That is the real debate to be had here – not silly academics wanting to make a name for themselves spouting theoretical nonsense. Perhaps we need to strengthen the family and reintroduce a concept of shame and fear to some girls too – they have the power here; not the boys. The girls can say no. Why don’t they?

    The age of consent is there anyway really to protect people (mostly girls) from exploitation – though it didn’t seem to help those 13 year old girls passed around Asian gangs, did it?

    Also, why use such a silly photo? That ridiculous habit of Italians and others of putting padlocks on bridges to express love is bizarre and silly and ugly. And nothing to do with underage anything either…

  • Roberto Machado

    I am not for the lowering of the age of consent. I do not believe a child can make an adult decision at such an young age. I also think the age a chile can be tried as an adult should be raised to the age of consent for the same reason.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Mixed messages. A regime that “normalises” physical relationships without moral constraints by delivering s** education in schools at earlier and earlier ages on “health” grounds whilst at the same time complaining about the s**alisation of children on “moral” grounds. The dichotomy in that can’t be unravelled by mature adults let alone schoolchildren.

    • Oliver Pereira

      I see no dichotomy there. There is no reason why young people cannot be taught about moral concerns alongside the teaching of the physical processes and the potential risks to health.

      • Colonel Mustard

        But are they? What “moral concerns” are delivered as part of s** education in schools? Concerns expressed “confidentially” to counsellors involving premature s** activity are not reportable as offences. So the regime colludes in activity that it condemns elsewhere.

        • Oliver Pereira

          I tried to reply to this a couple of hours ago, but my comment went straight into some sort of moderation process and has not yet come out the other end, so I fear it may have been lost. I will try again.

          I’m afraid that I may have misunderstood your comment. I thought you were saying that educating young people about the procreative act necessarily implied an absence of moral teaching. I only meant that this was not *necessarily* the case. As to whether or not it is currently the case in practice, I don’t know.

          But I think you are mistaken about reporting. Statutory guidance has been issued urging professionals such as teachers, doctors and social workers to report child abuse, which term of course includes any relationship of the type we are discussing. There is unfortunately no guarantee of professional confidentiality. I say “unfortunately” because the only consequence that seems realistic to me is that young people who are having relationship problems will simply feel that they cannot confide in anyone. Young people will still have relationships, but they will feel that they have to keep them secret, with the result that they will be more vulnerable.

  • mrpage

    “What the legal position does do is to give us the option of taking the matter very seriously indeed when we want to.”
    But that’s a terrible position. Either it’s the law or it isn’t the law. If there are extenuating or aggravating factors then they should be part of the law. But just having the police or prosecution servive decide on a case by case basis whether there has been a crime is not the rule of law at all.

    • Oliver Pereira

      Hear, hear. If we frame the law so that a third of the population are breaking it, turn a blind eye to the vast majority of that criminality, and then pick and choose who to prosecute, we are making a mockery of the law and opening the door wide to discrimination. Our elected representatives can make a show of having “done something” and perhaps even of putting the people’s wishes into practice, because they have made a really tough law, but in reality they are abandoning responsibility, because they know full well that their law will not be consistently enforced, leaving criminality to be decided instead by the unelected and unaccountable bodies that are the police and the CPS, which are then left free to prosecute based on the person rather than the action. It would be far better to liberalise the law to a point at which significantly less than a third of the population are actually breaking it, and then to enforce that law consistently and without discrimination.

    • Colonel Mustard

      But that is increasingly what we have. Justice by CPS often according to political influences.

  • D Whiggery

    It’s not because a mass of people, young or otherwise decide to break a law, any law that we should just say ‘oh well let’s modify it to let people do what they want to do in any case’.

    “But if we have to have a limit somewhere, 16 is probably the point where we’d assume that most teenagers are able to work out the consequences of what they’re doing”

    Er, there are some mature sixteen year olds, but I’d still say the majority have no idea of the consequences of their actions and based on what I see around me, I’d say the same for the majority of 18 year olds too to be honest.

