Headlines > The Commons: Sexual harassment scandal rips through parliament

Posted on November 2, 2017

Image by Katie Chan

Stanley Barrell-Kane updates us on what happened in parliament this week
This week has seen a sexual harassment scandal implicate a number of senior MPs. The flood of sexual assault and rape claims appearing in the wake of the Weinstein allegations seems to have reached the Commons, with devastating effect.

The scandal has already claimed the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, who resigned today. The story that he touched the knee of author and journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer, at the 2002 Conservative Party conference, emerged on Tuesday, though friends of Fallon suggested he had stepped down over worries about further allegations coming to light.

Fallon isn’t the only Tory MP to be seriously implicated. Mark Garnier, MP for Wyre Forest, has come under scrutiny for allegedly making an aide buy sex toys for his wife and his mistress, and calling her “sugar t*ts” in front of witnesses. Former Secretary for the Department of Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb was revealed to have sent inappropriate messages to a 19-year-old he rejected for a role in his office.

First Secretary of State, Damian Green has rejected claims of inappropriate behaviour by art critic Kate Maltby, 30 years his junior, calling them “deeply hurtful.”

The scandal has not been limited to the government benches

Most of the allegations were corroborated on the ‘dirty dossier’ reportedly compiled by backbench female Tory MPs, documenting sexual misdemeanours of MPs and other members of parliamentary offices.

Most of the names on the list cannot be published, but the offences described include “having forced former researcher to have an abortion” and “[being] ’handsy’ with women,” though some refer to consensual relationships between MPs.

The scandal has not been limited to the government benches however. Labour activist, Bex Bailey revealed on Tuesday that she had been raped by a senior Labour member at a party event in 2011, and was encouraged not to complain, as it would “damage her career.”

The scandal’s eruption has triggered a discussion in parliament about the lack of a grievance procedure for parliamentary staff who fall victim of inappropriate behaviour. At the moment, parliamentary researchers are employed directly by MPs, and as such have no independent body to which to lodge a complaint.

The Prime Minister has encouraged victims of sexual assault or harassment to take their claims to the police, and asked Jeremy Corbyn to attend a meeting to discuss setting up a new grievance system.

The Labour Party has called for parliament to accept the involvement of unions in the employment of researchers and aides.

Other news:
Gavin Williamson, the new Defence Secretary, has received backlash for his perceived political manoeuvring. As chief whip, he was involved in choosing Fallon’s replacement. One MP cited it as evidence that the Prime Minster was “being controlled by young men in suits.” Williamson has also been criticised for his lack of cabinet experience, and the disregard of candidates from within the Defence Ministry.

Interest rates were increased from 0.25% to 0.5% today, the first rates rise in 10 years, in an effort to curb inflation. The Bank of England’s insists however, that there will be no further rise in the near future. Inflation, which looks likely to exceed its upper limit of 3%, is at its highest level since 2012. Interest rates are still historically low compared to pre-recession levels.

PMQs featured a lengthy exchange between Corbyn and the Prime Minister on tax avoidance, in a battle that saw no clear victor.

Stanley Barrell-Kane
Stanley Barrell-Kane is an A-level student at Fortismere school, and Exposure’s technocrat-in-chief. He writes mostly on Economics and Politics.
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