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Lindy McDowell: Ford v Kavanaugh? I believe her... but I also believe him

Christine Blasey Ford
Christine Blasey Ford
Judge Brett Kavanaugh
The Great British Bake Off

By Lindy McDowell

She said, he said. But who are we to believe? America is once again bitterly divided, this time over allegations of sexual assault made by Christine Blasey Ford against Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's pick for the US Supreme Court.

Ms Blasey Ford claims that at a party sometime in 1982 when they were both still at school Kavanaugh attempted to rape her. Kavanaugh maintains the incident never happened.

Both have appeared before a Senate Judiciary Committee. And subsequently footage of their testimonies has gone global - to be dissected and analysed by armchair Sherlocks everywhere.

Blasey Ford said she was terrified at having to give evidence. She looked it. She sounded it. She's had threats to her life. She now has bodyguards.

Her voice trembled as she described what she says happened that night. It was compelling stuff. Compelling and believable.

And then came Kavanaugh. Where Ms Blasey Ford had tearfully struggled to get the words out, Kavanaugh was an explosion of anger and hurt. His life had been altered forever, he said. The lives of his family.

"I am innocent." He didn't exactly say that to the Senate Committee. He yelled it at them.

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Two very different, two highly emotional testimonies. But who to believe?

I think there is a great arrogance in all of us to assume that just by tuning in to live coverage of a committee hearing we can come to a fair conclusion.

And by "us", I include the senators themselves, Republican and Democrat, whose sense of justice has obviously been addled by their loyalty to their respective political clans.

For mostly on this one they have voted along entirely party lines.

And then there's the MeToo protesters taking to the streets, even before the hearings took place, to declare 'I Believe Her'.

Me too - I believe her. But here's the thing - I also believe him. The pair of them looked and sounded convincing and truthful. Obviously though, they can't both be. And crucially in this case there is no independent, impartial witness. So how can we know?

What I do know is that the Senate process of choosing a judge - of all people - has been reduced to a squalid shambles where justice and fairness have been elbowed aside in the battle to score partisan points.

Inevitably Trump has made matters worse by gobbing off about the accuser at a rally of his Make America Great supporters. None of this is making America look great.

Because of the high profile of the accused, an investigation into this most serious of allegations has been reduced to the level of prime-time entertainment. There must be a better way to handle cases like this.

For there is nothing just or humane or decent in how the American Senate has gone about it. There is not even anything common sense about it.

Justice must be done and, yes, seen to be done.

But this shabby circus puts justice itself on trial.

We're gluttons for TV food shows

This obesity epidemic - could one of the reasons for it have anything at all to do with the absolute glut of foodie programmes on the telly these days? From Bake Off to Masterchef, and even Eat Well For Less. Everywhere you look there's calories coming at you. Food has become a television obsession. And online you can't see the selfies for the sea bass. Foodstagramming, where people post pics of their dinner, is massively popular among those who live for 'likes'. Like any other star of screen, food is all over the show these days, looking gorgeous. No wonder people are tempted to eat it.

Pay up for pregnancy tests error

Hundreds of thousands of Clear and Simple pregnancy tests have been recalled after it was discovered that a number of the gadgets had given false readings. Or to put it another way, they didn't actually work. Women were wrongly told they were pregnant. And you can just imagine the distress this will have caused for those who bought the dodgy tests. Women who would have been thrilled at the thought they were expecting - and then devastated to find they weren't. And women who initially may have been perturbed by a positive result. Surely they have a clear and simple case for compensation.

Civil rights and the humble Prod

The 50th anniversary of the first civil rights march, which was marked this week, is regarded by many people as a milestone in our history — if not exactly the start of the Troubles, the day that set in train the events that led to the Troubles.

But that’s not to say, as some have argued, that the civil rights movement was a cover for the IRA. I’ve never believed that. The CRA (Civil Rights Association) wasn’t the IRA.

What I’ve always wondered, though, as someone who comes from very much a working-class, Protestant background, is how different things might have been here had the organisers made more of an effort to bring on board the equally disadvantaged Prod community?

Whether or not it was their aim, the movement was firmly positioned, from the start, on one side of our sectarian canyon.  Outside Northern Ireland it also gave rise for many, many years (and I’m not sure that this has been entirely scuppered) to the myth that all Protestants/unionists here were fabulously better off compared to our Catholic counterparts.

On a number of occasions in America, having flagged up (no pun intended) my humble background, I recall having to deal with utter disbelief that I didn’t have a house like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. And a butler.

The message to the outside world was very much — Protestants were the oppressors and Catholics were the oppressed.

From the perspective of the council houses, though, it was hard to see much difference.

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