On Channel 4 news, Jacob Rees-Mogg referred to Lord Salisbury as an example of a prime minister who lost a chancellor and remained prime minister for years. East from high to low The historical nugget was dismissed by Sir Bob Neill, who tartly observed that voters did not care about a government from 120 years ago. But before Labor gets too self-righteous about the awful culture that Boris has presided over, it’s worth remembering that in 2018, retired Justice Dame Laura Cox wrote a withering report on culture in the House of Commons and how parliamentarians from all parties treated their staff can be read here and deals specifically with sexual harassment.
Despite the fact that the 1995 Nolan Committee report on standards in public life made it clear that parliamentarians had to display the highest standards and that “it is essential to public confidence that they be seen to do so”the Cox report describes an entrenched culture “top-down cascade of deference, submission, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and covered up.” Processes and policies, no matter what spongy names they are given (Cox is particularly critical of the “value others”) are described as not fit for purpose and do not even comply with existing harassment and discrimination laws, let alone best practices. The investigations are inadequate and carried out by amateurs. Confidentiality is not respected, staff are fearful and unsupported, and retaliation, or threats, are common.
The report made grim reading. Even more somber was the defensive reaction of MPs and senior staff in the House of Commons at the very thought of having to take action beyond the token. However, the House of Commons was considered a special case, as Cox acidly pointed out, while “Members of Parliament are elected representatives… their mandate does not give them the right to intimidate or harass those who are employed… to support and help them.”
One person in particular became very defensive: the then Speaker, John Bercow, possibly because, as we learned in March of this year, his own behavior was, quite frankly, quite appalling. the report describes his behavior as aabuse of power“and what had been”widely unreliable and repeatedly dishonest in his testimony. He has tried to defeat these complaints by making false accusations of collusion and promoting lies.“My God! A liar in a high position in Parliament! The horror, or rather, the boring predictability of finding people at the top arrogant, selfish and willing to lie to protect themselves.
Worse was that several Labor MPs (Emily Thornberry, for example) tried to defend Bercow, despite calls for him to resign at the time of the Cox report because, as Dame Margaret Beckett put it so succinctly, “The bad behavior of Brexit Trump“. Boris’s own defenders couldn’t put it better. When it comes down to it, MPs of any party, no matter how altruistic they may be when their opponents are in trouble, will gloss over almost anything if they can justify it in pursuit of a higher cause (usually their job) and the polls won’t. they have turned against him. And, in truth, it is only the last topic that really matters to them. Pincher’s groping hands, Boris’s parties and his repeated lies would be mere footnotes if the Tories were still consistently ahead in the polls.
Well, Bercow is gone, Johnson may be gone too, and the Cox Report has certainly disappeared without a trace with little to no action taken. According to a recent review, parliamentary staff have the same concerns now as they did 4 years ago. This last point should put parliamentarians of all parties to shame. Of course, you won’t and staff, visitors and others will continue to face bullying, harassment, unwanted advances and appalling behavior that shouldn’t take place in a civilized workplace.
Dame Laura noted that the problems should not be ignored: “This cycle of repeatedly reacting to crises only after they have become crises, and sometimes only after unwanted publicity, is a dangerous approach for any organization, but completely useless for a workplace.” How gorgeous. And not just for workplaces, but also for political parties and the number 10, which identifies as a workplace but tries very hard to appear convincing.
Will Parliament and its MPs change even after Boris is gone? They tell they want. Starmer and Rayner have made their FPN promise. Chris Bryant has given many excellent speeches on integrity. Javid has found his backbone again. Patrick Grady was stripped of the SNP whip after Blackford initially told his MPs to stand up for him.
But look at the lack of real action since October 2018. Or this Met decision on the Patrick Grady allegations: According to this reportthe Met will not take further action because the victim fears retaliation that will affect his already “intolerable work environment“.
It is not only Boris of whom these words could be said:
“Oh, yes, yes, in THERE. She would have said anything in THERE. You are so eloquent, so moving, so compelling, and you make all of your points so terribly well, you can do whatever you want with me there, and you know it. But I’ve been searching my mind ever since, and going over things in it, and I find that I’m not really the least bit sorry or regretful, so it’s not a good thing to say that I am; now, right?”