    I’ll probably be accused of being off my rocker, but I think we give kids their “adult” badge way too easily with no rite of passage and little or no effort required. Moving from being a child to being an adult now contains little or no meaning. There are few additional rights attached to it and society no longer expects greater responsibility in return. The result of this is that we have a lot of adults who behave like kids and who treat kids like adults.

    IMHO the age of consent and the voting age too for that matter, should be moved up not down.

  • Tom Tom

    Those 15 year olds were working. We used to have 15 year old soldiers and sailors and school ended at 12. Now they cannot escape school until 18 and are supposed to be able to fornicate and have children whilst being prevented from earning a living.

    Time to lower the mandatory school attendance age to 12 and allow them to fornicate, marry, and work after that age with a block on any benefits until age 21

    • rtj1211

      Do get real. Starve 14 year olds because they can’t get a job??

      What kind of an inhuman tyrant are you??

      • Daniel Crowley

        I’d doubt they would starve, because they still have parents and all that you know?

    • Fergus Pickering

      Children have always been able to fornicate. Poor children regularly did so with their brothers and sisters in the nineteenth century.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    Well, according to the info. provided in the link re; the prof..

    “He said lowering the age to 15 might make teachers and other people who work with teenagers “feel on a firmer footing” about telling them where to get advice on issues like contraception and disease.”

    I wonder why anyone thinks a debate about lowering the official consent age will somehow get workers to use their common sense in the face of inquisitive or precocious teenagers.

    If teachers or people at work can’t point members of the public ( which is what teenagers really are – whether they’re in school or in private ) to the proper authorities for help – they must be stupid .

    Surely workers are not employed, (elected, appointed or otherwise) to pull some ridiculous ” work to rule” type nonsense over common sense.Discuss.

  • Chris

    When someone wants a discussion on age of consent, you first check if they are a socialist.
    John Ashton is a member of the socialist medical association so he is.
    Them read the following article from der spiegal to see where his aims reside-

    • Tom Tom


      • David Lindsay

        Peter Tatchell now campaigns to lower the age of consent to 14, or even below. Michael Foot once refused to endorse Tatchell as a candidate for the House of Commons. David Cameron offered Tatchell a seat in the House of Lords.

        Gillick competence, which already effectively lowers the age of consent to 13, ought to be called Thatcher competence. Victoria Gillick, who in my only ever conversation with her despised the Conservatives after having “spent 18 years campaigning against them”, tried to stop this thing. It was Margaret Thatcher who defeated her in the courts and imposed it.

        But then, Thatcher’s Parliamentary Private Secretary was the man whom she ensured became Sir Peter Morrison, just as she ensured the dubbing of her dear friends Sir Cyril Smith, Sir Jimmy Savile and Sir Laurens van der Post. Had they been alive, then Morrison and Savile would certainly have attended her funeral.

        The upper classes become sexually active far earlier than anyone else. If the age of consent ever were formally to be lowered in line with Thatcher competence, then this is the Government that would do it. Yet another very good reason to sweep it away in 2015.

        Certain media outlets may scream at a 15-year-old girl on a council
        estate who has a baby, as a few of them do, but not at a 15-year-old
        girl on a country estate who has an abortion, as a lot of them do. As an
        awful lot of them do.

        No wonder that Thatcher legalised abortion up to birth.

        • Graeme S

          Peter Tatchell is Odious Horror . All he wants to do is lower the age of consent to satisfy his own peccadillos

    • rtj1211

      All ideas of socialists are wrong, then??

      • David Lindsay

        He is writing for an audience which has never left America, even if he himself has never been there. That is what the Right in Britain now is: totally America, and not even especially realistic about that; in Britain, but not remotely of Britain.

        • Colonel Mustard


          • David Lindsay

            No, it is very obviously the case from the way in which he phrases things. They all do that. They are not culturally British at all.

