Opinion: Lucy Cowie

This week in the UK - 12th March 2021

(Cover Image: Mark Jones from Wikimedia Commons)

(Content Warning: Racism, Suicide and Sexual Assault)

Harry and Meghan's Big Interview...

The biggest news story this week hasn’t centred around Westminster, but Buckingham Palace (and a very nice garden in California).

In case you’ve been living under a rock: Harry and Meghan sat down with Oprah for a two-hour long interview on why they left the Royal Family. Some of the claims were incredibly damning toward the Family, such as a family member asking “how dark” their son Archie’s skin might be. Harry revealed that racism from the UK tabloid media was a “large part” of why they left.

Similarly, he mentioned that he was disappointed with his father Charles, because “he’s been through something similar, he knows what pain feels like”. He revealed that the two now do not speak, but both Harry and Meghan have a “really good” relationship with the Queen.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Buckingham palace issued a statement which said although some “recollections may vary”, the claims of racism were “concerning” and would be addressed privately.

Piers Morgan left Good Morning Britain on Tuesday after huge numbers of complaints over his comments made toward the Duchess of Sussex. Piers accused Meghan of lying about the severity of her mental health on Monday, also International Women’s Day, in one of many disparaging comments the TV host had made towards her over the years.

In the Oprah interview, Meghan had described feeling suicidal whilst pregnant, due to the pressure and criticism from both inside and outside Buckingham Palace.

The mental health charity Mind released a statement criticising Morgan and urging those struggling with feelings similar to Meghan to reach out for support.

Sarah Everard

The headlines over the past several days have been focused on Sarah Everard, a woman who went missing last week walking back from a friends’ house in Clapham, London.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

On Wednesday, Met Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick confirmed that human remains had been found in a woodland in Kent, although their identity hasn’t been confirmed yet.

A Metropolitan Police officer is being held on suspicion of murder and kidnap, as well as separate allegations of indecent exposure.

Everard’s case has been highlighted as a reminder of the risk and fear that women face in public spaces, sparking a discussion online about the additional safety precautions women take in everyday life.

Many have shared basic steps such as crossing the road, changing direction, faking phone calls, walking with keys between knuckles and avoiding walking at night entirely. The discourse included some men asking what steps they could take to make women feel safer, whilst #NotAllMen was also trending on Twitter.

This comes during a week in which the World Health Organisation found that 1 in 3 women around the world have been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and 736 million women, aged 15 or older in 2018, have experienced one or both of these forms of violence.

The Guardian has also reported this week that almost all women in the UK have been sexually harassed, reported in a survey from UN Women UK. Of these, 96% did not report incidents.

These statistics make it even more alarming than in England and Wales, transgender people are twice as likely to be victims of crime, and people of mixed or multiple ethnic backgrounds also face significantly greater risk.

Release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

A British-Iranian woman who has spent the last five years detained in Iran on spying charges faces a new court case against her. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had her ankle tag removed last week, which was part of a year-long house arrest following her release from jail.

Whilst travelling with her young daughter in 2016, she was arrested on charges of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government, which she denies.

Image: MrZeroPage from Wikimedia Commons

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family have been campaigning for her release for years, and believes she is being held over an old arms deal debt that the UK never fulfilled.

This week the PM has demanded the immediate release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and said her “continued confinement remains completely unacceptable.”

In other political news

Outrage over the 1% pay increase announced for NHS staff has continued this week, with Labour calling for the 2.1% that was initially planned.

It is also the third week in a row that PM Boris Johnson has been accused of making a mistake at PMQs, sparking accusations of breaking the ministerial code.

On Wednesday, Johnson claimed that Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer had voted against the NHS funding bill which had planned a 2.1% pay rise for staff.

This is not true, but No. 10 refused to admit any mistake had been made. The following day, the PM’s press secretary Allegra Stratton claimed that Johnson had in fact been referring to Labour voting against the Queens speech last January.

Some journalists, such as Mikey Smith, have criticised this defence as bizarre, and have even gone as far as to refer to it as political ‘gaslighting’ .

Kier Starmer himself misspoke earlier this year at PMQs, claiming the PM supported remaining in the EMA (European Medicines Agency) after Brexit, although he later apologised.