Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Beginning of the End?

Mostly domestic politics seems to move at a snails pace, but every now and then something big kicks off from left field and suddenly it begins to dawn on a very worried-looking prime minister that it could all be over for her very soon. As with the expenses scandal and Jimmy Savile revelations, the 'sex pest' story triggered by the Weinstein saga is moving fast and has the capacity to torpedo the cosy Parliamentary boys club and possibly bring down the government.

In the following Guardian article I was particularly struck by the admission that blackmail is a routine element of our parliamentary democracy:-  

Katie Perrior, formerly May’s head of communications, said such information was often “kept away from the prime minister” but used by whips to enforce party discipline. She told BBC One’s Breakfast: “The information is held by the whips, because they use it to make sure that MPs know that other people within the party know exactly what they’ve been up to, and that behaviour either is not acceptable, or it will be used against them – you will vote in a certain way or we will tell your wife exactly what you’ve been up to.”

Theresa May to crack down as sex harassment allegations grow

Theresa May has insisted that she is determined to take tough action to protect Westminster staff against sexual harassment as MPs in both major parties predicted more sleaze allegations would emerge in the coming days. The prime minister wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, calling on him establish an independent mediation service for staff wanting to raise concerns about MPs’ behaviour and to enforce a grievance procedure which is currently voluntary.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority recommends that a grievance procedure is included in employees’ contracts. However, parliamentary staff work directly for MPs, who are in effect self-employed and do not have to adopt the policy. “It does not have the required teeth as contractually an MP does not have to follow the procedure. I do not believe this situation can be tolerated any longer,” May said in her letter.

A series of claims about the behaviour of senior politicians have emerged in recent days, after the Harvey Weinstein scandal encouraged women in other professions to share their experiences. The former work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb apologised for “sexual chatter” with a 19-year-old who had applied for a job in his office, while the trade minister Mark Garnier admitted asking a former assistant to buy sex toys and calling her “sugar tits”.

Labour MPs believe more allegations will emerge on their own side. The Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara was suspended from the party last week for a series of misogynistic and homophobic remarks on social media. “We’re not going to be immune from it,” said the Manchester Central MP, Lucy Powell. “It’s the attitudes and the power inequalities, whether it’s Hollywood, the BBC or Westminster.”

May’s call for a mediator follows demands from the Labour MPs John Mann and Sarah Champion for staff to be able to report allegations to an independent authority, particularly when the person harassing them may be their boss. MPs warn that the risks to young staff are intensified by late working hours, the fact that many politicians lead a double life – with one home in London and another in their constituency – and Westminster’s many bars.

The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the culture was even worse 30 years ago when she was first elected. “You would have sort of micro-sexual aggression. So women would get up in the chamber and Tories opposite would do this gesture like they were weighing their breasts,” she said.

“There was harassment, there were jokes which weren’t that funny – it was partly to do with the fact it was a very male environment – 650 MPs, when I went there just 20-odd women. “It was partly to do with idea of all these men away from home, it was partly to do with the fact there were eight bars and the very long hours and the bars were open for as long as we’re sitting, and partly with the notion that what happens in Westminster stays in Westminster. It was worse – it’s a little bit better now – but there’s a long way to go.”

Mann has threatened to name a parliamentary colleague who he said was thrown off a foreign trip for harassing women. The Conservative MP Anna Soubry praised May’s action, but said the proposed new system must go further. “What it must do, of course, is to protect all workers at the Palace of Westminster,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday.

“At the moment it looks like it’s only going to deal with those situations where a member of a team wants to make an allegation against a member of parliament – it must encompass any workers raising a grievance against anyone else.”

Powell told Today that politics was vulnerable to such abuses. Like the film industry, it was “an environment where you have many, many, many people desperate to work in a place” who relied on others for work. “When you have that mix of lots of desperate people in that environment, this sort of power abuse – and that’s what it is, it’s about a power inequality – can thrive,” she said.

Separately, MPs were sharing stories on Sunday about a Conservative MP who allegedly takes pictures of young men in compromising positions and uses them to extract sexual favours. The Sunday Times reported that an unnamed senior cabinet minister had grabbed a woman’s thigh and said: “God I love those tits.” One former Tory minister said: “The whole culture needs to change.”

