Sunday, 20 January 2008

Safety on the streets

I was a left a bit bemused by this article in the Sunday Times, which reveals that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has admitted she would not feel safe walking around London after dark.

Let's firstly get out of the way the major issue here - that if you are a Minister of the party which has governed the country for more than ten years and you don't feel that you could safely walk outside in the dark, that's surely an admission of some kind.
OK, you could argue that London is a very very big city, and that it follows that as a vulnerable solo woman in that city you might feel that you'd be more likely to be a victim of crime.

However, there's also the issue of the Minister being entirely out of touch with reality:

In the interview, Smith, the first woman home secretary, was asked whether she would feel safe walking on her own around Hackney at midnight. She replied: “Well, no, but I don’t think I’d ever have done. You know, I would never have done that, at any point during my life.” Asked why not, she answered: “Well, I just don’t think that’s a thing that people do, is it, really?

People sometimes have no choice; no access to a private car (never mind a Ministerial car!), no trains, no buses, no cash for a taxi, so shank's pony is the only way home. If the Home Secretary doesn't appreciate that, she really has lost touch with the very people she is supposed to be looking after.

I'm perhaps a bit too reckless for my own good but I have wandered home on many occasions on my own at night, most regularly in Glasgow these days, but also when I was at Uni in Aberdeen and when I was an intern in Brussels. I've been lucky, as no harm has come to me so far. I do know people, including my partner, who have been attacked. What reassures me (in a strange way) is that all of the incidents I know about have been random, pure bad luck and the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I believe that I'm likely to be a victim at some point, but that there's no point in worrying about it as there's little you can do in that situation.

Since I was elected, I've often walked home from my surgeries, on my own, in the dark. Do I feel vulnerable? Occasionally. There's nothing like a drunken learly football fan to make you want to cross the road and hurry on your way. Do I fold and avoid walking in Glasgow at night? Absolutely not - what kind of public representative, what kind of person,
would that make me? Perhaps one like Jacqui Smith.

One final footnote:
After the interview, a worried aide called The Sunday Times saying the wording had not come out as the home secretary had intended. She said Smith had recently “bought a kebab in Peckham” at night. The south London district is one of the most deprived in the capital.

Aye, right!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had that Jacqui Smith in the back of my kebab shop once.

Whishart said...

As Head of the YSI when are you going to come out with details of this years Bannockburn Rally hope it is not the same shambles as last year