Jess Phillips Diary: Saying Goodbye to My Thirties and Why the Government Can’t Keep Women Safe

I turned 40 earlier this month. Congresswoman Stella Creasy once described me as the Kim Kardashian of politics because I seemed to stay in my mid-thirties all the time. Alas, those days are over.

I’m going to attribute it more to a mixture of hangovers and colds than to any sort of existential crisis, but I feel completely exhausted. I gave myself the weekend to see my family and friends for the celebrations. I decided that I wouldn’t be looking at my emails, Twitter, or other social media; I was just hanging out with my relatives, who came from far away. It took about five minutes until various reporters sent messages, asking me to comment or appear on their broadcasts regarding the government’s latest initiative for women’s safety: an app, made in partnership with BT, which would follow the women as they walk. I feel like I’m living in a decades-old episode The thickness of it, “I call App Britain”. That’s why I’m exhausted.

Say their names

Turning 40 reminds me of the decades I worked in the field of women’s safety. My voice is not only hoarse from screaming over the noise of my birthday party, but saying the same thing for 20 years. The new app is reportedly priced at £ 50million – although a very similar app already exists, developed by Hollie Gazzard Trust. Hollie was murdered in 2014 by her ex-partner, after reporting her to the police. After Hollie’s death, the Independent Police Complaints Commission found that the force had inadequate domestic violence policies and training. This report was released shortly before I was elected to Parliament six years ago. In mid-September, the Police Inspectorate, in a report commissioned after the murder of Sarah Everard, highlighted the low priority police give to violence against women and the differences in approach across the country. Home Secretary Priti Patel, who commissioned the report, has not said whether his recommendations will be implemented, but is in talks on applying BT. We turn arround.

I wonder what the name of the woman will be when I turn 50, whose death will be presented as the thing that will change everything. By then, more than a thousand other women will likely have been killed by men, and about half a million will have learned that their rape would not lead to charges. Maybe it’s not the hangover that makes me feel bad after all. How come Patel looks so happy?

No time for recess

When I ask ministers when we will have the long awaited victims bill, or push them to update regulations on unsafe accommodation for vulnerable people, they often say the same thing: “You are right, Jess, we care about this, but there is no parliamentary time to work on it at the moment. Which seems odd as Parliament is closed until October 18 for the conference vacation, even though the majority of conferences are over and Boris Johnson is having a great time at his wealthy mate’s villa in Marbella.

If we stick to the government’s recent habit of rushing through unfair tax hike legislation in a week, I just don’t know why we need a break. So that participants can drink mulled white wine in a convention center, or take mini-breaks out of season? We could do the things that ministers claim to care.

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Threshing game

Always one to cling to the tail of the coat the times, I started watching the Netflix series Squid game. I am, to be honest, yet to find the masterpiece that everyone thinks it is. I appreciate Running Man, Royal battle, The hunger Games and the lesser-known classic by Rutger Hauer Wedding as much as the next 40 years old – but I don’t know why all this noise is on.

Living in a Covid Nation

I have a cold, although obviously I thought it was Covid. An alarming number of my friends have had the virus in the past two weeks and an alarming number of my children’s classmates, who weren’t fortunate enough to get their shots on time, are not in school. It could be confirmation bias (when it affects me it again seems like a big deal), but I really don’t feel like Covid is fading away. I marvel at the regularity with which I now put spiky swabs up my nose and hopefully remove them with families across the country playing a human-sized game of KerPlunk.

Be careful, however, by saying that you know a lot of people who are sick or on sick leave, Johnson will tell you that you are a miserable pessimist with no vision. Realism is so last year.

This article appeared in the October 13, 2021 issue of The New Statesman, Perfect thunderstorm

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