While obviously not the most important takeaway from The Great Outpouring, Dominic Cummings really hates Carrie Symonds, doesn’t he? Understandable really. She took his best mate away. They were so close, but then she came along and Boris didn’t have time for him any more… Oh sorry, I appear to have segued into a half-remembered Byker Grove storyline – a “teaching moment” for schoolboy viewers about feeling left out when your mate gets a girlfriend. Only in the Westminster version, a pandemic is brewing and Cummings depicts Symonds “going crackers about something completely trivial” – a story claiming that Dilyn, the jack russell cross she rescued with Boris Johnson, was being “reshuffled”. Thing is, anche se, I understand why Symonds was upset and I rather like her for it.
Cummings clearly wanted to present Symonds as a Violet Elizabeth Bott figure, a preposterous, demanding drag on the prime minister’s focus at a critical moment. Admittedly, il now-leaked letter of complaint Symonds drafted to the Volte is an overwrought belter, citing violations, demanding corrections and ending with the classic: “We look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.” Elsewhere, never mind the first fiancee’s taste for swanky decor, stories abound about her pushing animal welfare agendas and exerting undue influence over No 10 hiring and firing. Ancora, when it comes to being a pandemic liability, I have two words for Cummings: “Barnard” and “Castle”. As for the letter, it’s an absurd, messy, emotional overreaction… and I completely relate.
The story was about Dilyn potentially being rehoused because of bad health and unruliness (shagging legs and the like). Never mind that it’s supposed to be true that Johnson had wearied of Dilyn (maybe partly accounting for his waving away Symonds’s letter as “nonsense”). For an animal lover, and especially someone who’s rescued an animal, this would be upsetting. Adopting a rescue is a serious commitment – a lot of these animals have already been abused and abbandonato (I read that Dilyn was rescued from being put down because of a wonky jaw). By rescuing, you make a sacred pledge to your vulnerable animal: “That’s the last time you’re scared” and you mean it. Or you should do.
While there’s been a pandemic pet boom, charities are already worrying about animals being abandoned post-lockdown. In that grim context, I’m all for Symonds raging, however disproportionately, over a story about them offloading Dilyn. I’m touched that she banged out that mad letter. She loves her dog, so sue her. Nor am I entirely averse to the unelected Symonds pushing animal welfare agendas (there has to be some upside to being Johnson’s fiancee). The bond between British people and their pets can get highly emotional and sometimes irrational, but it’s also the best part of us. Cummings was clearly trying to ridicule and diminish Symonds, but he probably won her some new fans.
So much for vaping seeing off smoking. Shocking data published in the Lancet shows that, while the prevalence of smoking has been decreasing globally, population growth means that numbers have risen by 10%, con 150 million more people lighting up in the nine years since 1990 and an all-time high of 1.1 billion smokers. While China accounts for one-third of the world’s smokers (351 milioni), Britain made it into the top 10 of countries in terms of the number of female smokers (4.8 milioni).
I’ve got no moral axe to grind (I smoked like a steam engine for years and loved it), but the age element alone is striking. Almost 90% of smokers take up the habit before 25.
At this point in the debate, it’s traditional to muse on the deadly glamour/“cool” of cigarettes, but isn’t this attitude out of date? Cigarette adverts are banned and on-screen smoking has been curbed. Smoking can be about stress and weight control, but mainly it’s about addiction. Specifically, vulnerable young people getting hooked.
When is enough enough? The glamorisation of tobacco is under control and vaping is popularised, so maybe it’s time to consider an under-25 ban.
Where rape is concerned, whose voice is more important than that of the survivor? A government review into the collapse of rape prosecutions in England and Wales could be missing a vital component – direct input from victims.
La settimana scorsa, analysis of Home Office figures showed that only 1.6% of rape cases resulted in a suspect being charged in 2020. The England and Wales review, two years in the making and overdue, could arrive in June. tuttavia, it appears that charities and groups wrote a letter expressing dismay at the reluctance of the review to directly engage with rape survivors.
This review represents a crucial juncture in how rape is dealt with in England and Wales. How many prosecutions are made has an impact on public trust in the system – a rape victim’s confidence that there’s a point in coming forward about their attack. By anybody’s reckoning, 1.6% of reported incidents resulting in a prosecution is an insult to sexual assault victims.
Those in charge of the review say that they didn’t wish to re-traumatise people, so they used research conducted by victims’ organisations rather than deal directly with survivors. Which doesn’t make sense. No survivors would have been forced to take part and there could have been trauma specialists on hand for those who did. If victims are going to be re-traumatised by anything, it would be by not being heard about the vile crimes committed against them.
The review is supposed to be looking into how rape survivors routinely failed to get justice. Adesso, with this review, survivors have found themselves sidelined and muted, with no direct way of contributing. If corners were cut, it’s disrespectful and absurd. In this context, whose voices, testimonies and thoughts could possibly be more important, more useful and illuminating than those of survivors?