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Right before the Policing Bill comes to Parliament a critical flaw in police handling of a peaceful vigil points to future violent abuse. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Labour Centrist Jess Phillips but, credit where credit is due, she certainly equipped herself well on Sunday. Generating the headline “In our current system ‘women don’t matter as much as cars,” her shocking statement made a mockery of the Policing Bill the Tories want to ram through Parliament in the coming week. Why the urgency one might wonder; surely there are far more urgent Government priorities? The Tory Sovereign Dictatorship are eager to enact new legislation that will put severe restrictions firmly in place before the Covid crisis is no longer available as an excuse for draconian policing. By the time Boris Johnson graciously allows the British people to hold hands again and enter the depleted number of pubs that have survived to reopen, he wants to have our ‘new normal’ under very strict authoritarian control with zero potential for public protest.
In the Labour List Article entitled “Sunday shows: Labour demands action on violence against women and girls,” Elliot Chappell and Sienna Rodgers document responses to police violence at the vigil. Starting with “The Andrew Marr Show where Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said the police ‘got it wrong’ at Clapham Common on Saturday but did not call for Cressida Dick to resign. She explained Labour’s calls for longer minimum sentences for stalking and rape and for misogyny to be a hate crime. On whether the situation has improved since she started reading out the names of women killed by men every year: I wish that it had, but actually it’s got worse… It is this year at an all-time high,” she said. When asked “Whether the police ’got it right’ at Clapham Common on Saturday,” Phillips said, “No, I think the police got it wrong at every single turn.”
LaboUr List reported Phillips had insisted that it was “Not just the final image that we see, but all day yesterday and the day before the police did not try to find a way for a peaceful protest’. On whether Cressida Dick should resign,” Phillips had said “Ed Davey maybe wants a headline that I don’t want. I came here this morning to talk about violence against women and girls… I don’t think the police over the past few years have done enough to increase charging over domestic abuse, have done enough to increase charging in rape, both are reducing. This is not the day for me to say whether she should go.” Phillips was determined that the interview that morning would not descend into recriminations targeting Cressida Dick, detracting from the topic she wanted to focus on the violence against women and girls. With regard to the Covid legislation she had said that: “Within the legislation that has been nodded through, there was room for yesterday a peaceful vigil to take place.”
Philips was equally determined not to apportion blame when asked about “the upbringing of boys” Labour List noted that she had said “I’m not going to sit here and give mothers another reason to be bashed that they’re not bringing up their boys properly. But I think we’ve got a responsibility to look at the way we educate, the way all of society operates… It’s not all men, but it is all women’. She added that the government should ensure sex and relationship education is ‘robust’.” Asked about “Labour’s call for longer sentences for stalkers and rapists, they reported her shock headline response, “You should get more for rape than you do for defacing a statue… You can currently get more for fly-tipping than you can get for stalking.” They said “She added that Labour wants to see sentences doubled for stalking and the minimum sentence for rape extended from five years to seven years ‘at least’.”
Labour List said that “On Labour’s call for misogyny to be a hate crime, despite Dick and others saying it is not a priority for the public, Phillips had admitted, ‘Where I live, the public is genuinely more interested in bins than they are in domestic abuse’.” She added: “The reason misogyny should be a hate crime is that there was a man who stood for election in this country and one of the things he said on political platforms is whether he would or wouldn’t rape me.” For Jess Phillips that particular point had obviously become very personal. Moving on to other policy areas Phillips was asked about, “the pay rise Labour wants for NHS workers” It seems every interviewer wants to trap MPs into blurting out a specific figure, but most are too savvy to fall for it. They said Phillips had stuck to the agreed award as a baseline saying “At a minimum, it has to be 2.1%… There are many different unions involved in this, and they’re all asking for something different.” She added: “If it was down to me, I think nurses are worth the moon.”
Labour List reported that “On rewarding frontline workers” Phillips had made the important point that “By and large, the work done during the pandemic was done by women. I haven’t seen any policy come out of the government about the recovery that specifically targets the work of women. Nothing about childcare, which has been an absolute nightmare.” It was reassuring to hear a centrist Blareite like Phillips sticking up for the working poor and Labour’s core Socialist principals. The recent lurch to the right under Keir Starmer has been very alarming, leaving ordinary working people wondering if the Labour Party really represent them anymore. I thought this was the best interview I have ever heard from Jess Phillips, with stark comparisons that will resonate strongly with the general public and also be very hard for the Tories to out-gun in future debates in Parliament.
