Ed Davey criticises misogyny and sexism in government
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After the ‘Me Too’ movement and the subsequent wave of ministerial resignations, Parliament introduced an independent complaints scheme. However, female parliamentarians and victims of sexual misconduct claim to have been repeatedly dismissed by the watchdog.
Earlier this month, sitting Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy at a party in 2008.
The disgraced MP said when he was charged with the offence, he received support from the then deputy chief whip Stuart Andrew and legal advice from the former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox but both deny supporting Mr Khan.
In yet another allegation of sexual misconduct, a top Tory MP was recently found watching porn on his phone in the House of Commons while sitting beside a female minister.
Sexism and misogyny have been described as deeply engrained in the culture at Westminster.
One Labour MP told Politico: “Misogyny and sexism and sexual harassment are so embedded in the culture of the place, it’s difficult to see how it changes.”
Describing the apparent lack of action against MPs who have complaints about them, she said: “There are more serious consequences for misusing official stationery.”
It follows a sexism row in which one Conservative MP anonymously accused Labour Party Deputy Angela Rayner of crossing her legs in the Commons to distract Boris Johnson.
Writing on Twitter, Ms Rayner said: “I stand accused of a ‘ploy’ to ‘distract’ the helpless PM – by being a woman, having legs and wearing clothes. Women in politics face sexism and misogyny every day — and I’m no different.”
The Tory sexism storm comes as 56 MPs, including three Cabinet ministers, are reportedly facing sexual misconduct complaints.
The Conservative chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris is said to be investigating the shocking reports.
To try and quash the historic wave of sexual misconduct allegations, Westminster introduced the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).
Yet the problem appears to exist as dozens of anonymous MPs, activists and staff members have spoken out about incidents of sexual assault in parliament, with some claiming that their complaints were dismissed by the watchdog.
One Labour MP told Politico she had been “propositioned several times” by an older male Tory MP, and when trying to raise concerns informally about a separate Tory MP to the whips who oversee the complaints, she was told, “don’t worry, you’re not his type”.
In a separate incident, a former Conservative member of staff complained to the ICGS that a serving MP shared details of his sex life and made female colleagues feel uncomfortable with “sloppy cheek kisses.”
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The ICGS rejected her complaint as they said it was her word against his, despite her having records of his behaviour in text messages to friends.
With all the allegations of sexual misconduct in Westminster, political writer John Crace said: “It makes you wonder how some male MPs ever find time to do any work”.
Speaking of the recent allegations, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said there is an “overall culture” consisting of “hundreds and hundreds of people working long hours in a place with bars, and for some people under lots of pressure for all sorts of reasons … That’s been going on for decades.”
Commenting on the Defence Secretary’s remarks, Mr Crace said: “A simple ‘This is unacceptable’, and ‘All women should be treated with respect’, would have done.
“Instead he chose to play the ‘long hours, hard-working, late bars’ card. As if that was somehow an excuse and any man who worked late and then went to the pub couldn’t help but revert to a naturally sexist self”.
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