Sexual Harassment in Westminster

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We all rightfully recoil at the thought of Donald Trump talking of ‘grabbing’ women, and years later Bill Clinton’s reputation has never quite recovered from the affairs and allegations during his presidency. But what about the recent allegations in UK politics? Is enough being done? Why do they think they can get away with this?

It would be easy to make the correlation between the fact that all these MP’s are members of the Conservative party; one could make the swift assumption that it is just another further example of the rich fatcats taking what they feel entitled to, with a body just being another commodity in which they can own. Is this true for some politicians? Without a doubt. But we cannot let party bias detract from the issue at hand. For me, this unacceptable pattern of sexual harassment in Westminster has three main driving forces: A feeling of ‘untouchability’ due to their powerful positions, the lack of consequences in place for such issues and, worst of all, brushing off an increased awareness of consent as being an ‘overly PC’ cultural change with no serious implications behind it.

Regarding the first issue, the fact that two of those accused held Secretary of State positions must be noted. These positions are crucial to the country’s running, and these are (apparently) men who make all the difference in society who we should all in turn respect. Subsequently, who would believe such accusations about these important people from just an average worker? When Nixon committed one of the biggest abuses of power in history with the Watergate scandal, he said that ‘it isn’t illegal if the President does it’. Politicians think that because they make the law, it doesn’t apply to them – MP’s are no different. But this isn’t right. A sexual abuser is a sexual abuser no matter how powerful they may be, and by not tackling the issue properly those in charge are no better than the abusers.

So how do we know these issues aren’t being dealt with properly? All we have to do is look at the dates of these accusations. The accusations against Mark Garnier go back seven years earlier whilst Michael Fallon has been making women feel uncomfortable since 2003. Yes, the allegations were only made recently, but how many women before those incidents? How many women since? These behaviors have patterns, and the lack of whistleblowing doesn’t mean that nobody was necessarily aware.

Even now, it is clear the issue is not being dealt with sufficiently. Despite the Prime Minister calling for a ‘new culture of respect’, her idea of dealing with it involves a thoroughly disrespectful de-escalation process. So her solution is not based on punishment and justice for predatory behaviour, but a mediation between the two. The issue? A mediation by definition implies that both parties are in the wrong, and both need to take equal steps to solve their issues. Well, excuse me for being ignorant, but I struggle to see how being preyed upon makes you equally as guilty. A quiet, tucked-away de-escalation also heeds the suggestion that maintaining an outward reputation is more important than justice and punishment. Maybe it’s better for the Party, but it compromises morals. Do we want people without morals representing us?

The worst part of these accusations is the failure of the perpetrators themselves to see what they did wrong. Michael Fallon when resigning said to the BBC that ‘what might have been acceptable 10, 15 years ago is clearly not acceptable now.’ Absurdly, he is trying to imply that the modern view on consent and harassment has victimised him.

Well, guess what Michael? Harassment has never been acceptable. The only change is that people are unwilling to put up with it anymore.

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Wessex Scene's friendly neighbourhood Opinion Editor with a love of memes, food and complaining. Also News Editor at the Soton Tab and occasional contributor to The Daily Touch.

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