Five years have passed since The Sun uncovered a sex scandal in Westminster that became known as ‘Plague Minster’. But after seven days of newly reported misogyny and harassment, commentators are asking if anything has changed at the seat of government.
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Corresponding Politically‘s London Playbook, “WhatsApp groups in Westminster are buzzing with talk of the latest spate of allegations of sexual misconduct in Parliament”.
In just seven days Angela Rayner was the target of a primal instinct bow; a Tory MP resigned after being convicted of sexually assaulting children; more than 50 MPs faced sexual misconduct complaints; and Conservative backbencher Neil Parish was elected MP is said to have watched pornography on his cell phone in the House of Commons.
The identity of the male MP accused of watching porn in the House of Commons quickly became “the scoop” everyone wanted, Politico said. But it was The Telegraph that came first this afternoon.
Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton since 2010, has now been suspended from the parliamentary group and is under investigation by Parliament’s Standards Commissioner. He referred himself to the investigation, the party said in a statement.
Conservative chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris had “decided not to immediately discipline” or name the politician who viewed porn, despite “two female Tory MPs laying the charge on Tuesday”. The Telegraph reported.
Instead, he said investigating the claims would be left to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) – set up in 2018 after The Sun’s Plague Minister reports – “a process that could take years”.
Caroline Nokes, the Tory Chair of the Women and Equality Selection Committee, said PoliticsHome that the decision to refer the allegations to the parliamentary watchdog amounted to “kicking them in the dust”.
“I thought I was going to wake up Wednesday morning and find someone had their whip removed and that didn’t happen,” she said. “We have seen colleagues stripped of the whip for a variety of reasons over the years.
“I thought that seemed pretty easy. It was raised by a colleague, confirmed by another. That seems perfect enough to me to withdraw the whip.”
The porn allegations surfaced two days later The Sunday Times revealed that 56 MPs – equivalent to 9% of UK MPs – were investigated by the regulator for sexual misconduct. That paperCaroline Wheeler, political editor of , reported that three were members of the cabinet and two were shadow cabinet ministers.
The various allegations included “sexually inappropriate comments and more serious misconduct,” she wrote. At least one “is suspected to be criminal and concerns an allegation that an MP bribed a staff member in exchange for sexual favors”.
The Tory party has already been rocked by the recent loss of an MP to criminal conduct. Imran Ahmad Khan resigned from his Wakefield constituency last Friday after he was found guilty of sexually molesting a 15-year-old boy in 2008.
And the party removed the whip by David Warburton, the Conservative MP for Somerton and Frome, earlier this month pending an investigation into sexual assault and drug abuse allegations against him.
Jess Phillips, Labor Shadow Secretary for Domestic Violence and Protection, told The Times that the high number of MPs accused of sexual misconduct was “staggering”, adding: “A serious power imbalance persists in Westminster.”
The spate of complaints of misogyny and harassment has raised questions about “what the hell is wrong with Westminster,” he said Politically‘s UK correspondent Esther Webber.
Once again “the spotlight” has been turned on “the worst behavior” in the corridors of British power. “Even by the standards of the British Parliament, which is accustomed to scandals, it’s been a dismal fortnight,” Webber added.
Amid claims ranging “from alleged criminal offenses to sexist comments and jokes,” “a dozen MPs, activists and staff” are reported to have warned Politico that “it will take an effort that Parliament has never before been able to muster if.” things are supposed to get better”.
Corresponding Channel 4 news Presenter Cathy Newman, “Westminster is full of alcohol, egos and driven, ambitious people” and creates a culture that is “not conducive to a respectful environment”.
Echoing the words of a source who spoke to her during a 2014 investigation into wrongdoing, Newman said that “sexual harassment and abuse of power is really part of the fabric.”
“How little has changed,” she added in an article The Independent.
“The events of the past few days confirm that Westminster is simply a reflection of society at large,” Newman continued. “But the suspicion remains that both the behavior and the penalties imposed bear no flattering comparison to the real world.”
Perhaps the most “depressing” thing about the new spate of allegations is that “none of it comes as a real surprise,” said Ayesha Hazarika, a former adviser to Ed Miliband, on the i news Side? site.
“I worked in Westminster for almost 20 years and while I loved much of the experience, it also had an awkward side,” she wrote. “Almost every advisor, employee or MP has their own story.”
Five years after Westminster’s “#MeToo moment”, power still rests with “an elite group” of “senior MPs, advisers, donors, media barons, editors and commentators who are male, older, white, traditional and socially conservative”.
They “govern the quarters,” Hazarika said. “And until they send out a signal that society and politics need to change,” we will “have a lot of jerks in Parliament.”
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/politics/956597/westminster-rocked-by-wave-sexual-harassment-allegations Plague Minister 2.0: Westminster shaken by a new wave of allegations