Downing Street flatly denied reports that the prime minister receives regular updates from the whips about the sexual behaviour of her MPs. Instead, they said she had requested on Friday to see the chief whip, Gavin Williamson, and her chief of staff, Gavin Barwell to ask if more should be done about sexual harassment.

Katie Perrior, formerly May’s head of communications, said such information was often “kept away from the prime minister” but used by whips to enforce party discipline. She told BBC One’s Breakfast: “The information is held by the whips, because they use it to make sure that MPs know that other people within the party know exactly what they’ve been up to, and that behaviour either is not acceptable, or it will be used against them – you will vote in a certain way or we will tell your wife exactly what you’ve been up to.”

In her letter to Bercow, May said parliament should be a safe place for young people to work. “I believe it is important that those who work in the House of Commons are treated properly and fairly, as would be expected in any modern workplace.” She called for other political leaders to work on a cross-party basis to tighten up the rules.

A spokesman for the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “There must be robust procedures inside as well as outside parliament for dealing with abuse and harassment. Jeremy is ready to meet the Speaker and the prime minister as soon as possible to strengthen those procedures and parliamentary staff employment conditions.”

However, Labour accused the prime minister of “washing her hands” of the harassment claims against Garnier, after she asked the Cabinet Office to investigate the circumstances in which he had asked his former assistant to buy sex toys. The Cabinet Office oversees the ministerial code, which demands “the highest standards of propriety”. But the events in question took place in 2010, before Garnier was a minister.

The shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, said: “By referring wrongdoing to the Cabinet Office, the prime minister appears to be attempting to narrow any judgment on her minister’s behaviour to whether or not he is in breach of the ministerial code but this is limited in scope. The prime minister – as party leader – ought not to wash her hands of these matters in this way.”

Garnier, the Conservative MP for Wyre Forest in Worcestershire, did not deny the events detailed by his former assistant Caroline Edmondson in the Mail on Sunday. “I’m not going to be dishonest,” Garnier said. He insisted that referring to Edmondson as “sugar tits”, as she says he did, was a reference to the BBC comedy Gavin and Stacey, saying: “It absolutely does not constitute harassment.” Neither did he deny encouraging her to buy two sex toys in Soho, standing outside the shop while she made the purchase.


The rapidly-developing story led to the following contribution yesterday:- 

A wild & random thought - wonder if the culture of financial favouritism & predation is in any way linked to the prevalence of sexual favouritism & predation in so-called "high places"? C4 say they've seen the unredacted list of repeat offenders in Westminster that contains the names of at least 50% UK govt Ministers. Also interesting to see Soubry & Harman on C4 calling for the same broad powers of sanction against ANY power-based abuse.

For many years I have likened the abuse of staff within organisations INCL Probation to either DV or sexual abuse, i.e. that it is motivated & perpetuated by the power differential (NOT by tits and bums and willies) & is 99.9% a male perpetrator against (predominantly. but not exclusively) a female victim. Might this revolt against sexual predators invoke a shift in the power base? Might that lead to the exposure & termination of inappropriate, non-viable government contracts? Could TR really be about to fall?


The extremely popular Guido Fawkes website is running with the story with over a thousand comments and surely it's only a matter of time before the 'spreadsheet' is common knowledge:-

Tory Aides' Spreadsheet Names 36 Sex Pest MPs

Tory aides have compiled a spreadsheet accusing 36 serving Conservative MPs of inappropriate sexual behaviour, Guido can reveal. The dossier includes specific allegations against MPs, including one minister who is “handsy with women at parties”, an MP on the government payroll who had “sexual relations with a researcher”, one backbencher who is “perpetually intoxicated and very inappropriate with women”, and another who allegedly “paid a woman to be quiet”. It was produced by a number of current and former Tory staffers in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Guido has redacted names and identifying details above.