The Labour List team then reported on the Marr interview with Government Minister Victoria Atkins who to my mind did not equip herself nearly as well as Phillips. However, it was the policy decisions and dire inflexibility of her Tory PM Boris Johnson, in his shambolic mishandling of Covid, that ultimately led to the debacle at the vigil on Saturday. Her comments came across as weak and mealy-mouthed; Labour List noted that she had “said she found the police approach to Clapham Common yesterday ‘very upsetting’ although ‘the overwhelming majority of people who did go there had a peaceful experience’.” I felt she had seemed eager to make excuses for the police action. They said that “Asked whether the leadership of the Metropolitan Police is in question now, the safeguarding minister replied that ‘we ought to take this a step at a time’, neither calling for Dick’s resignation nor defending the Commissioner.”
Labour List noted how leaping on the typical Tory ‘kick, the can down the road’ merry-go-round “She highlighted that Home Secretary Priti Patel had asked for a report on the events of Saturday evening, and said: ‘There is good work going on in policing but we must look at what happened last night.” It was very non-commital, another of the Tory endless stream of reports with recommendations that we can guarantee will be totally ignored; this is the signature practice of our current zero accountability Tory Government: just ignore the mistakes and move on why not. We are likely to see this level of police violence become the norm as police powers are increased while scrutiny and accountability are scaled back with new legislation used to justify increasing use of excessive force.
The Labour List team turned to ITV’s interviews captured on Sunday morning’s Sophy Ridge show where once again Jess Phillips made a strong showing maintaining a laser-like focus on important points and urging action over procrastination. They noted that “Jess Phillips demanded that the government take action on violence against women and girls, and criticised the police handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard on Saturday evening. Asked whether Priti Patel reopening a survey on violence against women and girls is ‘enough’,” they quoted Phillips saying “We know what the problems are. The Home Secretary has known for many years… We don’t need a survey, we can take action.” Labour List say when asked about police conduct she had told Ridge “The mistake, if we’re talking about the vigil specifically or that the police generally need to be doing more in cases of violence against women and girls, I’m afraid to say that both are true.”
Labour List reported that re the vigil Phillips had said: “There were, oh gosh, so many missed opportunities throughout the day for the police to work with organisers to create a completely safe vigil so that people could have a moment of sorrow and a moment of resistance’.” They reported on Phillip’s response to the police’s actions quoting her claim that “There are brilliant police officers working… across the country who spend all their time trying to make it so that women feel confident to come forward, and yesterday the police undermined that.” Again “Asked whether Cressida Dick should go” They said Phillips had remarked “If Cressida Dick stays or goes doesn’t make women in this country more safe, and that’s what I want to talk about. We need to come together to take action.” It was an important point as it would be all too easy for the Government who have created this policing mess to target Cressida Dick as a scapegoat to hide the ambiguity in their ill-conceived rules.
Labour List reported Phillips’s response to Ridge’s questions “On action from the government,” to which the reply had been “‘The minister should be able to lay out to us exactly what they’re going to do. The Labour Party has come up with endless suggestions throughout the domestic abuse bill. 37 amendments we put down.’ On upcoming legislation” Phillips had said, “On Monday, we will again be asking the government to look at things like misogyny as a hate crime, street harassment as a crime and increasing the tariffs on rape.” Ridge had asked about Domestic Violence Funding and this had provided an opportunity for Phillips to expose where a serious shortfall still remained when she replied “The £90m allocated in the Budget was largely to go into perpetrators services, which is absolutely something that we should be looking at. Only £4m of it was for directly for victims.”
Labour List say that when asked about Government policy Phillips had said “We’ve got to get this right in education, we’ve got to get this right in health, we’ve got to get this right in welfare, we’ve got to get this right in housing and we’ve got to get this right in criminal justice.” It was heartwarming to hear Phillips, from the Labour right, championing Socialist issues and acknowledging that there are consequences to the grinding poverty in many parts of this country. Labour certainly should emphasize that the rampant inequality caused by a decade of Tory austerity has been a major contributing factor to many social ills. We do not need Labour to buy into the neoliberal £300Bn debt con-trick and endorse another round of swinging cuts targeting the working poor. They noted She added: “Because in every single metric we are failing and in every metric woman are getting less safe year-on-year if you look at the data for convictions and if you look at the number of women coming forward.”
