MPs see themselves as a "different class of person" so feel they have "free reign", an anonymous source told LFF.
Westminster is the latest setting for accusations of institutional sexual harassment and abuse; the claim that a Tory MP called his aide ‘sugar t*ts’ being just the most recent in a dossier of sleaze emanating from parliament.
The Times supposedly has in its hands detailed allegations of abuse by at least 13 MPs. Theresa May refused to initiate an investigation into the claims this afternoon, a spokesperson calling them “newspaper speculation”.
At lunchtime Labour MP John Mann told LBC that parliamentary authorities and police had “within the last couple of years” ignored complaints of sexual harassment on as many as four occasions.
So, rightfully, questions are being asked this afternoon about whether Westminster has a serious institutional issue with sexual harassment and abuse.
Left Foot Forward has received comments from a staffer who works for an MP on the range and extent of sexual harassment and abuse in Parliament.
The staffer, who asked not to be named, said that they had never been a victim of harassment or abuse themselves but know several colleagues who have.
“I know colleagues who’ve been cat called, ‘eyed up’ and propositioned by MPs, and while much of this is directed at women, young men I know have also been harassed by older male members.”
Referring to a joke made Michael Gove yesterday referencing Harvey Weinstein, the staffer said: “that wasn’t the first time I’ve heard an MP make a Weinstein joke.”
The staffer went on to write that any abuse reported to the parties would sometimes be covered up to avoid negative press coverage:
“I’ve even heard of staff resorting to recording their MP abuse them on their phone, only to play back to the whips later who arranged for them to be quietly moved in order to prevent a PR scandal.
“This might make sense in political terms but does nothing to ensure the MP doesn’t do the same thing again.”
The situation is “much worse than the average workplace”, the staffer said. They continued:
“Most parties have no human resources system in Parliament, giving the MPs free-reign to sack anyone who doesn’t do what they say, with only the SNP I think having a rudimentary one.”
Setting out why this culture exists in Parliament the staffer wrote:
“You get the impression pre-expenses, and pre-Bercow the situation was much worse: MPs felt above the rules and to some extent above the law, drinking at all hours and really seeing themselves as a different class of person to their staff.”
To maintain Parliament’s legitimacy, the prime minister should immediately set up an independent investigation into sexual abuse and harassment in Westminster — fobbing the allegations off as “newspaper speculation” just won’t do.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.