Veteran Tory MP warns of Westminster 'witch hunt' over sexual harassment claims

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A veteran MP has warned of a witch hunt at Westminster as the scandal over sexual harassment allegations continued to grow.

Sir Roger Gale said MPs and other prominent figures were on a “hiding to nothing” as it was difficult to refute claims about alleged incidents years ago.

His comments came as fresh claims of inappropriate behaviour continued to emerge, forcing several MPs to deny allegations.

Giving a hypothetical example of a woman claiming a man kissed her in a lift five years ago, Sir Roger said: “How does a Member of Parliament, male or female, or male and male, or female and female, because everything is in this mix, how does a Member of Parliament refute that? It’s a witch hunt.”

<em>Witch hunt – Sir Roger Gale has warned of a witch hunt at Westminster (Picture: PA)</em>
Witch hunt – Sir Roger Gale has warned of a witch hunt at Westminster (Picture: PA)

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said the way claims were being reported undermined the trust between voters and MPs and branded it “despicable”.

He added: “In the context, there is no proof that I can see yet of any wrongdoing. There may be things that have been done, a hand on a knee. Fine, you know, 15 years ago that may have been acceptable where it’s not today.”

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Lord Bew, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said any investigations could not be “in-house” and would have to include outside bodies to avoid claims of a cover up.

He said: “It’s vital that these things are not seen to be done in-house. It is vital that there are people outside Parliament in cases of harassment, and so on, who are there, who can give some reassurance to the public that this is not just another cover up.”

Standards – Lord Bew,chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said people expect higher standards from MPs (Picture: AP)

Lord Bew said people expect higher standards from MPs than from other public servants, adding: “MPs just have to accept that there are things that university teachers, etc, local government officers, possibly, get away with which the public will not accept from MPs.”

Three MPs have denied wrongdoing as fresh claims emerged, including Norwich South MP Clive Lewis who denied an allegation that he groped a woman at the Labour conference in September.

Labour former Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis denied he had made non-consensual sexual advances toward women after reports in BuzzFeed News, while suspended Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins said he “categorically” denied allegations of inappropriate conduct made by activist Ava Etemadzadeh.

(Top picture: AP)

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