Saturday, 4 November 2017

The farcical handling of the Westminster sex pest scandal

The Westminster sex pest scandal is being handled atrociously, both by the political parties and by the media. 

One of the worst aspects is the huge disparity in the way different MPs are being treated by their parties, and by the media.

In the cases of Clive Lewis and Kelvin Hopkins of the Labour Party, and Damian Green of the Tories, all three of the politicians firmly deny the allegations made against them by single accusers. Yet Kelvin Hopkins has been suspended and had the party whip removed, while Clive Lewis and Damian Green have not. 

It's impossible to explain this kind of double standard. Either MPs should get suspended during investigations, or not. You can't have a completely ad hoc system where some get suspended and some don't.

In contrast to the firm denials from three MPs mentioned above, the Tory MPs Stephen Crabb and Mark Garnier have openly admitted their revolting sexual misdemeanours (Garnier laughing his unacceptable behaviour off as if it was just some kind of joke), but they haven't been suspended by their party.

How can MPs who admit their guilt get off Scot free, while (some of the) MPs who protest their innocence get punished?

Then there's the Tory MP Charlie Elphicke who has been suspended from the Tory party and reported to the police for "serious allegations". He is protesting his innocence but has  been suspended from the Tory party. 

However the details of the allegations against him have been kept secret, so after a day of the mainstream media fixating on the unsubstantiated and strongly denied allegations against the two Labour MPs who protest their innocence, the media barely covered the Elphicke allegations because there are no "juicy details" for them to fixate upon on.

Then there's Michael Fallon who preemptively resigned as Defence Secretary with an admission about his inappropriate behaviour with women, but he avoided getting suspended from the Tory party despite openly admitting his guilt. Theresa May decided that instead of admonishing him or suspending him, she'd actually send him a glowing love letter to tell him what a wonderful guy he is!

Then there are the two dozen plus Tory MPs who stand accused of sexual misdemeanours by their own party in the Tory Sex Pest Dossier, and the evidence that Theresa May was warned three years ago that the Tory whips collected details of sexual abuse by their MPs in order to blackmail them into compliance.

The existence of the Tory Sex Pest Dossier (which jumbles up allegations of extreme sexual misconduct with basic blackmail material like consensual affairs between Tory MPs, unusual sexual proclivities, and an apparently false claim against the MP Rory Stewart), and the statement from Theresa May's former communications director Kate Perrior explaining how the culture of blackmail was still ongoing under Theresa May's leadership are both absolutely damning, and should be one of the main elements of the scandal.

But somehow, despite the Tory whips office being at the centre of the scandal, Theresa May saw fit to actually promote her two most senior whips. She caused a storm of internal dissent in the Tory party by promoting her Chief Whip and close personal ally Gavin Williamson to replace Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary, and then she promoted his deputy Julian Smith to Chief Whip to replace him.

So not only are the Tories still studiously ignoring allegations that their whips office have used allegations of sex abuse as blackmail material for party political advantage, they've also promoted the two most senior whips at the centre of these allegations!

The Labour MP Rupa Huq is absolutely right that the House of Commons has "no real structure for complaints" and that the rules on sexual harassment are "lax if not non existent".

It's hardly surprising that sexually inappropriate behaviour has been happening in such a large workplace, especially in one with no clear rules and procedures for sexual misconduct, but the way complaints are being dealt with in completely ad hoc manner by the parties is totally unacceptable. It's created a situation where three Tory MPs who have openly admitted sexual misdemeanours have avoided suspension from their party, while one Tory and one Labour MP have been suspended despite firmly denying the accusations against them.

The next thing to note is that the press have focused much more negative attention on MPs when the allegations are made public, than when the party keeps the actual details of the allegations under wraps (as the Tories have done with the Charlie Elphicke case), which obviously gives the political parties a clear incentive to bury the details of the allegations as much as possible in order to avoid negative publicity.

Then there's what I consider to be the core element of the scandal, which is the way a very senior Tory adviser has admitted that the Tory whips office used accusations of sexual misconduct in order to blackmail MPs into compliance, rather than launching investigations and working to ensure the safety of people like journalists and junior staff as a first priority.

Yet the two men at the very centre of this scandal have actually been handed promotions!

The major problem is the way the parties are currently dealing with the cases in a bizarre "make it up as we go along" manner that punishes people who deny any wrongdoing, lets people off Scot free when they openly admit being creepy sex pests, and then actual hands promotions to two Tory whips who stand accused of having used allegations of sexual misconduct as blackmail material, rather than doing anything whatever to actually deal with the inappropriate behaviour.

The way the whole thing is being handled is an absolute farce. 

If our political parties can't even deal with a scandal like this without implementing glaringly obvious double standards, and actually promoting people at the epicentre of the most damning accusations, then how on earth can they be capable of actually running the country in a decent manner?

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