British Tories in sex-abuse spotlight
‘Spreadsheet of shame’ published
LONDON • Britain’s parliament was grappling with the issue of sexual harassment Monday after the release of a “spreadsheet of shame” that targeted lawmakers.
The Guido Fawkes political website on Monday claimed that Conservative Party aides had compiled a spreadsheet identifying 36 party lawmakers, including two serving cabinet members, accused of inappropriate behaviour. The website blacked out the names of the accused.
The revelations come as Prime Minister Theresa May has already asked officials for an investigation into the conduct of Mark Garnier, the International Trade Minister, who admitted calling his secretary “sugar t---” and sending her to buy sex toys for him.
Another senior Conservative, former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb, has admitted sending “explicit” messages to a 19-year-old woman after he interviewed her for a job.
And Environment Secretary Michael Gove was forced to apologize for attempting to make light of the Weinstein scandal during a radio interview.
A series of lurid allegations have also surfaced involving seven other unnamed Tories, prompting fears in the Conservative Party that the government could be destabilized if the scandal grows.
The leader of Britain’s House of Commons said Monday there should be “zero tolerance” for inappropriate behaviour in parliament.
Andrea Leadsom told the chamber there was no place for harassment or misconduct in politics as she outlined steps to repair a grievance system that she described as “inadequate.”
“Our constituents will be rightly appalled at the thought that some representatives in parliament may have acted in an entirely inappropriate way towards others,” Leadsom said. “These reports risk bringing all of our offices into disrepute.” “These plans will ensure that parliament takes a zero-tolerance approach,” she added.
Britain’s political establishment has come under increasing scrutiny as the scandal surrounding Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein emboldens people in many industries to speak up about sexual harassment at the hands of powerful individuals who control their future job prospects. In the House of Commons, lawmakers employ their staff, leaving little direct recourse for those who feel aggrieved.
Three Labour MPs and an MP representing another party have also been accused of harassment. Labour suspended MP Jared O’Mara last week over a litany of misogynistic behaviour.
Labour MPs facing harassment allegations include one who was sent home from a foreign trip for making “inappropriate” approaches to a young woman and an MP who is nicknamed “happy hands” by female staff.