Several of the allegations on the list are already in the public domain, for example Mark Garnier asking his researcher to buy sex toys. The vast majority of the others will come as little surprise to anyone who regularly speaks to staffers in Westminster. Guido had heard all but three of the stories before. Many of the allegations are historic, others are ongoing. The breakdown includes:
  • 2 serving Cabinet ministers accused of inappropriate behaviour towards women
  • 18 serving ministers accused of various forms of inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • 12 MPs who are said to have behaved inappropriately towards female researchers
  • 4 MPs who are alleged to have behaved inappropriately towards male researchers
Senior Tories have spent the last 72 hours denying such concerns were being circulated by researchers, tonight Guido has the proof they are. 36 MPs is 11% of the Tory parliamentary party. This is not just a Tory problem and there are a significant number of Labour and LibDem sex pests as well. Though this spreadsheet is going to send shockwaves through the Tory party and government…


  1. Happy Halloween folks and may all those skeletons come rattling out of the TR cupboards! Keep dancing!

  2. Will Guido Fawkes finally get to light the powder keg under Parliament?

  3. Cyril Smith? Ted Heath? Leon Britton?
    Nothing new. The only thing that would surprise me is if the minister that sent his PA to buy sex toys paid for them out of his own pocket, and not claimed for them on expenses.

  4. List on the spreadsheet has now increased to 45 Tories.

  5. I can't help but think it's all a bit of a smokescreen really to divert attention from the mess the country's in.
    Brexit is a mess. A special relationship with the USA is not very high on Trumps agenda at the moment, not to mention Bombardier. The banks have just announced they expect Brexit to cost the UK around 75000 jobs in the financial sector.
    In the last 24 hours its emerged that GPs are pressuring their union and the BMA and demanding their freedom from the NHS and become private practices.
    Several NHS trusts are trying to move all support staff to subsidiary companies, removing their public sector status and benefits.
    There's been no agreement reached by the parties in Northern Ireland and direct rule from Westminster looms, which complicates the border issue and could enviably bring down the government as it has serious impacts on the Tories agreement with the DUP.
    The post office (sold off cheap) has paid over £800 million to shareholders in the last 4 years despite cutting staff and reducing working conditions and pensions for its workers.
    They'll shortly be on strike, but so will be the buses and trains.
    Universal credit. Food banks. Housing crisis. Prison crisis. Public sector pay and the budget a couple of weeks away with inflation at 3%.
    Lets have a bit of sleeze, sex and scandal on the front pages. Better the public read about that, then what's really happening at the moment.


    1. You make a very valid point, but it's sex scandals that can bring down governments and Therasa May knows that.

    2. Completely agree Jim - you would also like to think that actually Maybot was made fully aware of the conduct of members in her previous role as Home Secretary !! - maybe she hadnt been charged up well enough !! Here's hoping this does all come crashing round those cloth ears.

    3. I fully agree that sex scandals can bring down governments Jim, and maybe my thinking is a bit abstract here, but I'm not seeing this as a sex scandal in the usual sense.
      What started as revelations of inappropriate sexual behaviour for a couple of MPs has highlighted quite an endemic problem, that will no doubt be found to exist in all parties.
      That makes me think that the argument shifts from the actual inappropriate sexual behaviour of some, to the use of political power for preditory abuse.
      Taking action on the abuse of power rather the individual acts will I feel not only unite parliament but the public too.
      I'd love this government to fall, and from a great height, and I don't disagree with your point, but I think a few slapped wrists, and new rules to deal with parliamentary preditory abuse, and May can come out a bit of a winner on this.
      Just my opinion.


    4. "Taking action on the abuse of power rather the individual acts will I feel not only unite parliament but the public too."

      This where I hope you are right, getafix.

      One MP cheating on their spouse/partner with another consenting adult is just sad; many MPs abusing others 'because they can' is a grotesque abuse of power.

      All of the issues you highlight in your 08:09 post are essentially the consequences of power struggles or abuse of power.

      Similarly the occasional poster on this blog who berates the power imbalance for those subject to probation supervision clearly understands how it works (and sadly some of the responses indicate there are those in probation employment who exploit their position of privelege);
      those who have been mistreated by CRC owners understand;
      those who have been bullied by managers or other colleagues understand;
      women and those from BME backgrounds understand;
      those with physical or mental health difficulties understand.

      Its hard to see how such a fundamentally embedded power-base can be dismantled, but maybe this is the time? MAYBE THIS IS THE TIME?

      I don't advocate anarchy & I do recognise the need for boundaries and structure - but it doesn't have to be based upon the whimsical needs and wants of self-styled alpha-males (aka bullies) who merely look to inflate their egos at the expense of others - be it financially, emotionally, physically, sexually or in any way they can benefit from harming others.

