Gavin Williamson is set to order an investigation by the Office for Students into university rape culture. It comes after ‘Everyone’s Invited’ published accounts of abuse at schools across the country, particularly private ones, and is now releasing testimonies from universities. I am thoroughly unsurprised to see my own university named, but the website’s list will not be an exhaustive one. That the discussion in government and the media around sexual violence has not entirely disappeared after being brought to prominence by the death of Sarah Everard is something I will cling to; reviews by a couple of watchdogs are not going to cut it, however. While ministers are happy to back probes, they find it a lot harder to take action – via funding and legislation – that could genuinely help to tackle male violence against women and girls.
The Tories yesterday rejected an amendment to the domestic abuse bill that would have introduced a register of serial perpetrators. The government had first suggested it might adopt the proposal, but then U-turned, saying it would “add complexity” to existing arrangements “without any gain”. Labour women cited harrowing examples of repeat abusers and asked whether such cases would exist if the status quo were working well enough, yet got no answers. Efforts to fully support migrant victims were also struck down, despite evidence that perpetrators use immigration status against their victims. Ministers instead offered to fund a pilot programme, which Labour criticised as being full of holes. Survivor Apsana Begum MP shared her views and experiences in a LabourList piece.
More Tory cronyism stories are getting their way into the papers before Prince Philip’s funeral dominates news tomorrow. The Health Service Journal reported last night that Matt Hancock failed to declare close family connections to a company that won a deal to provide services to the NHS in 2019, as well as contracts with NHS Wales. The Department of Health says the minister “acted entirely properly” and there was “no conflict of interest”. That the firm secured a deal to provide shredding services has given Westminster a laugh. The story naturally prompted Labour to whip out its attack line: “It’s one rule for them, another for everybody else.”
It has also emerged that a second Cabinet Office adviser worked for Greensill while a civil servant. “Revelations like this keep growing the web of the Greensill scandal,” Rachel Reeves told The Guardian. Purely anecdotal evidence suggests it is starting to reach those who do not follow every move in Westminster politics, but electorally can this counteract the vaccine bounce or Labour’s decline in the polls? The latest from YouGov via The Times, conducted before the lobbying stories hit their stride, shows the Tories are 14 points ahead. UK Labour appears to be losing support not only to the Tories but also the Greens and Lib Dems, which critics say is the risk of a laser-focus on the so-called “Red Wall”. Keir Starmer’s strategy and his top team will face thorough scrutiny if the May election results are as bad as many party insiders fear.
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