Labour List report that “Asked whether there can now be real change: ‘I really hope so. As somebody who has been ploughing this furrow for my entire career, not just my entire political career, I really, really, really hope that this is the turning point.’ On the Me Too movement,” they noted Phillips had pointed out that “Not a single piece of legislation has changed in the United Kingdom that would protect people from being sexually harassed at work that didn’t already exist. Every recommendation that has been made to the government on women’s safety in the workplace since the Me Too movement, which we all thought was a moment, has been rejected by the government out of hand.” When asked about “Taking action now” Phillips had said of the Tories: “They have an enormous majority in the Commons… I don’t want platitudes; I don’t want nice words; I don’t want clapping; I don’t even want candles. I want action.” It was another strong performance by Jess Phillips and her work on this issue is greatly appreciated.
Labour List then reported on the interview with Hackney North and Stoke Newington Labour MP Diane Abbott who said “Cressida Dick has ‘questions to answer over police conduct on Saturday. The former Shadow Home Secretary called for the media to take violence against women and girls seriously. Asked whether Cressida Dick should go: “We would hope that if she goes that she’s actually replaced with somebody better. Someone that doesn’t deny institutional racism exists in the police force and someone with a much less heavy-handed approach.” On Saturday’s events: “It was Cressida Dick and people at Scotland Yard who insisted on banning it altogether when everybody knew people would turn up anyway. So, she does have questions to answer.” This point is certainly true, but the problem was ultimately caused by the Tory Government’s manoeuvres to use Covid restrictions to shut down public protest altogether and it will only get worse if the Policing Bill sails through Parliament unchecked.
Labour List say that Abbott was asked “Whether harassment towards women has worsened and she had said that “In some ways, it’s got worse because what you’ve got is the online world, which feeds hostility and violence against women.” Asked “Whether politicians can change things, especially given the Me Too movement involving abuse in Westminster,” Abbott had replied, “When you want to see substantive change in society, the political process is part of that.” They noted that regarding “The media and violence against women,” Abbott had said “In the past, it hasn’t necessarily been seen as news by the media. We need a change in culture. We need the media to take these things seriously, not when there’s one dramatic case.” No one in Parliament has ever been on the receiving end of more hateful and violent abuse than Diane Abbott so few can speak with more authority on this issue.
Labour List report that “Home Office minister Victoria Atkins also appeared on the show this morning. She described the scenes at the vigil in Clapham on Saturday evening as ‘very upsetting’ and said that she takes it ‘very seriously.” Just like on Andrew Marr her appearance seemed limp and carefully scripted to meet the standard noncommital Tory procrastination agenda. They said that “The parliamentary under-secretary of state for safeguarding told viewers that an ‘end-to-end review of the criminal justice system is taking place and that changes are being made to the sentencing of serious and violent offenders. Asked whether Cressida Dick should go, Atkins said: “I really, really want to support the Home Secretary in her request to have a report from Cressida. The police have got a tough job in policing the coronavirus pandemic at the moment.” The public will not feel any more reassured by what Atkins had to say as the ‘cover-up and carry on’ brigade are not interested in tackling any of the real issues of the day.
In the Labour List Article entitled “Labour set to vote against ‘poorly thought-out’ Priti Patel policing bill,” Sienna Rodgers reports on this vital change of heart that took intense pressure from the progressive Left to derail yet another vacuous abstention from Keir Starmer. The opposition needs too apose, especially on toxic pieces of legislation like this, but Starmer’s relentless targeting of the Left Labour and his chronically weak leadership continues to let us all down. Finally, Rogers notes “Labour has announced that it will vote against the ‘poorly thought-out’ police, crime, sentencing and courts bill that could lead to harsher penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman.” Sadly, it appears to have taken the massive groundswell of public opinion rather than respect for the views of other Labour MPs to get Starmer to take a stand: this is not strong, decisive leadership and robust opposition!
