The leaders debate: its a racing certainty they wont mention violence against women

I’m not, as the old cliché has it, a betting man (no, no, I’m really not a betting man, hate it …) but …isn’t that Paddy Power bet where you can try to guess which is the first country mentioned  in the leaders’ debate wide open to abuse?

Yes, that’s right. If you were Nick, David or Gordon you could bet a year’s parliamentary expenses on yourself that the first country to be mentioned will be (eg) “Sierra Leone” and then go and blurt out “Well, in Sierra Leone this week they made all maternal care for women free, which is excellent and exactly what we will do …”.

OK, not fool-proof, but worth a try. Or certainly the First to interrupt. They could definitely give that a punt. Or … there are, I’m reliably informed, 696 different General Election bets currently available from this company, so there could be many other match-fixing opportunities.

Just a thought. But I reckon it is a very safe bet that tonight’s debate will, like the other two, manage to go the one-and-a-half-hour distance without even a solitary mention of the need to tackle violence against women in Britain. That’s what Holly Dustin says over at the New Statesman and she’s spot on. OK, should they? It’s a minority issue in a way, isn’t it? No. As Holly points out:

“Staggeringly, half of women in England and Wales experience sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking in their lifetime. Based on government figures, it is estimated to cost over £40 billion a year (including the cost to public services, women's lost economic output and the human cost). Think of most policy areas and there will be a link – health, poverty, inequality, crime, the economy and so it goes on.”

Hmm. Not so marginal now. In fact, memo to Messrs Darling / Osborne / Cable: put some effort into this area and you could not only save lives, you could save money.

So it’s excellent to read today that a new stalking helpline will soon be launched. Let’s hope it won’t be starved of funds (like rape crisis centres) - there are already worries - or have to operate on an exclusive basis (as with the infamous “No recourse to public funds” rule for people from overseas).

The fact is that for too long accessing services if you’re a woman or girl at risk of violence in this country has been a postcode lottery of hoping your local authority / police force / hospital etc was up to scratch. And preventing the violence before it happens? Again, a patchwork of miscellaneous “initiatives”, poster campaigns and so on, most short-lived and some frankly ineffectual. 

In a word, politicians have been unwilling to organise services and policy under one umbrella, preferring to leave it to the uncertainties of departmental budgeting, pressure from campaigners, voluntary services or whatever.

It was as if they were saying to women at risk: fancy a flutter …


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