Well, it’s not every day you find yourself sitting in the public gallery above the House of Commons watching Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer exchanging verbal blows over the Dispatch Box.
It’s like hovering above a mini football match as loud cheers erupt amongst the rival fans when one side or the other scores a political goal.
The only courtesy – in advance of much shouting over the government’s tough new measures for dealing with the growing numbers of ‘boat people’ seeking refuge in the UK – was an acknowledgement from all parties that this was International Women’s Day.
The house currently has 225 female MPs – out of a combined total of 650. The first woman MP to take a seat in the house was Nancy Astor back in 1919.
Amongst those sitting on the benches was Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse who – before arrived to watch proceedings – had asked the Minister for Women and Equalities for the Government’s latest views on making misogyny a hate crime.
She has been our Member of Parliament since 2017 and also – currently – is the Lib Dem spokesperson on energy, climate change and transport.
After PMQ’s, Wera made her way back to her office in Portcullis House – opened in 2001 to provide accommodation for 213 members of parliament and their staff.
It was here where l caught up with her and asked – as the day was marking womens’ achievements – would she like to see more female members in the house.
Thought l would add the exchange Wera had earlier yesterday morning during Women and Equalities Questions. She told Ministers that misogyny should be made a hate crime. The Government responded by saying it would be a virtue signalling despite the impact that misogyny has.
Mrs Hobhouse put to the Ministers that most cases of violence against women originate in misogyny. She argued that making misogyny a hate crime would send a powerful signal to offenders that their crimes would be treated with the utmost seriousness. Current conviction and charge rates for crimes against women are shockingly low. For rape, charge rates are just 1.3%.
The MP for Bath highlighted the case of Police Officer, Wayne Couzens. He was sentenced this week, on 6th March, for 19-months after indecently exposing himself to women in the months before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard. Mrs Hobhouse told the Government how the victims of Couzens have argued that Sarah Everard might still be alive today if reports of his indecent exposure had been taken seriously.
In response to the Bath MP’s question, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office), Sarah Dines, disagreed. She instead said the only signal that making misogyny a hate crime would send was a virtue signal. Miss Dines then went on to highlight the Government’s work to recruit more Police Officers than ever before to safeguard citizens.
The Minister did not address how trust would be restored between women and the police and how police training and vetting would change. Reform in this area is needed, after large numbers of violent, misogynistic crimes against women have been reportedly committed by members of different Forces.
Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, commented:
“The failure to address violence against women and girls starts with our cultural attitudes towards misogyny. It is clear that we do not treat crimes against women seriously enough and we have to turn this around.
“That starts with the signal we send to the perpetrators of these crimes. By making misogyny a hate crime we send a powerful message to them that their offence will be investigated properly and that these actions are not tolerated.
“Now is the time for a real step-change in our attitudes to misogynistic violence and that starts by calling out a misogynistic crime for what it is, a hate crime. It is not virtue signalling as the Minister said, but a clear sign that these kinds of offences will be treated with the seriousness they deserve.”