Sexual Abuse as a Bargaining Tool in Parliament


Written by Don't Panic
02 Thursday 02nd November 2017


Sexual abuse is being used as a bargaining tool across the world; From movie roles to music contracts and now votes in the House of Lords it’s beginning to look like sexual harassment is becoming the currency of our time.

Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan called out Theresa May in PMQs this week, stating that three years ago she came to the then Home Secretary with evidence proving that whips in the House of Lords had been using stories of sexual abuse to demand loyalty from MP’s. She also warned her at the time that unless real action was taken, they would risk repeating the injustices again. The revelations have highlighted a deep rooted problem within parliament, not just that incongruous activity is rife, but more disturbingly that it is well known, accepted and used for political gain.

Theresa May was warned of these incidents three times and three times she did nothing. Fast forward to now and it seems like a toxic culture of abuse has been allowed to grow in Westminster on both sides of the bench. Despite the ministerial code requiring ministers to "behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety" countless accounts of inappropriate behaviour. The PM said she was "deeply concerned" by recent reports about alleged harassment and abuse and called for a new grievance procedure for everyone working within Parliament.

Julia Hartley-Brewer weighed in on the subject after being named in a tabloid as a victim. She tweeted a statement with a caption reading: “This "incident" happened in 2002. No one was remotely upset or distressed by it. My knees remain intact.” In one of the most problematic responses to the reports, Hartley-Brewer manages to completely undermine the seriousness of unwanted sexual advances and also suggests that time passed plays a role in a crime. Of course, it is her experience and she can speak however she wants about it, but to dismiss victimhood as weakness and contribute to the deleterious dialogue that surrounds sexual abuse in such a public way is more than counter productive, especially from a woman.

So whats to be done about this endemic problem? Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons has called for the introduction of a dedicated support team. Unfortunately these allegations look similar to too many other scandalous iceberg tips that have broken recently. To say that this is just the beginning would be an understatement.


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