In Depth

Westminster sexual harassment scandal: 36 MPs implicated

As political scandal widens, Trade Minister admits he made secretary buy him sex toys

Theresa May has promised to sack political “sex pests” amid reports that 36 Tory MPs - including two serving Cabinet ministers - are accused of misconduct in a “dirty dossier” that details widespread harassment and inappropriate behaviour in Parliament.

The spreadsheet - created by a group of Westminster researchers  and titled “High-libido MPs” - lays out what The Times describes as “extraordinary and unverified” allegations about serving ministers and more than 20 backbench Conservatives MPs dating back five years.

At least two MPs are accused of getting their mistresses pregnant, two more of using prostitutes, and one of agreeing a “non-disclosure settlement” with another MP’s researcher.

Political blogger Guido Fawkes, who published a redacted version of the spreadsheet, says two serving Cabinet ministers and 18 serving ministers are accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour, with their names set alongside accusations such as “perpetually intoxicated and very inappropriate with women”.

News of the dossier comes after International Trade Minister Mark Garnier admitted allegations made in a Mail on Sunday story that he referred to his secretary as “sugar t*ts” and made her buy sex toys for him. Former work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb, meanwhile, apologised for “sexual chatter” with a 19-year-old who applied for a job in his office.

Harassment questions to ‘dominate’ at Westminster

Allegations surrounding the dossier will ensure that “questions about harassment will continue to dominate at Westminster, despite Theresa May’s attempt to get a grip on the issue with her letter to Commons Speaker John Bercow calling for new procedures to support parliamentary staff”, says Politico’s Jack Blanchard.

In the letter, May called on Bercow to establish an independent mediation service for staff wanting to raise concerns about MPs’ behaviour, and to enforce a grievance procedure that is currently voluntary.

All of the 36 spreadsheet allegations “are likely to be in the Whips’ ‘black book’ (also known as the ‘dirt book’), a list of secrets that can be used to get MPs to vote the right way”, says HuffPost’s Paul Waugh. Downing Street has denied that the PM was given regular updates on the sexual antics of her MPs, “but no one denies the whips’ black book exists”, Waugh adds.

Former No. 10 communications chief Katie Perrior told BBC Breakfast that the black book content was used to tell MPs “you will vote in a certain way - or we will tell your wife exactly what you’ve been up to”.

‘Grievance procedure’

The Guardian’s Heather Stewart and Peter Walker say Labour MPs “believe more allegations will emerge on their own side”. According to The Times, at least four Labour MPs have been accused of “harassing young women” -and two of the accused have served at some point in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

“May is vulnerable on two fronts,” says Andrew Sparrow in The Guardian. “First, if sexual harassment has been a well-known and endemic problem at Westminster for so long, as is being alleged, why is she only acting now?” And, “while it is accepted that this is a problem for all political parties, May does have a particular difficulty: the dossier just relates to Tory MPs”.

That the “government whips know about much, if not all, of what goes on, and report it to the Prime Minister without apparently very much being done demonstrates that the No. 1 priority is the Conservative Party, its reputation and its majority”, adds The Times’s Matt Chorley. 

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