Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I've Seen the Sleazy Side of Westminster Now Politicians Have to Clean Up Their Act

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I've Seen the Sleazy Side of Westminster Now Politicians Have to Clean Up Their Act

Article excerpt

Byline: Ayesha Hazarika

SQUALID allegations are swirling around about MPs, complete with a now infamous spreadsheet of sexual crimes and misdemeanours. You can tell it has been compiled by young female staffers as no senior bloke in parliament knows how to do Excel. Parliament is on edge, more than at any time in years.

The political great and the good don't seem to understand what is at the heart of the issue abuse of power, unwanted sleazy behaviour and an institutionally patriarchal culture. There's a feeling that unless someone has actually assaulted you, suck it up! Nothing to see here, chaps. Keep calm and carry on groping. Gross.

We all know there is a huge grey area which falls below assault but which is still not OK or acceptable. Yet politics has turned a blind eye to it because politics is still really run by the chaps. You only have to go to the House of Commons terrace when the booze is flowing and it's pretty obvious who has the wandering eye and hands. And everyone knew who the serial offenders were, including the whips and the Leader's Office, but it was all a bit of a laugh and part of the laddy culture.

I was at a party at Labour conference one year and went to the loo. There were two young women in there. I asked them if they were queuing. One smiled sheepishly and said "I don't actually need it. I'm here because I'm hiding from someone who just won't leave me alone."

"No way," said the other woman, "me too" It was the same person. Now that isn't a criminal offence but why should these women have had to spend the party hiding in the toilets because some politician was perving over them? They weren't going to call the police for that. That's like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. But they had no one to talk to. A junior staffer is not going to the Whips' Office which is a historically macho environment whose role is to try and keep MPs in line, not act as a human resources department. …

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