LONDON: Westminster came under further scrutiny of its handling of sexual harassment yesterday after a Labour activist said she was raped by a party member and another woman said she was assaulted by an MP.
Bex Bailey, a former member of Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Committee, said she was 19 years old when she was raped at a party event in 2011.
She told BBC Radio 4 that two years after the crime, which she did not report to police out of fear and shame, she confided in a senior party official.
“I told a senior member of staff, who told me, it was suggested to me that I not report it.
“I was told that if I did it might damage me,” said Bailey, who described her attacker as a senior person within the party who was not an MP.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn praised Bailey for her bravery in speaking out and said the party would launch an independent investigation.
“There will be no tolerance in the Labour Party for sexism, harassment or abuse,” Corbyn wrote on Facebook.
The allegation is the most serious case of sexual assault raised since Prime Minister Theresa May called on Sunday for tougher rules on MPs’ conduct.
Her intervention came after an internal government probe was launched into behaviour by junior trade minister Mark Garnier, who made lewd remarks to a former aide and asked her to buy him sex toys.
Defence Minister Michael Fallon has also come under scrutiny for putting his hand on a journalist’s knee in 2002, an incident he will not be investigated for.
“I don’t believe there is a complaint that has been made against him… It’s right that he’s apologised,” May’s spokesman said.
List of 40 MPs
British media have reported on the existence of a list of sexual allegations about around 40 MPs from May’s Conservative Party, including six ministers, that was apparently compiled by disgruntled former employees.
Most of the names on the list have been redacted.
As rumours swirled in Westminster about behaviour by lawmakers, another woman came forward yesterday to say she was sexually assaulted by an MP during a foreign work trip.
“He was quite insistent on me sitting on the bed, at which point I really didn’t feel comfortable, to the point where he pushed me on the bed and held me by the shoulders and tried to kiss me,” the woman, whose real name has not been published, told ITV News.
She told the broadcaster that she reported the incident to British police and parliamentary authorities but “evidence would suggest there was absolutely no action taken”.
ITV News reported that police interviewed the MP, who denies the allegation, but could not take further action because the incident happened abroad.
On Monday the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, condemned “recent disturbing allegations about a culture of sexual harassment at Westminster” and urged political parties to swiftly address the issue.
At the start of an emergency debate on the issue attended by the prime minister, Bercow said there must be “zero tolerance of sexual harassment or bullying”.