Redwood: Date rape different to stranger rape

John Redwood has set himself at odds with the Conservative party’s commitment to tackling sexual violence against women by insinuating date rape is not as serious as stranger rape.

Writing in his blog, the former Cabinet minister said there was “a difference” between a man attacking a woman on the street and a “disagreement” over consent.

The government has urged David Cameron to distance himself from the comments, which come weeks after the Tory leader said more must be done to increase the rape conviction rate.

Mr Redwood, who led the Conservatives’ review on economic competitiveness, attacked Labour’s “doctrine of equivalence” between date rape and so-called stranger rape, which he said he said “led to jury scepticism about many rape claims”.

Home office minister Vernon Coaker countered that the vast majority of rapes are committed by men who know their victims, “so this type of rape is the biggest problem we have to deal with – not something to be dismissed as a lesser crime”.

Mr Redwood wrote: “[The Labour government] decided to set date rape alongside stranger rape. Again, none of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion when the two were spending an evening or night together.

“Labour’s doctrine of equivalence has led to jury scepticism about many rape claims, in situations where it is the man’s word against the woman’s and where they had agreed to spend the evening or night together.

“Young men do not want to have to take a consent form and a lawyer on a date, just as young women have every right to go on a date and to say ‘No’, having it respected.”

Insisting “rape is rape, wherever it happens,” Mr Coaker called on Mr Cameron to demand a retraction from the Wokingham MP.

Mr Coaker said: “It is just a month since David Cameron said that too many men were committing rape because they think they can get away with it … if Cameron is truly serious about this issue he should immediately apologise for these remarks and call on John Redwood to issue a retraction.”

In a speech that pleased anti-rape campaigners, the Tory leader last month set out plans to increase the rape conviction rate, highlighting that three-quarters of raped women do not report the crime and only 5.7 per cent of reported rapes result in a conviction.

Mr Cameron said the finding that one in two men think there are some circumstance where they can force a woman to have sex was evidence of a “moral collapse”.

Mr Redwood last night insisted his comments were not at odds with Tory policy.

He said: “I will not be retracting my statement. I’ve not said anything that David disagrees with. It is the courts that are making this distinction.”

The latest row marks the second time in recent months Mr Redwood has been described as out of step with the modern Conservative party.

His economic competitiveness review was criticised for its lack of green credentials with its support for motorway and airport expansion and sympathy for greenbelt development.