OPINION - Why can’t our MPs behave?

·2-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

If there stood a large sign outside the Palace of Westminster stating the number of days since the last sexual harassment or misogyny scandal, today would display a solitary, sad ‘1’.

Given the specifics of the latest case, the core challenge for this newsletter is to make it into your inbox. That means writing it in such a way that your spam filter doesn’t take evasive action, hence why the subject line fails to mention the latest scandal, involving pornography.

As you’ll likely be aware, a Tory MP has been accused of watching porn on his phone *while in the Commons chamber*, in view of other members. There isn’t a workplace in Britain where such behaviour is acceptable. In the heart of our democracy, it is frankly depressing.

Nickie Aiken, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, told the Standard that the MP in question “should really do the decent thing and resign immediately“.

It comes amid reports that 56 MPs, including cabinet ministers, are currently facing allegations of sexual misconduct and have been referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme.

But this is not a party political issue. A female Labour MP has accused a member of the shadow cabinet of calling her a secret weapon because men ‘wanted to sleep with her‘.

I began my career working in Parliament for a number of MPs. Little surprises me about the place. While offices across the country have problems with sexual harassment, Westminster contains special ingredients that make it harder to police.

The combination of stark power differentials – MPs directly manage junior and often poorly paid staff – and the idea that making a complaint will damage the party or the ‘cause’, has long bred a culture of omertà, a code of silence.

Indeed, in 2018, an independent report by Dame Laura Cox concluded that the Commons displayed a culture in which “bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed”. Little has changed.

Last month, when an Independent Expert Panel review into the conduct of John Bercow found that the former speaker was a “serial bully” and a “serial liar”, I wrote about why these sorts of things keep happening in our Parliament. I stand by every word.

In the comment pages, Ben Judah calls Emmanuel Macron’s victory a boost for the survival of Ukraine — and Europe. It also makes him, at the age of 44 – though still older than Napoleon in his prime – the continent’s elder statesman.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey says tax rises (hint: those stealthy income tax thresholds freezes) are the last thing Londoners need.

Finally, and with full credit to colleagues, check out the excellent headline “Lorry hits the skids as bridge incident sends loo roll flying“ in Lewisham. There are pictures, though a little less loo roll than I’d have liked to see.

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