“Today, Matthew, I am the Sartorial Socialist”

Last week I did a giant pole vault over the perimeters of my comfort zone and landed firmly in uncharted territory: Protestlandia.

I live in Portsmouth. I am a mother with a lovely partner and a small, but nice home by the sea. I lead a pleasant life ensconced firmly in the middle classes. I buy and sell pretty things for a living.

But around me things are starting to erode. Little chips and drip drips. They may not be affecting me but what of the people who are already suffering from cuts that only serve to improve a balance sheet?

I’ve recently opened my eyes to the wider world. If you take your privileges for granted then you run the risk of losing them. So off we went – myself, my partner and a few friends – down to the protest against huge cuts to Domestic Violence services, taking place outside Portsmouth City Council.

Just before leaving I had pondered the challenges of going to an outdoor protest. Must be 1) warm and 2) have presence. Huge Emmanuelle-esque shoulders attached to a vintage tweed Laura Ashley riding coat and a hat did the trick – see this huge skirt? That’s my own portable perimeter. Always wear wide clothes when you don’t want your personal space to be compromised.

It was bitter weather but I was warmed to see that there were other ‘normal folk’ like me joining the politicians, seasoned protesters, various left-wing tribes and of course the ladies of the moment, Sisters Uncut.

To be honest, I also wanted to get a good look at Scott Harris. I wanted to study his face to see if there was a glimmer of remorse. You may have read about him here, here, here, and here. I would have felt this way had he been a councillor of any party.

Back to the protest. ‘After an hour of solidarity on the steps of our iconic Guildhall, we filed into the upper galleries of the council chamber. I was looking forward to hearing what everyone had to say. Unbeknownst to us we were in the row directly behind Sisters Uncut (it’s quite dark up there). When the confetti popper (not a ‘firearm’, nor a ‘weapon’) burst I must admit it did make us jump but only because we were at such close proximity.  We all burst out laughing.

There we were, three normal mamas (and one papa), agog at the guts and gumption of these youngsters. In my opinion these women are the Suffragettes of our era and I will never forget seeing them in action. I can only hope my one grows up with such conviction and courage in her heart.

The leader of the council left in a bit of huff. She looked annoyed, peeved, impatient…but not particularly scared as she later claimed.

The message sent out was loud and clear: these cuts are dangerous, the ‘provisions’ are insufficient and this is clearly the only way government will take notice.

Unfortunately we had to leave soon after said confetti shower since we all had children to collect from nursery/school and you can imagine trying to explain that one: ‘Sorry we are all currently being detained at her Majesty’s pleasure due to being confused with Sisters Uncut. Little Jemima will be picked up by her gran shortly’.

On the way out we witnessed members of Sisters Uncut being pushed back by the police. One of their own was being detained behind guarded doors. On her own, without any representation, by gung-ho guildhall security staff while police guarded the door. It felt over the top and heavy handed.

I thought that might have been the end of the show, but no. The real comedy villain appeared later on at the council meeting and I only heard about it via social media.

Introducing Councillor New; The Judy to Harris’s Punch.

His increasingly heated diatribe at Shona Dillon, the CEO of Domestic Violence Charity Aurora New Dawn, just gets shriller and odder. It all turns into a giant game of ‘he said, she said’.

He did this knowing Dillon had no right of reply. This is not the first time he has personally attacked her.  According to local political pundits, he is well known for being rude. I’m sure she felt truly ‘enlightened’. New makes me think more of a petulant child enjoying grassing up another, rather than an elected councillor. The naughty step for you New.

I’ll leave you to judge for yourselves.

So there you have it. We have a local council dedicated to cuts; merrily closing ranks to protect their own rotten apples, a bungling councillor who can’t use email, a national protest group having to resort to theatrics to get their message across and a councillor claiming a local domestic violence charity are somehow responsible for the actions of national juggernauts, Sisters Uncut.

And in the midst of all this Portsmouth is yet again in the national news for all the wrong reasons. They should move the whole shebang to the Kings Theatre and call it what it is: a pantomime.


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