UPDATED 8.30pm 02/02/17 [see bottom]
Here’s something that didn’t happen in the House of Commons yesterday.
Nusrat Ghani MP had just asked the house for time to present a bill on the topic of “Crime (Aggravated Murder of and Violence Against Women)” when Philip Davies MP didn’t stand up and say:
“Mr Speaker, while I welcome the good intentions of this motion may I ask my honourable friend to consider a minor amendment at this preliminary stage? It is my understanding that according to the Henry Jackson Society, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Forced Marriages Unit, approximately one in four of all victims of so-called Honour Crimes are men and boys, with gay, bisexual or transgender men at particularly high risk of victimisation. Would my honourable friend consider removing the words ‘female’ and ‘of women’ from the terms of her proposal, thereby ensuring all victims of these terrible crimes are afforded the legal and financial protection they deserve?”
What Philip Davies actually said was a lot further off-point and a lot less admirable. He basically promised to oppose a bill which proposes only two necessary measures (firstly to bar official documents from using the phrase ‘honour crimes’ and secondly to fund the prosecutions (and even funeral costs) in cases where British citizens commit family and relationship violence in another country. Given his record of filibustering and talking out any vaguely progressive measure which gets on his wick, we can assume that is not an idle threat. If you watch the footage (at 12.39pm here) you can actually hear the sound of several hundred rolling eyes right across the House. Parliament has long ago decided Davies is a buffoon and they’re not the only ones.
Inevitably, here’s what the political pundits were Twittering about Davies yesterday.
It’s a familiar, sorry picture. And yet here’s the irony. Nusrat Ghani was proposing a bill which – in the initial terms she described yesterday – would indeed be horribly discriminatory and unfair, and those on the shitty end would primarily be vulnerable young GBT men from strictly conservative religious communities. Does Nusrat Ghani or anyone else want to stand up and justify their explicit exclusion from this bill? I very much doubt it. On his fundamental point, Davies was right. So he rose to his feet in the House, surveyed the wide sprawling fields of the moral high ground afore him, complete with a trumpet fanfare to welcome him to this fresh ethical arcadia, and immediately dived headfirst into the ideological gutter.
It was like a little 15 minute cameo vignette of the entire political ideology of Philip Davies. He had a wonderful opportunity yesterday to make an intervention which could have made a real, practical, valuable difference to the lives of extremely vulnerable men and boys. But Davies does not really seem to care about the lives of extremely vulnerable men and boys. Male victims of family violence are not helped in the slightest by preventing progress for women and girls under the guise of an infantile notion of ‘fairness.’ His only concern is adhering to some kind of brainless, infantile, ‘sauce for the goose’ equation.
Despite Davies’s intervention, the motion passed. The nature of backbench legislation is that it is unlikely to become law, but in any case, here’s a very brief plan of action. Between now and the bill’s second reading on 24th of March, I’ll get together with colleagues at the Men and Boys Coalition and suggest we write to Nusrat Ghani, offer our thanks and full support for this important measure, and ask her to ensure that the wording of the bill is explicitly inclusive of male victims. I would very much hope this is something on which we could trust to the support of LGBT charities and campaigns, and also the support of organisations working with victims of family and relationship violence, particularly in South Asian communities. If Ghani and other MPs do wish to explicitly exclude male victims from these measures, let’s put them in a position where they have to spell that out and justify it.
What we have here is a fairly clear example of where lobbying for male victims can be straightforward, winnable and the right thing to do. Let’s not allow Philip Davies to bugger it up for everyone.
Apologies for not noticing this sooner, but after I posted this blog yesterday Nusrat Ghani replied to a Twitter user who asked specifically about male victims. Here are her posts:
Just in case your images are turned off, she says “it does include men. Look out for the speech” and then later: “I spoke to him [Davies] earlier this week & made it clear that I would clarify bill title & ensure all victims r covered. Still objected.”
So, that clears that up. I’m very happy because it saves me some lobbying time. Nusrat Ghani is happy to include male victims in her legislation, everyone’s a winner.
Except take on board the momentousness of what she said. Philip Davies stood up yesterday and objected to the bill on grounds that he already knew were entirely baseless. He wasn’t objecting to the bill because it was going to exclude male victims. Which leaves us to ponder the question, what the fuck was he playing at?