MP Jess Phillips: 'I've got to make violence against women a mainstream issue'

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Jess Phillips during the Labour leadership husting at the ACC Liverpool. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Jess Phillips during the Labour leadership husting. (Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Labour's Jess Phillips says it's her job to be 'ever-present' in trying to make violence against women and girls a mainstream issue.

The Birmingham Yardley MP, who was elected in 2015 and is in Keir Starmer's shadow cabinet, said she is determined to make people 'embarrassed when they forget' about women's issues, calling it her biggest challenge in politics.

Speaking to Kate Thornton on the White Wine Question Time podcast, Phillips talked through her achievements in politics so far. She has been shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding since April 2020.

Read more: Jess Phillips tears into Matt Hancock over Covid contracts

Phillips said: "It is very, very challenging to be the person who makes everybody roll their eyes when you say the obvious thing that they knew you were gonna say.

"And it does mean you have to be ever-present."

WATCH: Jess Phillips on married life, her love of quiz shows and being phoned by the Prime Minister whilst getting her nails done

She said she'll go along to meetings even if she knows she won't say anything because then people will say: "Oh s*** Jess is here. Remember to say something about violence against women and girls."

"I have to try and mainstream this into every single political department's mind," Phillips said.

"I've got to make this a mainstream issue so that they are embarrassed when they forget."

Jess Phillips MP holds the Sue Gray report up as she responds to a statement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to MPs in the House of Commons on the Sue Gray report. Picture date: Monday January 31, 2022. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Jess Phillips MP responding to a statement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons on the Sue Gray report in January. (House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)

She said even the Home Office, which is the department that leads on the issue, 'routinely forgets or misses the mark on it'.

But she doesn't just see the role as in opposition to the government, saying: "It is in opposition to society, in opposition to the way that all institutions work.

"Not just government departments, but how local councils work, how your local GP works, it is a huge challenge."

Listen to the full episode to hear Jess tell Kate about her life in politics so far, her marriage with her very plain-speaking husband, and more about her love of quiz shows

She sees the role of women in opposition as 'just reminding people with power that women exist'.

She said it was 'really obvious' in the early pandemic that there hadn't been a single woman in the room when a lot of key decision were made.

Phillips explained: "When they gave all the furlough money and business grants and things, they forgot the special inclusion of childcare providers.

"It was like: 'Hang on a minute, if everybody's just gonna suddenly be at home with their kids, what about nurseries?

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall talks with Jess Phillips MP during a reception at Clarence House to mark 50 years of Refuge, 2022. (Getty Images)
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall talks with Jess Phillips MP during a reception at Clarence House to mark 50 years of Refuge, 2022. (Getty Images)

"It's just like nobody thought about it. It was so obvious [they] don't have to think about this."

She compared it to being a child when her dad would ask her who had bought her a Christmas present that had come from her parents.

"He didn't know he'd bought it for me. Where was the woman in the room who took on the emotional labour of remembering the kids and remembering to do those things?" she asked.

Read more: 'It's embarrassing': MP speaks out over porn allegation

She told Thornton she was told by some people who really love and care about her that she might get pigeonholed, admitting that it was quite easy to become known for a single issue - even though women are part of bigger issues, such as the economy.

"So that's my biggest challenge, always and it still persists, even though I have been relatively successful in some areas."

WATCH: Jess Phillips on being a girl crush

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