            • Colonel Mustard

              “That is what the Right in Britain now is: totally American”


            • Daniel Crowley

              Not being a socialist = not British, now?

              My these left-wingers really do like their revisionism, eh?

        • Chris

          the right is where it has always been – in the ground of libertarianism.

      • Colin

        “All ideas of socialists are wrong, then??”

        Maybe not all. Care to enlighten us with any that are actually, completely good?

      • Chris

        Considering socialism always seems to lead to gas chambers, killing fields and institutionalized pederasty and pedophilia, I’m gonna stick my neck out and say yes.
        The main issue with socialism is the need to “create” new socialist personalities – see the article I linked, see the killing fields, see Nazism, see Gramscian ideology…its core to socialism. This is the dark evil heart of socialism. Its a satanic ideology.

    • David Lindsay

      It was the 1970s and 1980s Radical Right that wanted both to legalise drugs and to abolish the age of consent. It behaved exactly as if both aims had already been achieved. Whatever happened to it? Where Are They Now?

      • Kennybhoy

        Having one of one of your stream of consciousness fits young maister?

    • David Booth.

      Interesting link, puts me in mind of the PIE in the 60’s which was defended then by the NCCL who’s legal adviser was Harriet Harman. I wonder what became of her ?

  • David Booth.

    A pound to a pinch of snuff that Prof Ashton keeps a beady eye on what any daughters of his are up to. .

    • Tom Tom

      He has 4 sons and two stepsons so probably has no concern

      • David Booth.

        Which probably goes some way to explain his indifference to other families with young daughters.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Is this a back door way of reducing the grooming figures?

    • Daniel Maris

      Please don’t introduce the phrase “back door” into a discussion of sexual ethics.

    • Druth

      This was always going to happen. The only surprise that they didn’t go for fourteen. Boys are maturing so much faster these days.

      • alabenn

        Do not be ridiculous, there is still people going to their graves voting Labour, some never mature.

  • dalai guevara

    Never shag the boss’s daughter when she’s still underage. Stick to the wife.

    • David Booth.

      What? the bosses wife?

  • andagain

    until 1885, when the legal limit was raised from 13 to 16 to deal with
    the problem of child prostitution (which is still with us)

    If child prostitution is what they wanted to stop, they should probably have banned child prostitution, not raised the age of consent. Or if it was already illegal, they should have concentrated on enforcing the existing law. Instead of writing new ones to make them think they were trying to do something.

    • Tom Tom

      It probably had much to do with inheritance and dowry

      • andagain

        In what way?

    • Daniel Crowley

      It was actually feminists eliminating the competition in the work place, as well as the ‘romantic’ sphere… apparently.

  • HookesLaw

    ‘ possibly taking the view’ – and then again quite possibly not.
    One was right the other is wrong.
    A hard concept for you to grasp perhaps but a valid one. Still a brave effort at a good old journalistic smear which you want the right to remain regulation proof to repeat at your will.

    • Hugh

      Do you want to legislate against the expression of any opinion with which you disagree? And is there actually a democratic country on earth where journalists are not free to write a sentence like that on a blog post free of regulation, or are we to be the first in this brave new order?

  • Fergus Pickering

    But they will, Melanie. They will.

    • Tom Tom

      Yes but they also had a suicide or two…….but in Kentucky……

    • rtj1211

      Now don’t get the Conservatives’ knickers in a twist about the English Literature O Level curriculum. Can’t possibly do Romeo and Juliet at 13 or 14 if they’re shagging under age, can we?!

  • David Lindsay

    Professor John Ashton’s remarks are an invitation to make it a criminal offence for any person to engage in any
    sexual act with or upon anyone under the age of 18 who was more than two (or
    possibly three) years younger than himself, or to incite any such person to
    commit any such act with or upon him or any third party anywhere in the world.

