Jess Phillips MP headshotJess Phillips Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley

Deeds Not Words on Domestic Violence Please, Prime Minister

July 18, 2016 - 9:48am By: Jess

I’ve been watching Theresa May form her government over the past for days, interested in who’s going where in which department. I’ll admit to having to Google a couple of the names. There was the shocker of the first few “you broke it, you sodding fix it” appointments of Johnson, Fox and Leadsom, followed by Priti “replace DfID” Patel, causing an intake in breath by the poorest people in the world. Then came a steady stream of less controversial appointments and, in my opinion, some potential improvement.
When Karen Bradley was elevated to Cabinet a space was left for a new Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime. This job matters to me. This job is the one place where violence against women and girls, modern slavery, and sexual exploitation sits in Government. This is the job I want when I play fantasy reshuffle. The likelihood of me ever having a government job is currently akin to the fantasy Oscar I’m also going to win for best original screenplay. I waited eagerly to see who would fill this role - alas I am still waiting. There are two Home Office ministers or Parliamentary under Secretaries of State (whatever that means) who seem to have no brief, so perhaps one of them will get it.
I’m reserving my full on screaming rage at the idea that the position is gone. I’ll give them 24 hours to sort their act out. For now I shall express concerned disappointment that this was less of a priority for allocation than the big hitters of immigration, and counter-terrorism. If Andrea Leadsom, Gove or Johnson had won the race I would expect this oversight. Not May. I expect a lot more from May.
I made no secret of the fact that May was my preferred candidate for Prime Minister. Before all the people who cannot see nuance rush to berate me, let me be clear: I don’t want a Tory prime minister at all - I also wish I was a size ten, reality sucks at times. I preferred May because I think that while she has been a bit rubbish on refugee women and has left many victims of domestic violence who have no recourse to public funds in the lurch, she has been an alright Home Secretary on violence against women and girls. She was solid on modern slavery and good on stalking. She has changed laws for the better even though delivery on the ground remains stubbornly slow to improve.
The Home Office efforts of the past five years have been woefully let down by other departments. Education have time and time again stubbornly voted down compulsory relationship education that would help keep children safe. The Department for Communities and Local Government have removed every safeguard May tried to put in place by decimating local budgets for refuges, community domestic violence services and local rape crisis. The Department for Health continues to gleefully fail to recognise the problem of domestic violence up and down the country’s A&E and primary care services and frankly does naff all in the fight for keeping millions of people’s safe. The DWP have repeatedly failed to recognise that Universal Credit, localised welfare rules and now the potential reduction in housing benefit for supported accommodation doesn’t just ignore victims of domestic violence it actually puts them in harms way.
However the greatest offender of crapping on scared families is the Ministry of Justice. The removal of legal aid has meant that thousands of victims of violence are now left with no representation and are being cross examined by their perpetrators in the country’s civil and family courts. Yes that’s right, we live in a country where you have to represent yourself and your rapist is allowed to question you in court. Slow hand clap.
By comparison to this shower, May’s department at the Home Office looked like a beacon of good practice. I was told by many Tory MPs during the briefest leadership battle in history that she had spoken of her commitment to ending this violence. They assured me that if she was the Prime Minister violence against women and children would be prioritised.
I really hope that I will be eating my words this week. I really hope that not only will there be an announcement about someone having the role of Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime, but that in every department of government she will give one of her shiny new ministers the job of managing sexual and domestic violence in that department. I want to see a council of ministers with this brief who actually wake up to the fact that this is costing us billions of pounds, killing more people each year than UK terrorism does in decades, and leaving our children learning unacceptable standards.
I’m willing to help her get it right. I don’t like Tories, I don’t want to help them, but I like victims of domestic violence getting a bad deal far less. I realise some think this means I’m a red Tory, I call it giving a toss about someone other than myself. I could write her a policy document right now that would change things, just say the word Theresa.
Theresa May, I’m counting on you to give a damn. I want deeds not words. Prime minister, I beg you to make me look a fool for doubting you because if you don’t, I will be standing up and shaming you every day and neither of us want that.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley
First published online on 18/07/2016 at

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