Two women MPs saw Neil Parish looking at porn on his mobile phone and reported him to the whips (‘Some bad apples’: senior Tory minister denies institutional misogyny, 1 Mei). I wonder how many male Tory MPs also saw him and did nothing. Was this because they regarded this behaviour as normal, or that they did not want to inform on a male colleague? I hope that the whole House of Commons will agree on a binding code forbidding sexist behaviour, under which condoning bad behaviour is also regarded as an offence.
When I was a school inspector, teachers and other staff in schools would sometimes tell me of incidents that concerned them – mostly, but not always, it was about bullying. Whether I was able to do anything to help immediately or not, I would always tell them to keep a log, gedateer, in a bound book. It is an incredibly powerful source with which to support any allegation or claim against an offender. I would urge the women in parliament to do the same. It acts as a powerful support for your case should you be able to present such a record.
It must be time to seriously consider confiscating MPs’ technology while they are in the chamber of the House of Commons. Van playing Candy Crush to viewing porn, it’s obvious that they can’t be trusted to focus on the job in hand if they have distractions on screen. Schools have taken action when mobile phones compromise learning, so what’s stopping parliament taking similar steps to make sure MPs concentrate on the work that we pay them for?
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The sexual harassment of MPs and bullying of staff at the Houses of Parliament is partly a product of the intimidating building and institution. The palace is an extension of the worst features of a public school, and encourages misogyny, deference and privilege. It belongs in the 19th century. Let’s replace it with a modern chamber, set clear rules and ban drinking and late-night sittings.
As, as reported, 56 MPs are under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct (Redaksioneel, 29 April), and we make the reasonable assumption that most if not all such MPs are male, then that means up to 13% of male MPs are under investigation. And undoubtedly there will be more sex pests who are not being investigated.
Add to this the fact that such behaviour will have been at best ignored, if not condoned, by many of their colleagues, and it’s pretty clear that the problem isn’t just “a few bad apples”. The entire culture of parliament is rotten to the core. Not that we needed a sexism scandal to work that out.