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Scott, A. (1989). A question of judgement: ‘He was a Cabinet Minister and I was merely a candidate’. Free Associations, 1Q:106-117.

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(1989). Free Associations, 1Q(16):106-117

A question of judgement: ‘He was a Cabinet Minister and I was merely a candidate’

Ann Scott

A Question of Judgement, by Sara Keays, Quintessential Press, 1985, 320 pages, £9.95

I have had an interest in Sara Keays and her significance for public debates around power and sexuality ever since her statement to The Times in October 1983. There she did more than put her side of the story of her relationship with MP Cecil Parkinson: she challenged the hypocrisy of newspapers like the Daily Telegraph, which felt that a discreet abortion was ‘greatly to be preferred’ to a scandal. ‘I was not aware’, she wrote then, ‘that political expediency was sufficient grounds for an abortion under the 1967 Act’ (The Times, 14 October 1983). The Times leader column, for its part, acknowledged that Keays had squarely faced the issue of the double standard in matters of sexual morality, especially in political life. The editorial, while circumspect in tone, implied the need for urgent public debate about morality for a time like the present, in which women were entitled to pursue their own careers without sacrificing their wishes for a personal life too. For it is now well known that Sara Keays has lost her chances of a parliamentary career. But as a result of … what exactly? Her refusal to go for a discreet abortion; her refusal, by writing A Question of Judgement, to maintain a permanently dignified silence; her clever timing in coming to an agreement with the Daily Mirror to serialize her book during the Tory Party conference of 1985 — all these are mentioned, in hostile notices, as evidence of Keays's vindictive bitterness, the ‘classic’ behaviour of a woman scorned. In part I see them differently — as an aspect of a powerful, radical/respectable critique of one aspect of our culture: its attitude

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