SARAH VINE: If 888 line can save one woman, why put it on hold?

SARAH VINE: If 888 line to protect lone females walking home can save one woman, why put it on hold?

This week, No 10 gave the green light to a scheme mooted by the chief executive of BT, Philip Jansen, for a new emergency phone number designed to protect lone women, in the wake of the death of Sabina Nessa and murder of Sarah Everard.

The ‘888 number’ could even work as an app, and would enable anyone to have friends or family track their progress home, triggering alerts if they failed to reach their destination within a certain time limit.

Downing Street’s blessing is quite an endorsement for the idea, and means the system could be in place as early as Christmas.

But, as with all these things, it’s not that straightforward.


No 10 gave the green light to a scheme for an emergency phone number designed to protect women, in the wake of the death of Sabina Nessa (right) and murder of Sarah Everard (left)

The emergency phone number was first mooted by BT chief executive Philip Jansen (pictured)

The problem is not the technology — that already exists, it would simply be a case of modifying it to suit the purpose. No, as ever, it’s the politics of the thing.

On the surface, it’s hard to see what the objection would be. What’s not to like about an app that allows young women — or, for that matter, anyone out on their own — to travel safe in the knowledge that should the unthinkable happen, help will not be far off?

But this is 2021, and nothing is ever simple. The problem is that by trying, in an uncomplicated and practical way, to do his bit to help safeguard women, Mr Jansen has unwittingly stumbled into a political minefield.

The accusation — as put forward on Radio 4’s PM programme at the weekend, and by various critics of the idea since — is that the plan would not only be ineffective, it might even be ‘positively harmful’, on the basis that it puts the onus on women to take steps to keep themselves safe.

That is like throwing a drowning man a life jacket and him refusing to put it on because he doesn’t like the colour. (‘OK, fine, orange doesn’t suit your complexion. But shall we have this conversation once you’ve stopped turning blue and swallowing water?’)

The Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured) has publicly backed the safety concept

Of course, in an ideal world everyone should be able to walk the streets at any time of the day or night, confident that nothing untoward will befall them.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. And sometimes a pragmatic approach is the only practical way forward.

Of course we need long-term solutions. Of course we need fundamentally to change the underlying culture of male violence against women.

But the two are not mutually exclusive. And sometimes a ‘sticking plaster’ is exactly what’s needed.

Women are being hurt. Surely all that matters right here, right now, is that we make it stop.

How we tackle the problem at the root, how we change society and the way we educate boys and men towards behaving differently, that’s a bigger conversation.


Critics of the concept says it puts the onus on women to take steps to keep themselves safe

There are many aspects to consider: confronting the toxic effects of online porn; tracking offenders more effectively; tackling a culture of misogyny in the police and elsewhere.

These are all vital parts of the jigsaw. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also do something in the short term.

And that means setting politics to one side for a moment and thinking practically. Because until we do manage to change attitudes, until men such as Wayne Couzens are neutralised, we all have to look out for each other. It’s simply no good to say: ‘It shouldn’t be like that.’ One has to be realistic.

So, yes, let’s work towards a safer world for all. But let’s not, in the meantime, make the best the enemy of the good.

If Mr Jansen’s idea can help keep just one person safe, it will have been worth it.

Delicious trolling of Dominic Raab by new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who posted a picture of herself roaring with laughter outside Chevening, the grace-and-favour home that comes with the job.

Her predecessor had reportedly hoped to hang on to it as part of his package of perks as Deputy Prime Minister — presumably on the basis that Nick Clegg got to use it when he took on that role.

I asked Truss about this when I bumped into her the other day, and she just gave an impish smile.

Either way, it has 115 rooms. Surely they can come to some arrangement before one locks the other in the cellar?


Pictures of Madonna promoting her new concert film on TV have underlined the sometimes stark difference between the heavily filtered images on Instagram (left) and the reality (right)

Recent pictures of Madonna promoting her new concert film on TV have underlined the sometimes stark difference between the heavily filtered images she regularly posts on Instagram and the reality of being a 63-year-old woman with bleached blonde hair.

No one could blame her — or any woman — for wanting to look her best. Madonna’s problem is that she seems to want to look like she did in her 30s, which just isn’t possible. In fact, the more she tries, the worse she looks — to the point of seeming almost ghoulish.

It’s such a shame, because this is a woman who has achieved so much.

Why does she lack the confidence to show the world who she really is?

Prickly pillow talk

Well, fancy that. An Insulate Britain/Extinction Rebellion protester who has been arrested on numerous occasions for blockading roads and gluing herself to a train turns out to be married to a Transport for London boss.

I know wives don’t always see eye to eye with their husbands, but that’s like me joining Momentum while still being married to a certain Conservative Cabinet Minister.

On the PM’s holiday — first, there is never an ideal time to take a break when you’re Prime Minister, so now is as good/bad a time as any.

Second, if you go to a hotel, the entire world follows, taking photos of you helping yourself to too many mini-croissants from the buffet.

Let Boris have his break. Not only does he deserve it, the country needs him back at his desk rested and ready for the next catastrophe. Rest assured, it won’t be far away.

Pictured: a scene from popular Netflix TV series Squid Game which stars HoYeon Jung (right)

I am no sucker for Squid Game

I might have been a bit rude about Netflix’s Squid Game (starring HoYeon Jung, right) last week, and a few readers reprimanded me.

So I re-watched the series — and still found it to be a sadistic, soul-sapping experience.

Think Willy Wonka meets Lord Of The Flies in the fevered imagination of Goebbels. 

Not saying it’s not clever or brilliant. But that doesn’t change the fact it’s full of gratuitous violence and cruelty. 

As a lifelong Trekkie, I’m tickled pink to see that Captain Kirk, aka 90-year-old William Shatner, will be blasting off into space for real with Blue Origin.

Good to see also that he’s not yet baldly going . . . but still sporting that suspiciously full thatch. Hope it doesn’t burn up on re-entry.


Jon Kent – the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane – took over the Superman title from his father, and will come out as bisexual and begin dating his male friend in a new issue of the series

DC Comics has said that the new Superman, Jon Kent (son of Clark), will embark on a same-sex relationship while fighting climate change and protesting against the treatment of refugees.

How wonderfully modern. Why don’t they just go the whole hog and rename him Superwoke?

Within hours of a Covid report finding the UK’s failure to lock down early enough resulted from flawed advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), Patrick Vallance — a leading light of Sage — said integrating science and politics is the ‘primary aim’, thus putting science at the heart of future government thinking.

Spot on, as always . . . 

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