A fuming Jess Phillips has accused Tory MPs of ‘moving back the dial’ on responding to potential domestic abuse situations, after they downplayed the recent incident in which police were called to Boris Johnson’s home.
Boris Johnson is being subjected to "politically motivated" personal attacks says his supporter and ex-Cabinet minister Priti Patel. "Boris has a right to a private life. It is his choice whether he chooses to discuss it publicly" #r4today https://t.co/fxfypVA7aY pic.twitter.com/v9tHuXLyrv— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) June 24, 2019
Numerous Tory MPs, along with Nigel Farage and conservative columnists, smeared the neighbour, Tom Penn, who called the police during a row between the leadership candidate and his partner Carrie Symonds.
“Boris has a right to a private life,” simpered Patel on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “The first initial report that was taken to the Guardian newspaper was politically motivated … the very prospect of someone taping someone in their private home [is] the type of behaviour that you’d expect in the old Eastern bloc.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg dutifully called the concerned neighbours “Corbynista curtain-twitchers” despite the fact that screams and crashes of the row were clearly audible in Penn’s own home.
This morning we are pleased to issue a joint statement with domestic abuse charities and experts across the sector, explaining why it is so important we all take action if worried about someone's safety: https://t.co/9exF2uiK1o pic.twitter.com/Wu7eSwlJoc— SafeLives (@safelives_) June 24, 2019
Meanwhile, Kwasi Karteng, MP for Waltham Forest, called the incident a “put-up job”.
Sir John Nott, Matt Hancock, and James Cleverley all echoed the same talking points on TV, radio and across social media in defence of their leadership favourite.
Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson attempted to trigger a witch hunt before Penn had made a public statement, tweeting: “We really need to name and shame the #Boris neighbours.”
I've lost count of the number of domestic violence cases I've successfully prosecuted which only came to the police attention because of the actions of concerned neighbours. These people are literal life-savers. For MPs to discourage this for political point scoring is shameful. pic.twitter.com/SnZh9gvADu— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) June 22, 2019
A group of ten domestic abuse organisations, including the Fawcett Society, Women’s Aid and Southall Black Sisters have now been “forced” to reissue public advice on how to respond to potential domestic abuse, said Phillips during a point of order in the House of Commons.
This is because of the “rush of members of this house” to “move back the dial” and insist that the incident was merely a private matter, she said, with barely contained anger.
“Now I am certain that in almost any circumstance that the people in this house don’t believe that that is the case. However I guess they had their priorities elsewhere when they went out to say it.
“What that has led to is that all the women’s charities in this country have had to today reissue a statement to asset that of course people should call the police. Of course people should gather evidence where they can. And of course people should try and intervene.
“Because the message that came from this house, and perhaps the speaker could send a different message today, was: that people should not try to help.”
The chief executive of the Fawcett Society, Sam Smethers called the MPs’ reaction “worrying” in a Huffington Post article, writing: “The fact that when police attended the flat there was no visible cause for concern doesn’t mean that this was in fact the case, nor does it mean that the neighbour was wrong to report it.
“Far from it … It may only be the ‘interfering’ neighbour who is in a position to save a life or prevent serious injury.”
In their statement, the domestic abuse organisations said: “It’s not for us to judge what happens in anyone’s relationship, but it is for us all to take action if we are concerned about someone’s safety. That’s a natural human instinct. Let’s support it rather than challenge it. Don’t walk on by if you are worried. Ask if they are ok. Tell someone. Call the police.”