Marital coercion How else would I get the washing machine mended!
20:53 GMT, 3 June 2012
Vicky Pryce, the former wife of Chris Huhne, plans to claim ‘marital coercion’ as her defence when she stands trial accused of perverting the course of justice by accepting his speeding points back in 2003.
The couple, now divorced, studiously ignored each other in court last week. Coercion is a heavy-duty bit of terminology, isn’t it
The C word can mean torture and physical violence, but within most relationships, let’s be honest, a mild form of coercion is what keeps everything ticking along nicely.
In happier times: MP Chris Huhne pictured in 2010 with his then wife Vicky Pryce
In fact, I could probably qualify for a
Master’s Degree in Coercion, although I would rename it ‘The Art of
Getting things done, my way —i.e., the right way’. In legal terms, the defence of marital coercion forms part of the Criminal Justice Act of 1925, and the Law Commission recommended its abolition back in 1977, claiming it was ‘not appropriate to modern conditions’.
Nevertheless, it remains on the statute book, in spite of the decline of marriage, the growth of civil partnerships, and the huge number of citizens in long-term, live-in relationships where property and assets are shared. Coercion is described as ‘an external force that cannot be resisted’, but most of us know it as emotional blackmail.
More from Janet Street Porter…
JANET STREET PORTER: Struggling to put on a happy face Wear a Camilla mask!
JANET STREET PORTER: Get women running Britain if you want to see action!
If you care about the family, Dave, why not stick up for marriage
Spring clean for the Queen! Let's make our green and pleasant land a litter-free zone
JANET STREET-PORTER: What Posh Spice can teach Dave about the class system
JANET STREET PORTER: These naff Olympics
just scream second-rate
JANET STREET-PORTER: Charles and a Jubilee folly that will never float my boat
JANET STREET PORTER: Let me stick my oar in: Rowing isn’t just toffs having a paddle
VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
To work successfully, in the domestic
context, it has to be packaged as something more acceptable and
pleasant. In our household, I have stopped issuing orders in that famous
JSP shouty voice. I adopt a special, weaselly tone when I want to get
my way. Modern coercion for the busy woman means shelving feminist
principles and learning how to use the word ‘please’ when you really
want to scream: ‘Mend that bloody thing before I walk out!’
It requires a lot of practice, especially when at work you are used to saying everything three times — once to state the obvious, the second time to ensure the other person received the message loud and clear, and a third time to check it went through to mission control, their half-functioning brains. In the domestic situation, orders have to be repeated just as many times if you want the washing machine mended or the ping-pong table put up or the dishwasher unloaded, but you have to make sure the other person is ready to do the job in the first place.
In short, you have to butter them up, get them pliable and receptive. I employ a shameless tactic, culled from the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus manual, which means pretending your partner is a busy, high-powered person you’re lucky to know. It means prefacing each request with ‘I know you have a lot on your plate, and I really appreciate your help, but I wonder if you have a spare minute or two today you could . . . insert task, but make it sound very simple and short, do not go into detail at this point’.
You will repeat this mantra up to three times before the other person finally gets up from the sofa, casts aside their copy of Fishing Times, and deigns to start the job in hand. Now, you have to start thanking them over and over again, greasing their path to finishing the task. I know it’s hard, but it’s the only way to get results. The car will be washed, the plug on your hair dryer fixed. That’s what I call coercion.
Depending on which pundit you read, George Osborne has executed at least three and maybe four U-turns since the Budget in March. He’s abandoned taxing the rich who make large donations to charitable causes. He’s withdrawn plans to dish up VAT on hot pasties, and he’s parked the scheme to levy the same tax on static caravans.
The changes are being spun as an example of the Chancellor ‘listening to what ordinary people think is right’. Critics say the climbdowns are a sign of a man who isn’t in command of his brief. All I know is that in a Cabinet dominated by men, George Osborne remains in his job. When a woman changes her mind, she’s marked down as ‘indecisive’, a ‘ditherer’ and ‘weak’. Talk about double standards.
Now it’s wags, the musical
WAG on stage: Jessica Lawlor
How many WAGs will bother to travel to the coal mining and steel city of Donetsk in the Ukraine for England’s opening match on June 11 I can’t see many shopping opportunities there for girls who like their bags big and their skirts expensive and very small.
WAGworld burst upon us (a bit like the Alien erupting from John Hurt’s chest) just six years ago at the World Cup in Baden-Baden, Germany — and since then footballers wives have spawned a huge industry, from telly series to clothing ranges, not to mention giving us hours of fun marvelling at their outfits, their vulgar weddings and their turnover of unsuitable men.
Back then, the queen of the WAGs was Victoria Beckham, but now she’s remodelled herself on Audrey Hepburn mixed with the Queen, Cheryl Cole holds the post, even though she’s not with Ashley. Now, WAGs have finally been recognised as a cultural force, with WAG! The Musical opening tonight (albeit at a small venue in East London).
The show stars two real WAGs who can sing and dance — Jessica Lawlor (engaged to former Man City player Stephen Ireland) and Pippa Fulton (dating Brentford’s Clayton Donaldson). Pippa plays a single mum who works behind the cosmetics counter in the Mega Store, while Jessica stars as a shopper — so not much trouble getting into character there, then. Good luck to both girls — the show is on until June 23 at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre pub in Walthamstow.
What next – warnings on black pud
Another week, another health warning. In the past seven days we’ve been told not to drink more than three small glasses of wine a week, and now a professor of nutrition at Glasgow University has written a report recommending that coffee should be sold with information about the caffeine content of every cup, so that pregnant women and people with health problems don’t exceed their recommended daily intake.
Some espresso coffee beans can be six times stronger than others, so he might have a point. But I’m beginning to feel like everything I eat and drink will soon have a warning on it. I love a full English breakfast on Sundays — but how long before there will be large danger signs all over the black pudding, the bacon and the eggs Once the nanny state demonises something, it becomes more attractive. Make mine a double espresso, please!
Most embarrassing mothers in Britain
Middleton might have her detractors, but in one department she scores
full marks. This high-profile mum never says anything of any note. The
most embarrassing famous mums in Britain are surely Judy Murray and
Sarah Ferguson, both of whom whitter away on Twitter to whoever will
Most embarrassing mothers Sarah Ferguson and Judy Murray
Saturday, Sarah tweeted from @SarahTheDuchess ‘So proud of my beautiful
daughters and how special to be at the Epsom Derby supporting their
Granny what an amazing Grandmother The Queen is’ (her tragic
stating the bloody obvious . . . maybe Sarah was feeling a bit lonely
while all her ex-relatives were enjoying the racing. Judy Murray (with
Andy at the French Open) already has form when it comes to slightly
I wonder how her son felt when she tweeted ‘Guy
Forget just strolled thru hotel lobby in Lycra shorts. Nice start to my
day’ Forget, 47, is a former world number four. Later she added: ‘Short
shorts in the most elegant legs. Mmmmm.’ If it was my mum, I’d be