  6. Whatever else this scandal does, it could result in massive damage to May's majority in the house. It would only take a handful of these alleged perpetrators to be forced to resign by the constituency party for the whole thing to come tumbling down, DUP deal or no DUP deal.

  7. Sack the lot of them and then have All Women Shortlists for the vacated seats. Job done

  8. A headline figure & the full text from 'devonlive' link posted yesterday ref-deaths under supervision:

    Overall, there were 748 deaths of offenders in the community in 2016/17, up 7% from 2015/16 when adjusted for the missing returns from two CRCs.

    "The number of deaths of offenders being supervised by probation services in parts of the South West has hit its highest level since it was privatised.

    There were 20 deaths of offenders being supervised by Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company in 2016/17, up from 12 in 2015/16 and 12 in 2014/15.

    Most of the cause of death were unclassified, 10 in 2016/17, with five self-inflicted deaths, the most common with a cause listed.

    Probation Trusts were replaced by the National Probation Service (NPS), a government-run service which manages higher risk offenders, and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), private providers that manage low and medium risk offenders, on June 1, 2014. However in these figures deaths during April and May 2014 are reported using the NPS Division/CRC structure.

    As well as the deaths of offenders being supervised by the CRC, there were eight deaths of offenders being supervised by NPS South West and South Central Division, up from six in 2015/16.

    Across England and Wales, there were 41 deaths of women, who were being supervised by probation services, either post-release from prison or while on a community sentence, in 2016/17 that were self inflicted, up from 35 in 2015/16 and the highest number in a year since at least 2010/11.

    Self-inflicted deaths were the most common cause of death for female offenders in the community.

    For men, the number of deaths due to homicide has hit its highest number for at least seven years, with 30 deaths in 2016/17, up from 20 in 2015/16.

    Overall, there were 748 deaths of offenders in the community in 2016/17, up 7% from 2015/16 when adjusted for the missing returns from two CRCs.

    There were 233 self-inflicted deaths, down 9% from the previous year.

    During this period natural-cause deaths increased by 10% to 258 and apparent homicides increased from 22 to 33 deaths in 2016/17.

    The increase in deaths in the community is due to the rise in number of offenders who died under post-release supervision, while deaths of other offenders, such as those subject to community sentences, have been falling.

    There were 372 deaths during post-release supervision, up 28% from the previous year.

    This increase corresponds with the introduction of the Offender Rehabilitation Act (ORA) on 1 February 2015, and the subsequent increase in the number of offenders on post-release supervision since.

    Under ORA, all offenders given custodial sentences are now subject to a minimum of 12 months’ supervision in the community upon release from prison.

    In 2016/17, there was a 16% increase in deaths of offenders in the community supervised by the NPS and a 2% increase in those supervised by CRCs, private sector companies than manage low to medium risk offenders, compared with 2015/16.

    Natural causes were the predominant cause of deaths in the NPS (44%), while self-inflicted predominated in the CRCs (34%).

    This is only partly explained by the different age distributions of the supervised offenders. When comparing on a like-for-like basis, CRCs had a drop in the number of self-inflicted deaths compared to the previous year, whereas the NPS saw an increase.

    There are notable differences in the distribution of age at the time of death between the NPS and CRCs. A larger proportion of deaths in the NPS occurred in the 50-65 years and over 65 years age categories, while the largest number of deaths in CRCs occurred among those aged between 36 and 45 years."

    1. NPS supervising lots more elderly sex offenders due to the Jimmy Saville effect; CRCs supervising lots more early middle-aged chronic drug users and alcoholics, who previously would have done short sentences without any Probation involvement, and whose sad lifestyles are now catching up with them. The sort of repeat offender that TTG and PSS were ostensibly meant to help, but the people who created it had no idea of how things work in the real world.

    2. Self inflicted for females.
      Homicides for males.
      It might not be all about sad lives. But your point is a good one.
      Perhaps a good look at who's been channelled into the Criminal Justice System may provide a more comprehensive understanding of the number of people that die whilst being part of it.

  9. So 3000 new civil service jobs to deal with Brexit. How about starting some fires to increase the numbers of firefighters? Or burgling some houses to increase police numbers? Or injuring people to increase NHS funding?

