Opinion

Grab her by the neck: Violence in government

Written & illustrated by Ruby Hinchliffe

Mark Field grabbed a woman by the neck.

Still your MP.

How come?

Last week Boris Johnson dropped the investigation into Mark Field, the Tory MP who grabbed Greenpeace protester Janet Barker by the neck after shoving her against a pillar.

The incident happened at a formal dinner during the Chancellor’s Mansion House speech, which was disrupted by dozens of activists peacefully protesting about climate change. Here is a video of the event:

(Source: The Guardian)

When Janet walked down that hall towards the Chancellor’s glowing podium she was carrying some papers – she did not pose any threat to the suited and booted onlookers sitting opposite large glasses of red wine.

And yet, the morning after many listeners will have heard Nick Farari insist on LBC that the protester intended to throw paint on the Chancellor, therefore justifying Field’s actions. Unless paper can metamorphise into a paint-shooting bazuka, I think the Chancellor would have survived her advances to the stage.

As Johnson drops the investigation, sparking many commentators – almost solely female – to speak out about what message this sends to voters.

Despite manhandling a woman, gripping her by the neck and violently shoving her up against the wall with an entire audience of onlookers, Field is still serving as an MP for Westminster. He has escaped the incident unscathed.

This affirmation of domestic violence from our PM is worrying, scary and ultimately incredibly dangerous. The lack of punishment for lashing out as he did suggests grabbing a woman by the neck is ‘ok’.

If a man I didn’t know grabbed me by the neck and shoved me up against a wall I’d call the police and they would file a case of assault. Janet got no definitive support from police or politicians.

This sparked the Women’s Equality Party to step up to the mark no other dare tread it seems, launching a campaign against the MP in his Westminster seat. Taking inspiration from the film Three Billboards in Missouri, the party are demanding government to give constituents the power to trigger a by-election when their MP has been violent, whilst still in keeping with the 6,500 petition signatures needed for an MP to be recalled.

(Source: Women’s Equality Party)

Labour MP Fiona Onasanya lost her Peterborough seat in May for lying about a speeding offence. This month Tory MP Chris Davies was found guilty of submitting a false expenses claim. But Tim Field is still your MP. How come?

The WEP campaign does what the government failed to do – shame a public official who violently assaulted an unarmed woman. If this is less important than false expenses and lying about speeding then our government needs to seriously re-evaluate its priorities.

This isn’t the first time government has witnessed violence and harrassment within its ranks. Two weeks ago Tory MP Charlie Elphicke was charged with assault 20 months after the accusations against him first came to light, giving him the power to vote on laws almost two years later.

Charlie Elphicke (Source: BBC)

Ex-Labour MP (now independent) Jared O’Mara admitted to harassing a 20-year-old member of staff, despite a Labour Party investigation saying his behaviour ‘did not meet the threshold’ for him to face disciplinary action just last year. 

A 2018 Commons Report revealed one in five people working in Westminster had experienced sexual harassment in the previous 12 months. If our PM lets off agressors as he did Field, this statistic will increase.

We all have a responsibility to call out violence where we see it. All those politicians at that annual black tie event had a responsibilty to tell Field he was wrong. To point at him, shout and shame him, so other men don’t watch the video and convice themselves that they can assault a woman in front of a room of people.

You can sign the petition here: https://www.womensequality.org.uk/recall_billboard

Currently, Ruby is retraining to become a journalist. She is an avid follower of British politics, writes poetry on her commute and is a firm believer in open debate. Her particular interests are attending and reviewing art exhibitions and analysing current affairs.

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