This week started with International Women’s Day and I spoke in a panel about the abuse of women in public life on social media. Of course, it is not only women that receive such abuse but we receive the majority of it. It’s extraordinary that people feel they can write things that they would never say to someone in person. Calling someone a slag or being rude about their appearance is not a political point but gender-based abuse. The anonymity of Twitter is particularly bad. Some of my colleagues have received death threats and people have been given custodial sentences for writing them. Diane Abbott MP receives the brunt of many. In 2017 there were 25,000 abusive social media posts and she received one third of those. Sadly, it is putting off women from going into public life. Many rightly think, ‘why put my head above the parapet to be constantly shot down by abuse’.
On Thursday the International Women’s Day debate was held and it received a lot of media coverage because of the quality of speeches that took place. Many MPs spoke about the abuse they had received on social media during the debate. Jess Philips MP for Birmingham Yardley read out the names of 120 women who had been killed by men – this has become a yearly memorial.
She did not read out the name of Sarah Everard whose body has just been identified as I write. I have two daughters around the same age so I can imagine the devastation that the family feels. I spoke in the debate about the plight of women in leadership in failed states and the danger they face. I also talked about how technology can transform lives and that we should focus more aid on giving women access to technology to improve their life chances. You can find it here:
The Budget debate about the Levelling Up Fund took place too and I am hoping to work with Havant Borough Council to apply for money for Waterlooville. Each MP is allowed to back one project and the demise of Waterlooville town centre is very clear. I will keep working on this project and will keep you updated. You can hear what I said here:
Several people have written to me about the pig husbandry Ten Minute Rule Motion that took place in parliament. Sir David Amess has introduced a Bill which aims to outlaw the use of farrowing crates in pig farming. The Government is committed to ending this practice. DEFRA is currently looking at the evidence to assess what the best way of ending the use of crates is – whether through a bill like Sir David’s, or with other legislation.
I had an interesting meeting with the Local Resilience Forum on Wednesday where we had an update about vaccine trials with Professor Saul Faust from the University of Southampton University. A big thank you to everyone who has been on these trials, it is the reason that we have been able to develop and approve so quickly. He also commented that the 12-week gap between the first jab and the booster has been effective as people build up most immunity from the first vaccination.
Talking of vaccination, I am getting mine on Saturday and am very excited about it as I feel that it will help me get back to working safely in Westminster and out in the constituency. I have been very conscious that I do not want to be that person spreading the virus. The Government is still looking at what sort of vaccine passport we will need. There is no doubt that many would like one and I am expecting that we will definitely need one for foreign travel. It does seem that we are nearly there although the cautious approach from the Prime Minister is the right one as no one wants to go back into lockdown.
Have a great weekend.