In this week’s Spectator, Julie Bindel explores the culture of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ in Parliament. Her piece, “Carry on Westminster”, makes a number of revelations about the way parliamentarians behave towards women in the Westminster village, including the following:
- Nick Clegg was given a written complaint in March 2011 about Mike Hancock, Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South. A constituent who told him that he ‘cannot be trusted and is a liability to women, public, and your party’. Not only was there no investigation, but there was not even a reply. When the constituent took her complaint to the party, ‘the Lib Dems did not want to know. If the police and Commons authorities had not acted, they told ‘Annie’ [not her real name], neither would they’.
- A former councillor, John Thompson, wrote to Paddy Ashdown about Hancock in the 1990s. Ashdown, then Lib Dem leader, never replied.
- Female MPs were amazed that one MP notorious for groping was not long ago promoted.
- Another Tory minister is teased by colleagues for blowing his parliamentary budget on a very expensive but very beautiful young researcher – only for her to arrive for work wearing a large engagement ring. She wasn’t wearing it in the interview.
Bindel’s piece suggests that the Rennard problem – where a complaint was given to the LibDem hierarchy but then ignored – is a systemic failure in the LibDem system. And it could date back to Paddy Ashdown’s day.
What kind of culture lends itself to complaints of such severity being ignored? Bindel describes it in her piece: a world where parliamentarians tell their lunch guests what they should wear and even look under the table to inspect their skirt. A world where, according to one researcher, no-one dare make complaints of sexual harassment against male MPs ‘for fear of being targeted, ridiculed or even sacked’.
You can read Julie Bindel’s article in this week’s Spectator, available in print and online tomorrow. Click here to subscribe.