Sex harassment scandal ‘will end a dozen careers’, MPs say

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As many as a dozen parliamentarians may have to resign once the full scale of the Westminster harassment scandal emerges, two MPs who have worked with victims have claimed.

Their comments came as it was alleged that harassment claims had created a rift within the Cabinet, with Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said to have complained about lewd comments towards her by the former defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon.

Downing Street denied that Ms Leadsom had asked the Prime Minister to consider sacking Sir Michael ahead of his resignation on Wednesday over his past behaviour towards women.

The Labour leadership faced ­criticism from its own MPs after it emerged that an MP who had been censured for sexually harassing a young staff member was promoted to the shadow cabinet within months.

Kelvin Hopkins had the party whip withdrawn and was suspended from Labour pending an investigation into his conduct.

Activist Ava Etemadzadeh claims Mr Hopkins, the MP for Luton North, rubbed himself against her and sent her a text message saying a “nice young man would be lucky to have you as a girlfriend and lover” in 2015. Ms Etemadzadeh said the allegations were sent to the leader’s office by then-chief whip Rosie Winterton, but were “ignored”.

Mr Hopkins was made shadow culture secretary the following year.

He was suspended minutes before the allegations were to appear in a newspaper. Last night he released a ­statement in which he “categorically” denied inappropriate conduct towards Ms Etemadzadeh.

A Labour spokesman said: “The Labour Party takes all such complaints extremely seriously and has robust ­procedures in place to deal with them.”

Appearing alongside Ms Phillips on a newspaper podcast yesterday, Mr Mann said: “We will see more casualties. This simply hasn’t been dealt with, it has been swept under the carpet in the past. All of it speaks to a culture that allows the worst to happen.”

A tabloid newspaper reported yesterday that Ms Leadsom had told the Prime Minister about the sexual comment shortly before Sir Michael resigned on Wednesday.

According to the report, which has not been confirmed, Ms Leadsom alleged that Sir Michael made a string of crude remarks between 2010 and 2012 when they served on a Commons committee together. On one occasion, when she said she had cold hands, it is claimed that he replied: 
“I know where you can put them to warm them up.”

Ms Leadsom is reported to have been angered by the failure to launch a formal investigation into the ex-defence secretary when it emerged that he had touched the knee of a journalist 15 years ago.

Downing Street said that Ms Leadsom “did not, and has not” asked the Prime Minister to consider Sir Michael’s position. Mrs May’s official spokesman said he would not comment on the allegations and referred journalists to Sir Michael’s resignation letter.

Yesterday both main parties unveiled measures to address harassment claims. The Tories published a new party code of conduct and established a confidential hotline for complaints, which would be reviewed by a panel of three including one independent non-party appointee. The policy will apply to all elected officials and officers, including MSPs.

In a letter to Commons Speaker John Bercow, Mrs May said the government and her party believe there should be “a common, transparent, independent grievance procedure for all those working in Parliament who wish to raise concerns which provides clarity and certainty about how their concerns will be dealt with, and the support they will receive”.

The Prime Minister is due to meet opposition party leaders including Jeremy Corbyn on Monday to discuss proposals to bring forward a new grievance system for Westminster.

Labour said it was contracting an independent organisation to support victims of alleged sexual harassment.

The party announced that Karon Monaghan QC was being appointed to examine its complaints procedures and lead an inquiry into the case of Bex Bailey, the Labour activist who said she was raped by a party official in 2011 and told by a senior figure not to make a complaint.

The appointment of an external body to deal with complaints of harassment in Labour followed criticism from a member of the national executive, who said any policy not policed by independent figures would be “insufficient”.

Jasmin Beckett wrote to Mr Corbyn urging him to consider setting up a fully independent body to deal with sensitive complaints. Ms Beckett warned of more allegations to come, writing: “I am aware of more members wanting to make complaints but not feeling able to do so.”