Will Michael Fallon be the only Cabinet Minister to resign as part of the Westminster sleaze scandal? Coffee House understands that the Defence Secretary resigned after telling the Prime Minister that he couldn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be another story involving a female journalist along the lines of the Sun splash this week involving Julia Hartley-Brewer. Hartley-Brewer herself was infuriated by the coverage of the incident, which took place over a decade ago, but if there were more stories waiting to come out – particularly from people quite used to writing stories, even if not normally about incidents involving themselves – then it’s the drip-drip of allegations that can do for a government, not just a minister.
There are suggestions this evening that Fallon falling heaps pressure on Damian Green, though it’s worth noting that the difference between the two is that the First Secretary of State vehemently denies the allegations made against him, while Fallon admitted both the Hartley-Brewer incident, and that there were likely others too. Downing Street sources say that there are no more resignations ‘expected’ tonight.
Now, it’s very easy to get drawn into the debate about whether it’s right that Cabinet Ministers are having to resign over certain incidents and whether those incidents are serious enough to merit them being pushed out of their jobs. The political calculation that May will have made is that unlike in previous administrations, she doesn’t have a huge amount stored away in order to weather a political crisis – and sleaze allegations don’t tend to fade away. Then again, she doesn’t have much stored away in order to alienate vast swathes of her ministers by sacking them either.
But beyond the political concerns about how a government looks are the serious allegations across Westminster about the darkest effects of a culture in which mild sexual harassment is considered a bit of fun or clumsy flirting. If politicians and the media are so distracted by a debate over knees to forget that in the past week there have been allegations of a party advising a rape victim not to report her ordeal, and of another staffer being pinned to a bed on a foreign trip, then no good will come of this scandal in the long-term.