Forty Conservative MPs have been outed in a leaked ‘sex pests’ document created by party staffers. And 21 of them are current or former ministers of government; several from Theresa May’s own cabinet.
The dirty dossier
The so-called ‘Westminster sex pest’ dossier was compiled and distributed by women working in Westminster. Some breaking allegations include senior members of the party. International Trade Minister Mark Garnier has admitted to calling his secretary “sugar tits” and making her buy his sex toys. And former party leadership candidate (and professed Christian) Stephen Crabb is said to have sent sexually explicit texts to a young woman who interviewed for a job with him. The married 44-year-old father of two has admitted sending the 19-year-old “some pretty outrageous things”.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was also forced to admit an exchange with journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer from 2002. During a dinner, Fallon reportedly fondled the female journalist’s knee repeatedly, only stopping when she threatened to punch him in the face.
A redacted version of the spreadsheet was published by the Guido Fawkes blog, and later circulated around the Westminster press. Guido claims May’s closest ally, Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green, may also be implicated in the scandal, writing:
It is already in the public domain that Damian Green’s private email address was found on Ashley Madison in 2015, though he denied any involvement. As far back as 2008 Guido noted Green’s reputation for being “Not safe in taxis”. Shocked WhatsApp messages are pinging across Westminster as people piece together that it is the Deputy PM being referenced. Theresa May’s closest ally has effectively been outed.
Green denied using the Ashley Madison site at the time.
The behaviour the MPs are accused of ranges from “handsy at parties” to “video exists of three males urinating on him”:
There is no suggestion of any sexual wrongdoing by Justin Tomlinson or Steve Double.
In wake of the scandal, members of the public are calling on Theresa May to suspend the MPs while investigations are held. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn took swift action to suspend Labour MPs and staffers accused of antisemitism during the antisemitism row. And most recently, Labour suspended Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara for sexist and homophobic internet posts made in 2002-2003.
But so far, May has taken no public action against the alleged sex pests within her own party, some of them in government:
If the headline was about 36 Labour MPs @bbclaurak & co would be sat outside Corbyn's house tweeting unbridled dross – until he resigned.
— Rachael (@Rachael_Swindon) October 30, 2017
Hi @theresa_may did you know when you called the snap election that 36 Tory MPs would be accused of stuff? If so you need to resign now
— Will Black (@WillBlackWriter) October 30, 2017
While May continues to procrastinate, the women working in Westminster know they are second-class citizens. No person should fear going to work because their boss or peer is engaging in threatening sexual behaviour. And it shouldn’t take the threat of violence to keep a colleague’s hands in their own lap at dinner. If it remains acceptable to engage in sexual harassment and abuse at the level of government, there is little hope of stamping such practices out elsewhere in our society. And if May is too compromised to hold her own party to account for these abuses, then it’s time to replace her with a prime minister that will.
Update: This article was updated at 19.20 on 31 October to delete a tweet that incorrectly suggested an MP had been suspended for using the word ‘bitch’.
– If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can get support here.
– Contact your MP to make your views known. Do not remain silent.
– Be vocal on social media to help generate sufficient pressure for change.
Featured image via YouTube screengrab