May allows ‘serial sex pests’ to serve in her cabinet
BRITAIN: Theresa May was embroiled in the Westminster sexual harassment scandal yesterday as Downing Street officials revealed that the prime minister gets weekly updates about the sexual indiscretions of Conservative MPs - but has allowed ministers accused of wrongdoing to serve in her cabinet.
Conservative whips faced the charge that they have turned a blind eye to serial sex pests and failed to report them to the police because sexual harassment has been treated as if an MP is having an affair with another consenting adult. May is given a regular briefing by the Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson on misdemeanours by Tory MPs after the 8.30am planning meeting in No 10.
In a sign of the levity with which the issue is treated, one of May’s aides said the briefing was known in Downing Street as ‘‘the ins and outs’’ chat.
Insiders say it covers MPs having affairs, suffering from sex addiction, caught using prostitutes, running up gambling debts and taking class-A drugs. But sources allege that ‘‘good, honest fun with other people’s wives’’ has been treated the same as predatory sexual behaviour in which senior ministers and MPs prey on the vulnerability of younger women and men working in the Commons.
‘‘The whips behave as if it’s the same thing - a bit of a laugh,’’ one No 10 source said.
Another aide to May said: ‘‘Gavin would come in and explain that this MP was having an affair or that MP had been up to no good. Theresa just sits there and doesn’t say much. On one occasion she said, ‘Why can’t they just do their job?’ ‘‘
The claims led to calls yesterday for the whips to open up their ‘‘black book’’ detailing the misdemeanours of senior MPs and ministers, and report culprits to the police rather than sit on the evidence as a weapon to keep politicians in line.
Emma Reynolds, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East, said: ‘‘The whips should not protect MPs they hear are accused of sexual assault. They should be reported to the police.’’
Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, said: ‘‘No male predator should be given cover. In order for women to reach their full potential, the corridors of power have to be free from all forms of sexual harassment and intimidation, regardless of party. This does not just apply in Westminster, but in all workplaces across the UK - especially those which are male-dominated.’’
Justine Greening, the education secretary, said anyone who felt they had been sexually harassed should contact the police.
Police in Westminster have dealt with nine cases of sexual harassment in parliament this year. But amid fears that is just the tip of the iceberg, the Commons Speaker John Bercow is to hold a meeting this week to discuss greater safeguards for researchers and Commons staff. - Sunday Times