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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

British politics convulsed by sexual allegations made against senior party members

Politicians from both the Tory and Labour parties have been identified as harassing staff

The two major parties at the Houses of Parliament are coming under attack over allegations of sexual harassment. AFP PHOTO/Daniel Leal-Olivas
The two major parties at the Houses of Parliament are coming under attack over allegations of sexual harassment. AFP PHOTO/Daniel Leal-Olivas

British politics is being convulsed by serious accusations of sexual impropriety at the top of both of its main parties. An extraordinary catalogue of the misdemeanours of up to 40 MPs from Britain’s ruling Conservative party has made its way into the public domain, a list relating a variety of incidents including extramarital affairs, unwanted sexual advances and other questionable behaviour among politicians at the top of British society.

Late on Tuesday, an activist in the opposition Labour party also went public with the accusation that she had been raped at an event six years ago – believed to be the annual conference held in Liverpool in 2011 – by a senior member of Labour and was subsequently told to keep quiet about it by the party hierarchy if she wanted to advance in the organisation.

Bex Bailey, who was a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, the party’s governing body, told the BBC that she had been 19 years old when she was assaulted at the event. Two years after the alleged attack, she approached a senior Labour official to tell them about it, having not wanted to go to the police in 2011 out of “fear and shame”.

“I told a senior member of staff, who told me, it was suggested to me that I not report it,” she told the PM programme on BBC Radio 4. “I was told that if I did it might damage me.” Ms Bailey said that her attacker was a senior person within Labour but was not a member of parliament.

Labour’s current leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was a minor MP at the time of the attack, praised Ms Bailey for speaking out and announced the launch of an independent internal investigation. “There will be no tolerance in the Labour Party for sexism, harassment or abuse,” Corbyn wrote on Facebook.

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Ms Bailey’s claim is the latest in a series of sexual allegations that have rocked Westminster. At the weekend, junior trade minister Mark Garnier was revealed to have made lewd remarks to a member of his staff, while the secretary of state for defence Michael Fallon apologised on Tuesday for an incident in 2002 when he put his hand on a female journalist’s knee.

Both were named on the list of Tory politicians which had been compiled by members of party staff to warn each other about the activities of the MPs, including their tendency to harass their assistants or their heavy drinking.

The existence of the document, which was put together as a spreadsheet, came into the open on Monday and on Tuesday it was published unredacted on some websites in the United States, as well as being widely circulated on social media and among journalists and politicians.

Another woman came forward on Tuesday to say she was sexually assaulted by an MP during a foreign work trip.

“He was quite insistent on me sitting on the bed, at which point I really didn’t feel comfortable, to the point where he pushed me on the bed and held me by the shoulders and tried to kiss me,” the woman, whose real name has not been published, told ITV News.

She told the broadcaster that she reported the incident to British police and parliamentary authorities but “evidence would suggest there was absolutely no action taken”.

ITV News reported that police interviewed the MP, who denies the allegation, but could not take further action because the incident happened outside of their jurisdiction.