MPs told to ‘act, not mourn’, as names of women killed by men last year read out

Labour MP Jess Phillips has read out a list of names of women killed by men in the last year, the ninth year she has carried out what she called an “act of memorial”.

Ms Phillips told the Commons that the “epidemic of violence against women and girls has not abated” and said “we must not mourn, we must act”.

She said: “All of these women mattered, they need to matter much more to politics. And I urge again, as I have for years, for the Government to have a strategy for reducing femicide. Warm words and no political priority will never make this list shorter.”

Some of those watching the chamber from the public gallery stood as the names were read, and became emotional, as did some of the gathered MPs.

Before reading the list of names of more than 100 women, Ms Phillips said at least half of the lives lost could have been saved.

She said: “I, however, have grown weary of this task. While it is an honour to do it, every year when I meet the families, many of whom are with us today, I am reminded of why I do this.

“I am weary and tired of this list today.

Keir Starmer visit to Stoke on Trent
Jess Phillips, second right, made her comments during a debate on language in politics on International Women’s Day (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“The first year I did it I felt overwhelmed, and then I grew used to it, and now I have grown so sad that every year the same cases of systems failures, of prison recalls not followed up, of children’s services and family court decisions that left women at risk, of the fact that not every single police force in our country has a specific women’s safety unit, let alone the fact that none of them do.”

She added: “I am tired that women’s safety matters so much less in this place than small boats. I am tired of fighting for systematic change and being given table scraps. Never again do I want to hear a politician say that lessons will be learned from abject failure – it is not true. This list is no longer just a testament to these women’s lives, it is a testament to our collective failure.”

Ms Phillips spoke during a debate on language in politics on International Women’s Day, that came after a statement from Home Secretary James Cleverly on the Angiolini report into the murder of Sarah Everard.

Women’s minister Maria Caulfield said: “While we have made significant progress in publishing the tackling violence against women and girls strategy and the tackling domestic abuse plan, it is not going fast enough.

“We all have a role, it’s not just the role of Government to do this, it’s the role of all agencies to do this, from the police to the courts to others as well to absolutely make sure that femicide is taken seriously and it is dealt with when people come forward to share their stories.”

Former women and equalities minister Dame Maria Miller said too many women were ‘rejecting the idea of standing for election because of the abuse they faced’ (PA)

Conservative former women and equalities minister Dame Maria Miller said: “We want to continue our work to ensure amazing women on these benches and in our community see elected office as a way that they can contribute to the future of our country.”

Of the 650 MPs, 225 are women – which is just under 35%.

Dame Maria said too many women were “rejecting the idea of standing for election because of the abuse they face, particularly the abusive language used on social media”.

She said: “Abuse affects all of us but is disproportionately aimed at women and is more likely to put women off from standing for election.”

She added: “In research, over nine-in-10 women MPs who took part reported that online abuse or harassment negatively impacts how they feel about being an MP.”

Labour MP Carolyn Harris shared her frustration with abusive language she had received about her appearance and gender, adding it “saddens me that it is generally nothing to do with my politics”.

The Swansea East MP said: “Today’s debate calls for respectful language to be used in this place and in the upcoming general election, as the public look to us for leadership and an example, and it is crucial that we respect each other and we respect those who elected us to be their representatives.”

But she listed online abuse she had received from a host of people following her appearance at a recent Westminster Hall debate, telling MPs: “It saddens me that it is generally nothing to do with my politics or causes that I champion but is always because of my gender, my hair colour, my choice of outfits, my size, my appearance, my glasses.”

Conservative MP Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills) suggested more needed to be done to ensure women felt comfortable entering politics.

The Tory former chief whip said: “One decisive factor as to why women choose not to enter politics at all is due to its aggressive and intimidating nature.

“Parliament and politics remain sadly all too often masculine in culture, language and space, and even after 100 years in politics, many female politicians continue to suffer from bullying, harassment, misogyny and sexism both in this place and beyond.”

Echoing the words of past Prime Minister’s Questions contributions, she added: “Take a look at the toxic nature of Prime Minister’s Questions some weeks, where women have been known to be called ‘stupid woman’, they have even been told to ‘calm down, dear’.”

Labour shadow equalities minister Anneliese Dodds said she had become accustomed to “toxic discourse” in politics, adding: “Complex and sensitive matters too often get boiled down to simplistic, overly oppositional narratives, such that substance is often overshadowed or even completely disregarded.”