Suspended Tory MP hits out at party's handling of harassment claims

Jamie Grierson
Charlie Elphicke: ‘It is a denial of justice when people who have had allegations made against them, lose their job or their party whip without knowing what those allegations are.’ Photograph: Rick Findler/PA

A Conservative MP who was suspended by his party after serious accusations about his conduct has criticised the party for its handling of the process, claiming he is still unaware of the nature of the allegations a week after they came to light.

Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal, who had the party whip withdrawn on 3 November, said in a highly charged speech to party members that the Tories’ handling of reports of misconduct was “a mess”.

Elphicke was suspended amid a flurry of accusations against MPs across the political spectrum concerning sexual harassment.

His comments come as the Welsh Labour party faces scrutiny over its handling of allegations against Welsh cabinet member Carl Sargeant, who took his own life two days after allegations of sexual misconduct emerged.

In a speech delivered on Thursday night to the executive of the Dover and Deal Conservative Association at a meeting in Deal, Elphicke said: “Let me say some things about the way our party has handled this. First, I want to echo what the Labour MP Chris Bryant has said: if this fortnight teaches anything it is there must be a fair proper process for those who feel they have been harassed or abused, and fair due process for those facing allegations.

“I think that’s spot-on. The fact is that this whole area of reporting misconduct and managing allegations of misconduct is a mess. I have every sympathy with people who have been harassed or victimised and feel they have nowhere to turn. That is a denial of justice.

“It is also a denial of justice when people who have had allegations made against them, lose their job or their party whip without knowing what those allegations are. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. Wrong because it’s an injustice to those who stand accused, but also wrong because it undermines our values as a country.”

Elphicke insisted he was still unaware of the details of the allegations and they were first brought to his attention by a journalist.

“I received a call from a journalist just after 9pm on Friday evening saying he had heard I was having the whip withdrawn in time for the 10 O’Clock News and asked me what was going on,” he said. “I said I had absolutely no idea.”

Minutes later, Elphicke said, the chief whip called and told him “serious allegations” had been made and he was to be suspended.

He added: “Finally let me say that whatever it turns out I stand accused of, I deny any criminal wrongdoing.”

Elphicke had the whip withdrawn 48 hours after the former defence secretary Michael Fallon quit following sexual harassment allegations.

Two other Tories – including the first secretary of state, Damian Green – face Cabinet Office inquiries. Three more are reportedly under investigation by the Conservative party’s disciplinary board.

Within Labour, MPs Kelvin Hopkins, Clive Lewis and Ivan Lewis have all faced allegations.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has said those accused of misconduct should be given support while allegations are investigated. At an event with students at Queen Mary University of London, Bercow said: “In terms of protection of the frailties of the accused, I think that’s incredibly important in light of what has happened in Wales, but it was predictable.

“Even if people are suspected of wrongdoing, they may well need, and should be given help, understanding, support.”

He added: “If a member is going to be sacked or denied the whip of his or her party, for God’s sake that member is entitled to know of what he or she is accused.”

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