Sunday, June 13

Of course Carrie Symonds loves Dilyn, so why make fun of her for that? | Barbara ellen

WWhile obviously not the most important conclusion to The Great Outpouring, Dominic Cummings really hates Carrie Symonds, doesn’t he? Really understandable. She took her best friend. They were so close, but then she appeared and Boris no longer had time for him … Oh sorry, it seems that I have become a half remembered memory. Byker grove Plot: a “teachable moment” for school viewers about feeling left out when your partner finds a girlfriend. In the Westminster version alone, a pandemic is brewing and Cummings describes Symonds “freaking out over something completely trivial,” a story claiming that Dilyn, the jack russell cross he rescued with Boris Johnson, was being “rearranged.” However, the thing is, I understand why Symonds was upset and I like her about it.

Cummings clearly wanted to present Symonds as a Violet Elizabeth Bott figure, an absurd and demanding burden on the prime minister’s approach at a critical moment. It is true that the complaint letter now leaked Symonds recruited for the Times he is an overexcited belter, citing violations, demanding corrections and ending with the classic: “We hope to hear from you urgently.” Elsewhere, regardless of the first fiancée’s taste for stylish decor, stories abound about her push for animal welfare agendas and her undue influence on the hiring and firing of the number 10. Still, when it comes to being A pandemic risk, I have two words for Cummings: “Barnard” and “Castle.” As for the letter, it is an absurd, messy emotional exaggeration … and I fully identify with it.

The story was about Dilyn being relocated due to poor health and rebellion (legs fucking and the like). Never mind that it is supposed to be true that Johnson had grown tired of Dilyn (perhaps partly explaining that he rejected Symonds’s letter as “silly”). For an animal lover, and especially someone who has rescued an animal, this would be disturbing. Adopting a rescue is a serious commitment: many of these animals have already been abused and abandoned (I read that Dilyn was rescued from being euthanized due to a crooked jaw.) When rescuing, you make a sacred promise to your vulnerable animal: “That is the last time you are scared” and you mean it. Or you should.

While there’s been a pet pandemic boom, charities already care about animals being abandoned after the confinement. In that bleak context, I am in favor of Symonds being enraged, albeit disproportionately, by a story about them unloading Dilyn. It moves me that she hit that crazy card. She loves her dog, so sue her. I’m also not entirely against the unelected Symonds who push animal welfare agendas (there has to be some edge to being Johnson’s fiancée). The bond between the British and their pets can get very emotional and sometimes irrational, but it is also the best part of us. Cummings was clearly trying to ridicule and belittle Symonds, but he probably won him some new fans.

Many young people still think that smoking is cool. Isn’t it time for a ban?

Is it time to turn it off?
Is it time to turn it off? Photograph: Sigrid Olsson / Getty Images

Too much to vape and quit smoking. Shocking data published in the Lancet shows that while the prevalence of smoking has declined globally, population growth means that the numbers have risen by 10%, with 150 million more people smoking in the nine years since 1990 and an all-time high of 1,100 million smokers. While China accounts for a third of the world’s smokers (351 million), Britain ranked in the top 10 countries in terms of the number of female smokers (4.8 million).

I have no moral ax to grind (I smoked like a steam engine for years and loved it), but the element of age alone is surprising. Almost 90% of smokers acquire the habit before the age of 25.

At this point in the debate, it’s traditional to reflect on the deadly / “cool” glamor of cigarettes, but isn’t this attitude out of date? Cigarette ads are banned and on-screen smoking has been restricted. Smoking may have to do with stress and weight management, but it is primarily about addiction. Specifically, vulnerable youth get hooked.

When is it enough? The glamorization of tobacco is under control and vaping is catching on, so maybe it’s time to consider an under-25 ban.

Ignoring the voices of rape victims exacerbates crime and pain

Rape victims routinely fail to get justice
Rape victims routinely do not get justice. Photograph: Rob Wilkinson / Alamy

When it comes to rape, what voice is more important than that of the survivor? A government review of the collapse of rape prosecutions in England and Wales could be missing a vital component: direct input from victims.

Last week, analysis of Home Office figures showed that only 1.6% of rape cases resulted in charges against a suspect in 2020. The England and Wales review, two years in the making and behind, could arrive in June. However, it appears that charities and groups wrote a letter expressing dismay at the review’s reluctance to engage directly with rape survivors.

This review represents a crucial juncture in how rape is treated in England and Wales. The number of prosecutions that take place has an impact on the public’s confidence in the system – a rape victim’s confidence that it makes sense to report their attack. By anyone’s estimate, 1.6% of reported incidents that result in prosecution are an insult to victims of sexual assault.

Those responsible for the review say they did not wish to re-traumatize people, so they used research conducted by victims’ organizations rather than dealing directly with survivors. Which doesn’t make sense. No survivors would have been forced to participate and there may have been trauma specialists available for those who did. If something is going to re-traumatize the victims, it will be for not being heard about the vile crimes committed against them.

The review is supposed to be investigating how rape survivors routinely failed to achieve justice. Now, with this review, survivors have been marginalized and silenced, with no direct way to contribute. If the corners were cut, it is disrespectful and absurd. In this context, what voices, testimonies and thoughts could be more important, more useful and enlightening than those of the survivors?

Barbara Ellen is a columnist for Observer

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