There are currently numerous allegations of abuse by politicians. One of the most serious is the allegation that Labour activist Bex Bailey was raped by someone senior to her in 2011. A story which is particularly troubling as she also claims to have been discouraged from reporting the incident by a party official.
Jeremy Corbyn has since spoken out about the allegations. He has also committed Labour to ‘rooting out’ abuse; which is important because, as Bailey herself said, this problem is “in every party at every level”.
Corbyn made the comments on his Facebook page:
Speaking out about rape and sexual harassment takes enormous courage. Bex Bailey has shown incredible bravery by talking publicly about what has happened to her and has my full support and solidarity.
I have asked Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, to launch an independent investigation into the allegations that she wasn’t given the support from the party she should have received and had the right to expect.
There will be no tolerance in the Labour Party for sexism, harassment or abuse. Whatever it takes, we are absolutely committed to rooting it out.
There has been some criticism that people have responded to Bailey’s story with ‘whataboutery’:
So admire Bex Bailey's bravery in speaking up. Those indulging in political 'whataboutery' (eg in replies to @bbclaurak) should be ashamed
— Gaby Hinsliff (@gabyhinsliff) October 31, 2017
‘Whataboutery’ is the practice of responding to a wrong by saying ‘but what about…?’ Examples in this instance have looked like:
That’s fine, Laura. Interesting timing though. Now, for balance, focus on one of the 36 Tory cases?
— Stephanie Vandem (@StephanieVandem) October 31, 2017
But thankfully, more people seem to have been calling out these responses rather than making them:
A woman was raped, regardless of politics. It’s not exclusive to any party and needs to be acted upon swiftly.
— Michael Gardner (@MGardner1977) October 31, 2017
Anything that minimises people’s ability to speak out about abuse should be challenged. And indeed, Bex Bailey was wronged twice by the fact she was asked to keep quiet. Ash Sarkar of Novara Media said on Twitter:
Solidarity with @bexbailey [Bex Bailey]. Women shouldn’t *have* to waive their right to protection and anonymity to be taken seriously by institutions.
For the men on the left who only want to examine rape culture when it’s on the other side: you sicken me. This is not your movement.
It’s 2017, and women on the left no longer accept that silence is the acceptable price of winning power.
Bailey has since supported the idea of an independent agency to monitor potential abuse and harassment. She also said:
Thank you for all the support. I spoke out in hope that policy, process & culture will change. Independent agency to report to is vital.
What Bailey and others are suggesting would be similar to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority that acts as the watchdog on expenses.
Time to act
It’s unfortunate that Westminster requires a scandal before politicians correct their behaviour.
Corbyn’s proposed commitment to root out abusers is welcome, but it needs to be followed through.
– Support Sisters Uncut, taking direct action for domestic violence services.
– You can also donate to South Yorkshire Women’s Aid’s crowdfunder to keep the service open.
Featured image via YouTube
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