An MP has shared his pride at being “perhaps as the first male MP in the chamber” to display painted nails in the House of Commons.
As fans of a good manicure know, a statement nail can speak a thousand words and Darren Jones used his pillar box red nails to raise the issue of modern slavery, which has been found to occur in some nail bars.
“In one of my first constituency surgeries as a new MP, a constituent came to me with little English, tearful, unable to communicate the sheer disempowerment and lack of dignity she had suffered from sexual exploitation in another part of this country,” said Jones who represents Bristol North West.
Jones’ comments today [Thursday 26 October] came during a debate on the review of the Modern Slavery Act.
He and MP Kerry McCarthy had painted their nails in support of the charity Unseen and its ‘Let’s Nail It’ campaign.
The Bristol-based charity works with survivors of modern slavery and trafficking. They have teamed up with The British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology (BABTAC) to work with salons and the public to raise awareness of slavery in nail bars nationwide.
The ‘Let’s Nail It’ campaign involves people taking a photo of themselves putting two fingers up to slavery in nail bars and sharing it on social media with the caption: “I’m taking a stand against slavery in nail bars #spotthesigns and #reportit to @MSHelpline 08000 121 700 #letsnailit”
In the Commons, McCarthy spoke about a police raid on a nail bar in Southmead, Bristol, in which four people were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and slavery offences.
“The Southmead nail bar raid was prompted by a tip off from a member of the public who raised concerns about a woman’s welfare,” explained McCarthy who represents Bristol East.
“Without that intervention it could have taken a lot longer for the victim to be identified and taken to a place of safety.”
McCarthy also offered advice for nail bar customers who want to watch out for signs of slavery.
“Many of the calls [to Unseen] about nail bars cite the physical or psychological state of workers, inappropriate sleeping accommodation on the business premises, poor working conditions, lack of spoken English, cheap prices, cash only transactions and concerns of abuse and violence,” she said.
“Customers need to be aware of these signs so they are never unintentional supports of organised crime.”
Unseen’s managing director Kater Garbers told HuffPost UK she “applauds” Jones and McCarthy for wearing bright nail varnish to raise awareness of the ‘Let’s Nail It’ campaign.
“We have seen a correlation between the campaign and the number of calls to the helpline,” she said.
“Up until September this year, we have received information on the helpline about 116 potential victims situated in over 35 locations across the UK in nail bars.
“As the public learns about signs and indicators of modern slavery, our calls increase.
“Over the last two months, we have had an increasing number of disturbing cases reported – an indication that these campaigns and media coverage of the real issue is making a difference.
“This is exactly the sort of response we want – an understanding that modern slavery and exploitation may be occurring in some of the nail bars people regularly use and then to have the confidence to pick up the phone and speak to someone about it if they have concerns.
“As a direct result of the campaign Avon and Somerset Constabulary have already received three reports of suspected modern slavery in nail bars and a car wash in the force area, that are now being followed up.”
She added that in 2018 the charity would like to encourage all MPs and all police forces to paint their nails to raise awareness of this crime.
However, we were little disappointed to see this is unlikely to become a regular look for Jones, as despite McCarthy’s best efforts he couldn’t wait to take off the polish post debate.
If you need help, or you think someone may be a victim of slavery or exploitation, you can call the confidential UK modern slavery helpline run by Unseen on 08000 121 700 or report it online.
Scroll down to see more manicures worn in support of the campaign this year.