    The maximum sentence would be imprisonment for twice the difference in
    age, or for life where that difference was five years or more. The
    victims of these crimes, probably most of them, would be Thatcher competent, there
    being no excuse for blaming Mrs Gillick who opposed it rather than Mrs Thatcher
    who imposed it. That would be a very good and welcome reason to revisit
    Thatcher competence.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Ashton fails to recognise the concept of rebellion. The idea that people do things because they are forbidden (particularly adolescents). Consequently if you reduced the age of consent to 15 then it would be more attractive to have lost ones virginity at 14 or 13. The problem would just become younger.

    The only successful line might be the age of puberty (because before that kids are not naturally encouraged to take part in such activities) but given that can be anywhere from 10-14 its not something that can be easily legislated for.

    Furthermore, given the complexities of our society and the pandering to youth that society now indulges in the idea the 10-16 year olds in this day and age are psychological mature enough (particularly given the advances in knowledge about the development of the brain in youth) to have relationships of that sort is highly questionable.In reality the way society treats young people today Ashton should be thinking of moving the age of consent the other way and in doing so encourage rebellion to get older if you see what I mean..

    PS Trying to write such posts when Disqus’s stupid censorship is on is ridiculous. The Spectator should hold its head in shame at this ridiculous platform and their absurd implementation of it.

    • rtj1211

      It is how parents/adults handle the teenager when they have done something silly which shapes teenage attitudes to rebellion.

      I had a teenager years ago get drunk on the last night of a ski holiday: found collapsed in the girl’s loos. I”d made the rules clear all week, they had stuck to them all week, but one got away on the last night.

      If I’d read her the riot act, maybe she’d have been on the way to binge drinking and cirrhosis. I didn’t. I let a chalet girl fill her with tea, then talked to her in her hangover stage next day. I asked her: ‘have you learned anything from this experience?’ and the response was: ‘Yeah: I won’t mix drinks again’.

      Teenagers need the security to know they won’t be ostracised for making mistakes, because they know they’re gonna make them.

      As for Disqus censorship, you’re right: two mature contributions already censored on this column. No wonder Britain is still repressed and prudish on one half and out of control philandering binge drinking pill-popping dope fiends on the other.

  • swatnan

    So that everyone knows exactly where they are, put the Age of majority back up to 21.
    That means you canyt drive or drinkk or vote or anything else until you’ve griown int a reasonably responsible adult. And that taxation agrument won’t work anymore.
    I don’t pay my taxes so that young hooligans can run riot in the streets and football grounds, thank you.

    • rtj1211

      You do have a quaintly incoherent understanding of human physiology, don’t you??

      You passed a law so it won’t happen.


    • Augustus

      Ah, those were the days when the media didn’t adjust its idols to a bunch of degenerate figures who have come to represent the idolatrous behaviour sold to young people.

  • ButcombeMan

    “He is also emphatic that countries that have lower ages of consent have
    lower early teenage pregnancy rates; well, I’m not at all sure that
    this is what counts here”

    It doesn’t.

    Correlation does not imply causation. He really ought to know that.

    You are right that when he says he wants “a debate” he means let’s keep talking until society agrees with him.

    The drugs legalisers are always talking about the “need for a mature debate” which in their case also means, keep talking until they win. It means that any debate they did not win has not been “mature”.

    The LimpDems, ot some of them, will probably pick this up and run with it, they do it just to get attention, any attention.

    Cameron just dare touch it.

    • telemachus

      Ashton is on a hiding to nothing
      The daily Savile, Hall etc revelations have shut debate on such subjects
      He should stick to the scourge of Chlamydia in the young

    • rtj1211

      So put a sexually prudish, repressed queer basher in charge instead then??!!

      I’m sure that’ll sort everything out.

    • Span Ows

      My comment deleted? How pathetic can you get? (Disqus or Spectator?) It was a perfectly reasonable comment that included a word in the title of this article!

      • Fergus Pickering

        Shagging is the word of choice.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        What word was that?
        Gimme an S
        Gimme an e …