That dreary feminist Harriet “I Had No Idea” Harman is planning to set up her throne on a beach near you and command the waves to go back as the tide comes in. By all accounts she plans single-handedly to end prostitution in the UK, which suggests that she may not be the brightest QC in the robing room.

The theory is that if you make it unlawful for a man to pay for sex rather than for it to be a crime for a woman to offer sex for payment you will eliminate prostitution.

That there is a problem with women being brought here with the specific aim of effectively enslaving them in brothels, these often being run by very nasty criminal gangs of East European origin, there is no doubt. But there are already laws to control the activities of such folk which, if properly applied, would serve to curb these gangs.

The problem is that those laws are not easy to enforce in the sense that they are rather time-consuming and labour-intensive, concepts anathema to your average CID Boss. And these days our pusillanimous police fight shy of anything which is remotely difficult or does not fit with the latest set of targets or does not appear on a CCTV camera so they avoid such investigations like the plague. So, as a panacea, Harman thinks the answer is yet another set of crimes to add to the ludicrous number they have already created. Of the problem she says:

“Do we think it’s right in the 21st century that women should be in a sex trade or do we think it’s exploitation and should be banned?

“Just because something has always gone on, it doesn’t mean you just wring your hands and say there’s nothing we can do about it.”

All very worthy, but which rather ignores the experience of history which suggests that there are some things which are simply impossible to prevent. The USA found this out with Prohibition of alcohol under The Volstead Act which simply drove the whole process of getting a drink underground and made the criminal fraternity as rich as Croesus. It would do so once again here if this idea were followed through and make it even more difficult to afford any sort of protection to women thus exploited.

It also fails to recognise that there are some women who go into the business of prostitution quite voluntarily and in circumstances where they are working entirely for themselves and who by and large operate quite safely under the guise of escorting. They have learnt to use the internet and that trade will continue to flourish whatever attempt is made to bring it within the ambit of the criminal law.

This is yet another example of this government thinking that a headline grabbing ‘crackdown’ will win them lots of electoral plaudits instead of which they should be looking at how to make the existing law work better. The problem is that this is administration prefers government by headline to actually doing anything by dint of hard graft. The result is a plethora of unenforceable new laws and a problem unresolved when some rational and commonsense thought on how to make existing laws work better might be a simpler and more effective remedy.

Or even make the whole business legal, tax it and make it subject to some sensible health inspections. But then that would involve lemon-faced prudes like La Harman admitting that some women actually want to be prostitutes and make money by having sex with men. And that would never do, would it?

The two pictures are of ancient Greek pottery depicting prostitution. These are a salutary reminder to would-be Canutes who would turn the tide back on command as to how long this activity has been around and how everything has been tried to ban it. It is with us still and will be long after Harman has stopped being able to suck lemons.