Parliamentarians are subject to extraordinary levels of public and media scrutiny. And so they should be. More and more we demand them to be like us. To represent a diverse […]
Parliamentarians are subject to extraordinary levels of public and media scrutiny. And so they should be.
More and more we demand them to be like us. To represent a diverse Britain. And in many regards, we’ve become more forgiving of their human desires and frailties.
But with a Tory majority looking like a nailed on outcome on 12 December, the Prime Minister has a bigger challenge than just “Getting Brexit Done” and healing a divided country. He has to entirely reset the moral compass of a Conservative Party that is riddled with bigotry and alleged criminality – and the question of course is whether Johnson, with his colourful background, is capable of being the man to bring change.
To lay out my stall; if Boris Johnson chooses to have four children by four different women or a dozen children by a dozen different women I really don’t care. That is so long as he upholds any moral and legal duty he has to those children and the women he partnered with.
If a male MP in a heterosexual marriage chooses to have group sex with other men, then that’s his choice.
All that I would expect is that these MPs consider the impact of their actions on their families and communities and that these do not lead to either a conflict of interest or a breach of standards.
I don’t see these as bad decisions or showing a lack of judgment. But I expect Johnson as leader of his party and the country to understand the legal duty to ensure those under his charge conduct themselves within the law.
But double standards are at play.
While the media has spent the past few years rightfully attacking Labour over endemic anti-semitism and a wilfully incompetent response from the Party leadership; Tory MPs have been largely avoiding scrutiny.
In a large part, it is because of the Conservative Party’s remarkable ability to conveniently forgive and forget.
Yes, there’s been fleeting coverage of the party’s own failures in addressing wide-spread Islamophobia but this has largely been swept under the carpet. What is telling about the response of the Tory Party to wrong-doing is just how often that carpet is lifted and, just how much dirt now resides under it.
Back in 2017, an alleged “dirty dossier” from the Chief Whip’s office implicated dozens of Tory MPs in sleaze. The sorts of conduct that ranged from odd but entirely private fetishes to alleged sexual assault being passed off as banter. The conflation of cringe-worthy but innocent sexual activity, such as being urinated on by a group of men, acted to distract from the sheer number of instances of groping and inappropriate touching. Forget the banter, a stray hand on the leg or pinch on the bum is not “handsy” – it’s assault.
Being sleazy doesn’t mean it’s illegal or even wrong – but where does the boundary come? Take Stephen Crabb, the former Secretary of State for Work & Pensions. Caught sexting with a younger woman – embarrassing? Maybe. But personal. Caught a second time, a year later, this time sexting a 19-year-old woman who had applied for a job working in his office – this has to be a breach of parliamentary standards. If an employee in a company was caught doing these they’d almost certainly face dismissal.
Then there’s the case of Ross Thompson MP, who in 2018 faced at least two allegations of sexual assault against men – one a Labour MP. Despite formal complaints, there was seemingly no progress or outcomes from the investigations. In fact, Thompson wasn’t even suspended by the party. Thompson eventually chose to stand down on his own terms at this General Election, citing the strain the allegations had put on his mental health
Then there are the unreported allegations.
Over the past 10 years I’d heard stories of inebriated politicians and their aides. Of rampant bullying particularly among younger activities, but time and time again it was stories of alleged predatory sexual misconduct that stood out.
In March and again in August 2019 I contacted Conservative Party HQ with details of further allegations including sexual assault and questionable conduct from both MPs and senior government aides. I received no response.
I emailed the constituency office of one of the MPs involved with a simple question;
“Could they confirm from the MPs diary his whereabouts on a particular evening in 2017”
I provided no other details and no inference from either tone or content as to why I was asking. No response. I emailed 5 times, all deliberately revealing no details – I got no reply. I called and when I referred to my emails and this blog, I received a tirade of abuse from the office manager. I was taken aback. As I advised the lady on the phone, I had simply asked a question about his whereabouts. She clearly knew the reasons why I was asking.
I also raised the case of a former junior Tory minister with a penchant for questionable sexual roleplay. The evidence was thin – text conversations via a social hookup app involving dad/son fantasies. There was no question of illegality and both parties were adults – but the fantasy the MP was engaged in was specifically underage.
The Tories have taken action to suspend MPs in the past – but only when it suits them. Take the examples of Charlie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover, suspended after allegations of sexual assault and Andrew Griffiths Tory MP for Burton, suspended after allegations of misconduct resulting from sending “over 2,000 text messages to two female constituents, many of a violent sexual nature.”
In December 2018, both Elphicke and Griffiths had the Conservative whip reinstated before a confidence vote in Theresa May. Both stood down ahead of the 2019 General Election. Both were replaced as Conservative candidates by their wives.
So if the Tories are so quick to ignore, forgive or forget serious allegations of sexual misconduct – and if as seems this type of conduct is rampant, then what else is under the carpet?
Well, don’t forget that just a few months ago Brecon and Radnorshire Tory MP, Chris Davies, was found guilty of submitting fake expenses claims. He chose not to stand down as an MP – so his constituents recalled him. Inconceivably the Conservatives reselected him as their candidate. He lost. But to add to the insult, he was then initially selected as the Conservative candidate for the 2019 General Election. The party had three chances to do the right thing. They failed each time.
Which leads one to question; “if the Conservative Party cannot be trusted to do appropriate due diligence and properly manage their MPs when it comes to serious alleged sexual misconduct and criminality – then how can they be expected to oversee transparency and ethics when it comes to financial misconduct, cash for access and putting country before party.”