Like thousands of women across the capital, I have just broken my New Year’s resolution to stay zen and eliminate anger from my life. Well, it was never going to last was it?
I’m not alone. My Whatsapp groups and social media feeds have been on fire with female fury this week, since evidence emerged that one of the Prime Minister’s most senior officials, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 Downing Street staff to a BYOB drinks party to make the most of the “lovely weather”. This was in May 2020 - a time when the rules dictated that people in England were only allowed to meet one other person outdoors, and large gatherings were banned.
The thing that really makes my blood boil is that - almost a year ago, on March 3rd - Sarah Everard was lured into a car by former Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens on the pretext that she had broken those very rules. Back then, the police could arrest Covid rule-breakers and Couzens used that power to stop and detain the 33-year-old in south London, going on to rape and murder her.
How devastating it must be for her family and friends to read about the antics of those in power, and their attempts to brush off their actions (Boris Johnson has yet to deny that he and wife Carrie were at the May party), when a young woman’s life was taken in the most horrific circumstances imaginable. Sarah genuinely believed herself to be under arrest for walking home after seeing a friend. Back then, if those of us outside No.10 bent the rules, we were all too accepting of the consequences.
It rankles even more when you consider that the Met was then allowed to crack down on the Clapham Common vigil held for Sarah - which, as someone who was there I know was peaceful, until the police closed in - but are only now in touch with Downing Street about a drink party that took place months earlier and on a day when the Met had tweeted: ‘You can relax, have a picnic, exercise or play sport, as long as you are: On your own/ With people you live with/ Just you and one other person’.
This is the same Met that has already referred itself to the police watchdog over its decision not to investigate the Downing Street Christmas parties. The same Met that told MPs in May last year that it had been right not to make a “special case” for the Everard vigil and ignore the flouting of Covid rules, as the police had to show “consistency” in enforcing the laws. How hollow that sounds now.
‘The @metropolitanpolice violated our human rights by not allowing us to hold a vigil for Sarah Everard whilst they watched the government party in the garden at No 10,’ Reclaim These Streets co-founder Jamie Klingler tweeted today. ‘How does that sit with you?’
The continuing noise around this story (one which would have already sealed the fate of many previous Prime Ministers) obscured the news that, yesterday, David Carrick was charged with nine more offences, including six more counts of rape, taking the total number of charges the 47-year-old faces to 29.
It has overridden the fact that home secretary Priti Patel is still refusing to make the inquiry into Sarah’s murder - the first phase of which, she announced this week, would conclude by the end of this year - into a statutory one, potentially enabling the Met to avoid taking full accountability.
And it has sent into a black hole headlines around a new app being trialled by the Met, called Path Community, which enables women to be tracked on their journey home by friends - something campaigners have pointed out does nothing to tackle the causes of male violence and have called “insulting”.
One of the worst things? After Sarah went missing, many women I know changed their behaviour - myself included. Local police had told us not to go out after dark, after all. Instead of walking the 10 minutes home from the station, I began to get the bus. Instead of taking a shortcut between my two nearest streets, I got off the train early to walk on a main road. Instead of going for a lockdown walk after work – after dark – I stayed home.
Many of us who remember Sarah daily, are still living by these new self-imposed rules. That our leaders couldn’t even follow the most basic ones, the ones they themselves had set, has given London’s women the biggest reason to feel angry so far this year.