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MP’s ‘Cologne sex attacks like Saturday night on Broad Street’ claim is ‘dangerous nonsense’

MP’s ‘Cologne sex attacks like Saturday night on Broad Street’ claim is ‘dangerous nonsense’

🕔29.Jan 2016

Outspoken MP Jess Phillips has been accused of talking “dangerous nonsense” after claiming the type of sexual assaults seen in Cologne occur every week on Birmingham’s Broad Street.

Phillips compared the organised assaults on women by gangs of migrants in the German city on New Year’s Eve to a typical night out at Birmingham’s ‘Golden Mile’ entertainment zone famous for its 24-hour bars and clubs.

But the Yardley Labour MP was heavily criticised by Mike Olley, manager of the West Side Business Improvement District, which covers Broad Street.

Mr Olley said Ms Phillips was “irresponsible and ill-informed” and to compare a night out on Broad Street with the very serious sexual attacks in Cologne was “completely out of order” and bore no comparison with reality.

Ms Phillips made her remarks on BBC TV’s Question Time programme in response to comments from an audience member who suggested events in Germany showed “mass immigration doesn’t work”. The MP said:

There is violence against women and girls that you are describing. A very similar situation to what happened in Cologne could be described on Broad Street in Birmingham every week where women are baited and heckled.

We have to attack what we perceive as being patriarchal culture coming into any culture that isn’t patriarchal and making sure we tell people not to be like that.

But we should be careful in this country before we rest on our laurels when two women are murdered every week.

Mr Olley said the MP’s remarks, which were inaccurate, could be extremely harmful to business in the Broad Street area.

We have a street that employs several thousand people and a lot of them are low paid women workers. Their livelihoods could be at stake when an MP, who should know better, comes out with this kind of dangerous nonsense.

She is both irresponsible and ill informed. This is someone very much shooting from the hip to make a point, although I don’t know what the point is.

Mr Olley stressed that Broad Street had been transformed in recent years and was no longer regarded by the police or the city council as a trouble spot.

He added:

The fact is that Broad Street is one of the safest entertainment spots in the country. We can have up to 8,000 people in a single night and the number of incidents is merely a handful.

If she had bothered to check with the police before making her ill-founded comments she would have discovered that crime levels in Broad Street are very low indeed and to suggest we have two or three hundred serious assaults each night is ludicrous.

Clearly, her comments could damage businesses on Broad Street if anyone took them seriously.

Ms Phillips responded to the criticism by insisting she hadn’t meant to single out Broad Street.

I mentioned Broad Street as I know it. It could have been any drinking spot in the country, the point I was making was that women being groped and assaulted when on a night out is not anything new. It is sadly something most women are used to.

Ms Phillip’s comments are the latest example of a growing reputation for outspokenness.

After winning the Yardley seat at the 2015 General Election she hit the headlines by telling Labour shadow minister Diane Abbott to f**k off, suggested that Jeremy Corbyn was a misogynist because there weren’t enough women in the shadow cabinet, and said she would stab the Labour leader in the front if he harmed the party.

The New Year’s Eve incidents in cologne were repeated across a number of German cities, all involving perpetrators of “Arab or North African appearance” acting in organised gangs.

There were widespread incidents of women suffering serious sexual assault, violence, theft, and at least three rapes were reported in Cologne.

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