The Home Secretary's kebab-buying habits

Well, well – Home Secretary Jacqui Smith seems to have made a right mess of talking about the dangers of walking out at night.

This was in fact the topic of second newspaper column I ever wrote. It was for the Ham & High, back in 2000 and started with a personal anecdote:

A man followed me home from the tube last Wednesday night. It was about 11.30pm. He had been in my carriage from Warren Street, got off at Highgate, was behind me on the first escalator, behind me on the second escalator up to Archway Road – and as I headed up the hill, I was conscious that so did he.

The few people who had started in the same direction, faded away within the first 100 metres – so it was just he and I. I crossed the road – at a point where the pavement narrowed so it would look like the natural thing to do. So did he. When I came to the turn I needed to take – so did he – albeit once again on the opposite side. I was ready for flight – was looking for which houses had lights on, which doors were near. Suddenly he ran across the road towards me and then, with a spurt of speed, arrived on the pavement ahead of me and accelerated away.

Once he was ahead of me and I had him properly in my sights, I felt OK. And then, of course, he crossed the road and went up a drive, got his keys out of his pocket, opened his front door and went home to hearth and family. He had obviously run to get ahead of me to stop me thinking he was following me. Men and women reading this will probably recognise this situation – a woman thinking she’s being followed and a man knowing that she’s thinking he is following her. That’s the situation we have arrived at because we feel unsafe, going home late at night – whether we are or not. (Continued here)

That night, things ended safely for me – as they have indeed on numerous journeys around London, often late at night returning from meetings and events in previously unfamiliar locations.

Yet there are many victims of crime – and even more who have their lives limited and curtailed by their fears of crime (sometimes well founded, sometimes not – but in both cases the fear of crime feels just as real, is just as unpleasant and can have just as limiting an effect on people’s lives). So the question of crime – both actual and fear of – is one I’m happy to debate and discuss – and was/is a major campaigning point of mine both on the London Assembly and then in Parliament.

Jacqui Smith though has got the issue all wrong. Not once, but twice she’s sounded as if she doesn’t understand at all how the rest of us live – saying that no real people are ever out walking in Hackney after midnight (hello? have you looked?) and then that she never walks somewhere she doesn’t already know (hello again? I can’t imagine living my life never walking somewhere that I don’t already know – how do you manage to only walk somewhere you’ve already driven, cycled etc through?).

One slip of the tongue – fair enough, we all can mangle a word, leave out a word or fluff a line. But to do it twice and at some length – sorry Jacqui, you’ve really messed up. And you’d be better off admitting that, rather than have the rather bizarre attempt to rescue matters by having your spokesperson ring the media talking about your late-night kebab-buying habits.

0 thoughts on “The Home Secretary's kebab-buying habits

  1. One for Jacqui:Let me take you by the handAnd lead you through the streets of LondonI will show you somethin’ to make you change your mind.Have you seen the old man in a closed down market,Kicking up the papers with his worn out shoes?In his eyes you see no pride, and held loosely by his sideAre yesterday’s papers, telling yesterday’s news.And how can ya’ tell me that you’re lonelyOr say for you that the sun don’t shine?Let me take you by the handAnd lead you through the streets of LondonI will show you somethin’ to make you change your mind.And have you seen that old girl who walks the streets of LondonWith the dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?She’s no time for talkin’; she just keeps right on a-walkin’,Carryin’ her home in two carrier bags.Make the offer, Lynne.(Quoted from Ralph McTell Back, ©1972, Audat Records)

  2. I had a similar experience Lynne, it is frightening when you feel you are being followed, you start to panic inside yourself…. correct?In fact, I was on the West Green Road, Turnpike Lane, at about 8:30pm going towards Seven Sisters. I planned to jump on a bus, but due to a delay, I though I would just begin to walk. Once I was walking up West Green Road, I felt a youngish man following me, however, he walked into a flat…… I was frightened!!!! However, my experience was to get even worse…. As I was walking up, a gang of teenagers on bicycles began calling me saying “oi come here”, I refused to acknowledge them, so they began to chase after me, approximately five of them, two of them on mountain bikes……I am fast, so I ran too and they were out of breath, because I kept running everywhere until I exhausted them, however, I suddenly found myself in a block of flats…. near- with no lights whatsoever- I then finally ran again- seeing light- I ran into a shop- These boys’ then waited outside for me, then I noticed there were dozens of teenagers from the block of flats opposite, one of them armed with a baseball bat! All of them swarming from the flat like a pack of wild dogs! All of them hid around corners, waiting for me to leave the shop, so they could hurt me etc etc… So I dialled 999 and told the police, suddenly five police cars, including a van filled with rank and file officers came within two minutes…. arresting one of them, and chasing after the rest….. I felt so relieved, they even dropped me off at my destination……when I was a trustee for Haringey CPCG, I was going to one of their meetings, so they drop me off at their offices….. I told Mr Bloomfield about it when I reached the destination….. it was horrendous!

  3. However, the above experience was a few years ago!!!!!!!!! However, these hoody people don’t tend to target me anymore, because I look older…. however, I see these hoodies targetting other children and young people all over London! They know, if they targetted me, there would be a scribed brick in the cemetery with each of their names on them 🙂 Fred Johnson aka D-block, died after attacking an innocent member of the public, who responded with excessive use of violence in self-defence :-)!