Rogers says that “David Lammy confirmed on Sunday morning that Labour would oppose the bill in parliament. The party has called on the government to drop the proposals and instead legislate to tackle violence against women. The Shadow Justice Secretary said: ‘The tragic death of Sarah Everard has instigated a national demand for action to tackle violence against women. This is no time to be rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest’. LabourList sources say the Labour leadership was originally prepared to abstain on the government legislation, although MPs including Richard Burgon and Jon Trickett had already said they would vote against it. The whipping arrangement plans appear to have changed after the Metropolitan Police faced criticism from across the political spectrum over its handling of a vigil in south London for Sarah Everard, who went missing on March 3rd.”
Rogers reported that “It was confirmed this weekend that remains found in an area of woodland in Ashford, Kent were Everard’s. A serving police officer is in custody and was charged on Saturday with her kidnap and murder. Lammy added: ‘Now is the time to unite the country and put in place on long-overdue protections for women against unacceptable violence, including action against domestic homicides, rape and street harassment. And we must tackle the misogynistic attitudes that underpin the abuse women face. Instead, the Conservatives have brought forward a bill that is seeking to divide the country. It is a mess, which could lead to harsher penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman. Labour will be voting against the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill on this basis. ‘We are calling on the government to drop its poorly thought-out proposals and instead work with Labour to legislate to tackle violence against women, which is forcing so many across the country to live in fear.”
Rogers says that “Labour is demanding ‘tougher sentences for attacks on frontline workers and increased sentences for terrorists’, as well as longer minimum sentences for stalking and rape, and that misogyny be made a hate crime. The opposition would like to see a whole life tariff introduced for anyone found guilty of a stranger abductor murder, a new street harassment law and an independent review to look into increasing sentences for domestic murder. Shadow safeguarding minister Jess Phillips told The Andrew Marr Show: ‘You should get more for rape than you do for defacing a statue… You can currently get more for fly-tipping than you can get for stalking.’ The opposition party backs proposals in the bill on dangerous driving increased sentences for terrorists and other dangerous offenders, a police covenant, reform to criminal records and criminalising sexual abuse by people in positions of trust.”
But Rogers warns that “The government legislation also gives the police powers to take a ‘more proactive approach in cracking down on protests that are considered to be ‘highly disruptive’, such as those by Extinction Rebellion. Civil rights organisations have criticised the proposals on the basis that they threaten freedoms. Liberty director Gracie Bradley said parts of the bill will ‘facilitate discrimination and undermine protest’. The bill states, in a section on ‘intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance’, that someone could face a fine and up to ten years in jail for causing ‘serious annoyance’ or ‘serious inconvenience’ to another person.” This Policing Bill seeks to protect powerful Corporations and rogue Government decision-makers in the rampant exploitation of our people and our planet by criminalizing all reasonable public protest and civil disobedience in a sharp authoritarian crackdown.
Rogers reports that “The Sarah Everard vigil organised by Reclaim These Streets was cancelled after the Met said it could not go ahead due to Covid. Many, including the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton nonetheless attended. Hundreds gathered on Clapham Common on Saturday evening. Police officers were shown in videos and photos circulated online to have started forcefully removing women from the area once it was dark. Reclaim These Streets had originally told attendees to wear masks and to be socially distanced and said they made suggestions to the police including staggered start times and splitting the event into time slots. The organisers of the vigil released a statement on Saturday morning saying there were ‘positive discussions’ with local officers but ‘those from Scotland Yard would not engage with our suggestions’.” Probably the decision went as high as Priti Patel, determined to stop this vigil as, in anticipation of many protests in the near future, they want to totally shut down all public protests!
Following the shocking unfathomable result of the Covert 2019 Rigged Election that gifted absolute power to this Tory Sovereign Dictatorship, the Covid 19 Pandemic has provided cover for the implementation of draconian restrictions that this corrupt cabal are eager to retain. As the catastrophic self-harm of Brexit becomes more apparent despite the impact being blamed on Covid we must protest. Drafting in the Army to deal with civil unrest was already in the Yellowhammer planning document long before Covid and this Government will not hesitate to resort to excessive use of force. At this time when the progressive Socialist fight-back has never been more vital, we cannot condone any of the current legislation that will provide legal cover for violence against civilians. We should never have let the vote that brought this dangerous Government to power stand unchallenged, but a full Investigation is still possible. Just a year in power and the squandering of public money has added to their rampant corruption: Get The Tories Out! DO NOT MOVE ON!