Westminster Sex Scandal Escalates as Leading Activist Was ‘Told’ Not to Report Rape
British politics is a “broken system”.
A sexual harassment scandal that implicates all parties in British politics has escalated, after a leading party activist revealed that she was told not to report being raped.
Bex Bailey, 25, waived her right to anonymity to speak out about the attack in the hope of driving “actual change” in the corridors of Westminster.
Bailey said she was raped at a Labour party event in 2011, by someone senior to her within the party who was not an MP.
Dozens of claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour have come to light in recent days, implicating politicians across all parties.
It began with accusations made against a list of 40 Conservative politicians early this week but, as more allegations have been made, the full extent of the cross-party problem is becoming clear.
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Then just 19 years old, Bailey didn’t report the attack at the time because she was “scared” and “ashamed,” and “was worried that I wouldn’t be believed,” she said in an interview with BBC Radio 4.
Two years later, however, she decided to tell a party official about the attack.
“It was suggested to me that I not report it,” she said. “I was told that if I did it might damage me. And that might be their genuine view … in which case that shows that we have a serious problem in politics with this issue anyway.”
Bailey, who is a former member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, said she had seen “a lot of brave women” speak out, and that she wanted to draw attention to how her case was handled.
She is now calling for change, and for recognition that sexual harassment and abuse is “a problem in every party at every level.”
Bailey insisted that an independent body free from political “bias” is needed, so that people can feel able to report harassment and assault without being afraid of it impacting their careers.
“It’s important that we need to make sure that this results in actual change in our parties as well as in Parliament, rather than letting it all blow over,” she added.
Labour has launched an investigation into Bailey’s report, with leader Jeremy Corbyn saying that she showed “incredible bravery” in speaking out, and that she has his “full support and solidarity.”
Speaking out about rape and sexual harassment takes enormous courage. Bex Bailey has shown incredible bravery. https://t.co/ODpCIQMbfC— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 31, 2017
“There will be no tolerance in the Labour Party for sexism, harassment, or abuse,” said Corbyn. “Whatever it takes, we are absolutely committed to rooting it out.”
Bailey is the latest to speak up in a string of allegations made across all parties this week, with some commentators saying that the impact on Westminster could be even greater than the MPs expenses scandal of 2009.
The list of 40 Conservative MPs alleged to have behaved inappropriately, or to have had sexual relations with colleagues, has been circulating privately in Westminster for two days — a screenshot of which has now been published online.
Allegations range from having affairs with junior colleagues and being “handsy in taxism," to consensual sexual relations.
Many of those named have fiercely denied the allegations, and The Times reports that those named are discussing legal action against the authors of the spreadsheet — although they have not yet been identified.
One MP who is already being investigated for a potential breach of the ministerial code is Mark Garnier, who reportedly asked his secretary to buy sex toys for him, and called her “sugar tits.”
Staff at Westminster were prompted to discuss concerns about politicians’ behaviour this week following the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal.
As a result of the numerous allegations, Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, has outlined plans to “strengthen the existing helpline provision.”
Her plans include introducing a support team, and the establishment of a mediation service, a code of conduct, and a grievance procedure.
But one Westminster staffer, who said she was sexually assaulted by an MP on a hotel bed last year, called the proposals “inadequate.”
“Some of the people who knew what happened to me are now being tasked with fixing this broken system and those are the very people who in my opinion at best turned a blind eye and at worst actively covered it up,” said the woman, who has remained anonymous.
Prime Minister Theresa May, meanwhile, has written to Commons Speaker John Bercow calling for tough new regulations to put an end to sexual harassment, saying the problem “cannot be tolerated any longer.”
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