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When hero worship turns sour and the bonsai bucket bag

The fallout from the Oxfam sex scandal has taken an unexpected turn, tipping our opinion of a man upheld as something of a national inspiration completely on its head.

We were informed last week that Oxfam aid workers had hired prostitutes, some of them just children, whilst out in Haiti a decade ago. Thus followed revelations that this was just the tip of the iceberg of a far darker side of the charitable sector where sexual exploits and assaults worked as a sordid undertone to the much good these charities perform.

Enter Brendan Cox, husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, who for many has been an emblem of goodness, morality and superhuman strength in the face of unimaginable grief. However, the Oxfam sex scandal has led to the unearthing of previously smothered allegations, that Mr Cox had sexually assaulted several women whilst working for the Save the Children charity, and more recently in 2015, had assaulted a woman in her 30s at Harvard University.

As a result of the allegations he has resigned from the two charities he set up in his wife's memory – More in Common and the Jo Cox Foundation. In a statement he said he denied the 2015 allegation but admitted he made mistakes whilst working for Save the Children.

The news has made many of us feel conflicted. Mr Cox's bravery and dedication to the memory of his wife Jo, after she was stabbed and shot outside her constituency office in 2016, still stands. But the fact he is responsible for destroying the lives of other women he potentially sexually assaulted cannot be cast aside in respect to his female victims.

Kate Maltby, the journalist who was sexually harassed by former Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green, perhaps best sums up this conflict. She says: “If you have compassion for Brendan Cox today, given the horrific circumstances of his wife's death, that is understandable. But I'd ask you also to have compassion for the women who've had to watch him become a national saint, their own experiences with him buried. Hear them.”

The same can be applied to any actor, film producer or photographer who has been accused of sexual harassment or abuse since the #MeToo campaign began on social media. Questions have arisen around whether we can still enjoy that person's work after finding out they have carried out such revolting crimes against women.

Can we still watch their films, admire their photographs, go to one of their plays? Does it in some part take away from what they have achieved? The life's work is still the same - it has not somehow mutated since hearing the news about their personal lives. However, a different filter has been put on the lens through which we are now viewing their creations and as a result, leaves it tainted.

They still are the great artist, actor or film maker they ever were, but it is our ability to enjoy their work which has changed forever.

The jumbled feeling we are left with is a bit like purchasing the Simon Miller Bonsai Bucket Bag. The bag itself draws admiration, it makes a positive statement on your arm because it is unusual in a world of more conventionally shaped bags. But you have to realise that you will never be able to neatly arrange your belongings inside it. Something will always rattle.

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