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UK parliament rocked by mounting sleaze scandal

World2017-11-01

The British parliament is facing a growing scandal over sexual harassment, with daily allegations of improper conduct by MPs mounting into outrage equivalent to the reaction in 2009 to politicians’ misuse of expenses. The allegations, including against senior government ministers, have highlighted systematic problems in the reporting of abuse by powerful figures in Westminster. Lurid headlines about British politicians have continued day by day in the wake of sexual harassment allegations brought against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has apologized for touching a journalist's knee 15 years ago. On Wednesday, First Secretary of State Damien Green was placed under investigation for alleged inappropriate behavior towards a woman, an allegation he denies. On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon apologized for putting his hand on a female journalist’s knee 15 years ago. International Trade Minister Mark Garnier is under investigation for asking his secretary to buy sex toys in London’s Soho and referring to her by a sexually-loaded name. ‘Dirty dossier’ The speculation was fueled when aides to Conservative MPs collated and shared a so-called “dirty dossier” detailing alleged improper behavior by politicians from their party. The list of around 40 MPs, including 15 ministers, alleges harassment of junior staff, use of prostitutes, consensual affairs and payments of hush money. Researchers are employed directly by MPs, and the wave of allegations has been accompanied by concerns that proper processes aren’t in place to make complaints. Commentators have also noted that party workers are typically young and ambitious, and in an environment in which loyalty is treasured speaking out against a powerful figure is rare. The allegations cross party lines. One well-known activist for the opposition Labour Party has come forward with an allegation of rape against a senior party member – and detailed what happened when she asked the party for help. Bex Bailey told the BBC she was advised not to report the incident because to do so would be damaging to her. Meanwhile, a Westminster staffer told the Guardian that an MP sexually assaulted her on an overseas trip, but said authorities refused to take her complaint seriously. A Liberal Democrat peer has also been accused of demanding female journalists wear short skirts and knee-high boots to interview him. A threat to the government? The allegations could have serious ramifications for Prime Minister Theresa May's government at an already shaky time in British politics – if the stories keep coming, resignations, sackings and by-elections will be on the cards. May has suggested she will sack any Conservative found to have behaved improperly, but after the disastrous election earlier in 2017 she is only able to govern with the help of the small Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party. A further depletion of numbers could put the government in jeopardy. May has been urged to launch an independent body to deal with complaints about MPs’ behavior. Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, on Monday proposed strengthening an independent helpline to report allegations of misconduct. Trust in British political institutions has dropped sharply since 2009, when the reputation of parliament and politicians was severely damaged by a scandal over MPs’ use of expenses. The revelations from a leaked document led to resignations, prosecutions and even jail-time for several MPs and peers. (CGTN)

The British parliament is facing a growing scandal over sexual harassment, with daily allegations of improper conduct by MPs mounting into outrage equivalent to the reaction in 2009 to politicians’ misuse of expenses.

The allegations, including against senior government ministers, have highlighted systematic problems in the reporting of abuse by powerful figures in Westminster.

Lurid headlines about British politicians have continued day by day in the wake of sexual harassment allegations brought against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has apologized for touching a journalist's knee 15 years ago.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has apologized for touching a journalist's knee 15 years ago.

On Wednesday, First Secretary of State Damien Green was placed under investigation for alleged inappropriate behavior towards a woman, an allegation he denies.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon apologized for putting his hand on a female journalist’s knee 15 years ago.

International Trade Minister Mark Garnier is under investigation for asking his secretary to buy sex toys in London’s Soho and referring to her by a sexually-loaded name.

‘Dirty dossier’

The speculation was fueled when aides to Conservative MPs collated and shared a so-called “dirty dossier” detailing alleged improper behavior by politicians from their party.

The list of around 40 MPs, including 15 ministers, alleges harassment of junior staff, use of prostitutes, consensual affairs and payments of hush money.

Researchers are employed directly by MPs, and the wave of allegations has been accompanied by concerns that proper processes aren’t in place to make complaints.

Commentators have also noted that party workers are typically young and ambitious, and in an environment in which loyalty is treasured speaking out against a powerful figure is rare.

The allegations cross party lines. One well-known activist for the opposition Labour Party has come forward with an allegation of rape against a senior party member – and detailed what happened when she asked the party for help.

Bex Bailey told the BBC she was advised not to report the incident because to do so would be damaging to her.

Meanwhile, a Westminster staffer told the Guardian that an MP sexually assaulted her on an overseas trip, but said authorities refused to take her complaint seriously.

A Liberal Democrat peer has also been accused of demanding female journalists wear short skirts and knee-high boots to interview him.

A threat to the government?

The allegations could have serious ramifications for Prime Minister Theresa May's government at an already shaky time in British politics – if the stories keep coming, resignations, sackings and by-elections will be on the cards.

May has suggested she will sack any Conservative found to have behaved improperly, but after the disastrous election earlier in 2017 she is only able to govern with the help of the small Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party.

A further depletion of numbers could put the government in jeopardy.

May has been urged to launch an independent body to deal with complaints about MPs’ behavior.

Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, on Monday proposed strengthening an independent helpline to report allegations of misconduct.

Trust in British political institutions has dropped sharply since 2009, when the reputation of parliament and politicians was severely damaged by a scandal over MPs’ use of expenses.

The revelations from a leaked document led to resignations, prosecutions and even jail-time for several MPs and peers.

(CGTN)

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