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16 December 2016

Anti-feminist MP tries to sabotage a domestic violence debate

And the winner of talker of the year is...

By Julia Rampen

The good people of Shipley must have been chuckling darkly in their polling booths when they elected Philip Davies as their MP.

The Tory backbencher already has a reputation as a parliamentary troll, but he has been upping his game. First, he managed to get elected to the women and equalities select committee. And then he decided to give his colleagues a special Christmas send off. 

On Friday, MPs, mainly from opposition parties, gathered to debate a proposal to finally enshrine the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty on domestic violence, in UK law. It has been ratified by other countries already, including Turkey, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain.

The idea was to set in stone a framework that protects against everything from forced marriage, female genital mutilation and rape. 

MPs put aside their political differences to talk about what they’d learned through working with victims of domestic violence. 

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But the spirit of peace and goodwill was soon sent off track by a goblin that wouldn’t shut up. 

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Davies attempted to filibuster the debate by talking it out of time. He managed to subject the House to his long and wandering monologue for more than an hour before finally sitting down. 

Apparently Davies’ biggest objection was that the bill was “discriminatory and sexist” because it was only about violence against women (as numerous MPs pointed out, it wasn’t).

He then subjected the weary MPs to a diatribe about how they weren’t tough enough on crime. “I always find it rather strange that those who speak passionately about why we should have zero tolerance on violence against women and girls and violence against people, which I agree with, are often the same people who argue the perpetrators of violence should do anything except be sent to prison,” he declared. 

At the same time, he complained that men were treated more harshly by criminal law. 

After one MP tried to remind Davies of the gravity of the subject by mentioning what it is like to attend the funeral of a domestic violence victim, he countered: “There are also funerals of men who have died, and I’m sure that’s just as an uncomfortable experience.”

This is not the first time Davies has tried to puncture a debate by simply employing his vocal chords. This time he had an accomplice, a Tory backbencher usually so shy of the limelight The Staggers struggled to identify him (suggestions welcome), but who used his interruptions to egg Davies on.  

As the next speaker, Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire noted: “That’s 78 minutes I’m never going to get back.” As someone who formerly worked with male victims of violence, she then refuted all of Davies’ points in under 10. 

The bill was approved by 135 votes to 2 and passes to committee stage.