I genuinely feel very sorry for Members of Parliament. The overwhelming majority are hard working, decent sorts who genuinely want to do the best for their constituents. Yet they have to put up with abuse on social media, the scorn of the general public, rubbish pay and are expected to publicly fawn over leaders who they very often think are hopeless, rogues or shits; in some cases all three. Good evening Boris.
They have to instantly agree with and explain daft policies that they don’t agree with. And then when the policy is reversed, explain that the sound of screeching brakes and burning rubber shows that their party has been ‘listening’. Or if there is a cockup of Grayling proportions they will have to gravely pronounce that ‘lessons will be learned’ and that this ‘must never be allowed to happen again’. And if they are forced to support something of such diabolical bollocks that not even Grant Schapps or Rees Mogg could defend with slithering ease, the old, ‘this is not what they are saying in the doorsteps’ clanks in.
But enough of the sob story. The behaviour of some MPs of late is almost beyond belief. That fifty six are are under investigation for sexual misconduct including several cabinet ministers is deeply, deeply troubling. There is nothing new in consensual sexual liaisons in parliament. There is nothing new about a drinking culture and sadly there is nothing new that a minority of MPs are sexual predators. The drinking culture calmed down considerably in 2010 mostly because so many of the old guard had retired. I remember being quite shocked when I walked into the Strangers bar to find that the few people who were there were drinking coffee. Now the bars are full and youngsters are throwing up and collapsing. This will change. I remember when I was elected in 1983 many colleagues (some who became cabinet ministers) had to learn their alcohol limits the hard way. I had to clean up one poor fellow in the chamber. He was lucky that parliament wasn’t televised in those days. Eventually, everyone calmed down and I confined myself to white wine spritzers in the bars. But the sexual predatory was rife. It really had precious little to do with drink. It was about power. Sadly some MPs see that their status gives them miraculous powers of attraction to young women and men. How could these beauties not be attracted to balding, beer breathed middle aged men who have convinced themselves that they are political demi Gods? Years ago a young lad come to me in tears about how he was being pressured into unwanted sex by his MP boss. The boy left. The MP is still there. And there are still countless secretaries and aides who will tell you how their bosses had made passes at them. Although passes are fair enough but persistence is not
So the abhorrent entitled ‘fair game’ culture still exists. It’s not just inexperienced, under-vetted red-wallers. It’s people who have been around for a while as well. I suspect that the whips and certainly the press suspect who these people are. But suspicion is insufficient evidence to take action apart from, ‘my dear Buffy, some wicked people are putting round rumours that you are in an intimate relationship with a pig. Total nonsense, of course, but best you don’t do anything to excite the press. And the farmers’ lobby’.
Before we had a confession from tractor porn Parish, many of us were pretty sure that it was someone else, and that someone must have known that sooner or later his name would appear on social media.
So what can the authorities do about it? Close or limit the bars? Ridiculously puritanical. And don’t expect the bar staff to refuse to serve drinks to pissed MPs. It’s not fair on them. Relationship seminars? Give it a whirl but don’t hold your breath. I suspect it won’t change things too much. Better vetting of candidates? Can’t do any harm. To be honest nobody has a clue and that’s why there will be a Speaker’s conference where ‘lessons will be learned’. Or not.
At the end of the day MPs must learn to do ‘normal’. It really isn’t all that difficult. But now there is talk of changing the working environment. Mmm. Meaning what? Bullying, harassment and sexual assault (a crime) have serious if not politically life threatening consequences. I suspect that the only workable beginnings of a solution is central employment of MP’s staff. The MP can choose whom to employ, pay the salary from allowances and the normal pension and employment laws clank in. And the employee will have all the protections that everyone else has. Why this hasn’t been done years ago would be a mystery until you realise that the Commons becomes rather high and mighty about MPs being only accountable to their constituents. Well dears you’ve blown that. And probably a lot else.
The alternatives are that they should all be housed in Soviet styled blocks with a fierce looking woman (popular in some quarters) on each floor keeping a close eye on them. Cold baths, chemical castration or the Complete Dick Prevention Act. We are spoilt for choice.