  10. Off topic who's spending Britain's billions. On now looking at the cost of consultancy in the public sector

  11. MOJ spot checks.

  12. Its all okay after all. I just found Napo's 2014 assurances of protection & security; and there was me thinking I'd been screwed over, so I haven't been turning up at the office for the last two years. Wonder if my pens are still in my top drawer?

    "What we have done is agree as much protection for members as possible in terms of pensions and terms and conditions (through the NNC Framework Agreement). We are a trade union representing member’s interests - so it would have been remiss of us not to negotiate. Essentially, this agreement makes the CRCs more expensive for private bidders. It is a good thing."

    1. Unless they steal your members' money. That arrangement makes the CRCs less expensive for private bidders. Then it is a bad thing.

  13. More from SWM NAPO Branch on the current lack of progress in protecting terms and conditions of it's CRC members. There is also suspicion that further redundancies are imminent.
    You will have had sight of the emails from Napo and RRP regarding the recent redundancy policy negotiations. It is felt by Napo that we now need to put some 'meat on the bones' to our previous correspondence concerning this matter.
    Friday 20th October
    Both Unison and Napo representatives from SWM and DLNR were invited to a meeting by RRP management to discuss the harmonisation of the redundancy policy. At this meeting Napo were informed that RRP were prepared to offer an uplift of 1.2 to the minimum statutory redundancy payment. This was the initial offer which Napo had queried at the start of the consultation and had been advised by RRP that there was scope for negotiation and discussion.

    It’s important to note that members of staff in SWMCRC who had previously been made redundant in 2016 had an uplift of 3.46 above statutory redundancy. Napo are also aware that Nottinghamshire’s policy currently has a 1.3 uplift.

    After discussion. the Unions rejected the 1.2 offer and put forward a counter proposal of 2.4. This was rejected by RRP who said they could not afford such an uplift.
    After further discussion and some argument, RRP increased their offer to an uplift of 1.3. This derisory offer was unanimously rejected by both Unions. Further discussion ensued between the unions, in an attempt to get agreement, it was proposed that if RRP agreed a 1.8 uplift, in principle the Unions could accept this. Once again RRP rejected this offer.
    Wednesday 25th October
    This meeting began by RRP once again saying they were unable to increase their offer from 1.3.

    In a final attempt to 'unblock' the negotiations the Unions agreed and put forward a proposal for a 1.5 uplift. This was felt by both Unions to be a reasonable compromise. I am sorry to tell you that once again RPP rejected our offer.

    At the initial meeting it was made clear to the Unions that the RRP Board were prepared to uplift the statutory redundancy policy to 1.3 and this uplift was in their gift, therefore could take place with or without the agreement of the Unions. However at the second meeting RRP did an about turn and stated that the gift of 1.3 uplift was being withdrawn. This decision came as a shock to the Unions, who at that time felt that they were being held to ransom rather than a negotiation. We made further representations on behalf of our members in an attempt to persuade RRP to agree to the their initial offer of an uplift of 1.3.

    The Unions are sorry to have to inform you that RRP have so far refused to commit to this and this decision remains with the RRP Board.

    Napo have to point out that during negotiations that the Unions had been told by management that the Board said that there should be no uplift at all. This is a totally unacceptable way to approach negotiations. Napo are of the opinion that if RRP refuse to honour their initial offer they have undermined their own stated value base by acting with such a lack of integrity, this decision is nothing short of shameful and demonstrates a contemptable attitude to their loyal and hardworking staff.

    In previous discussions the Unions have been told by the RRP that they want to be seen as good employers. I am afraid that at this moment that this does not ring true.

    1. SWM have the best redundancy terms in the country. Full 105 weeks pay. The agreements are in place for harmonisation upwards that's means all areas to get the same upwards shift. Unions negotiating down and then begging for the lowest employer offer is what is shameful. Who is negotiating this farce then?

    2. What's going on? The transfer agreements from 2014 all agreed that harmonisation of terms where areas were merged would be upgraded to the more favourable t&c's. Grayling's signature is on the legal document to that effect.

    3. Section 10 of the Agreement signed by CG on 29/5/14 applies.

    4. 14. Where a CRC is comprised of parts of more than one former Trust, the default position in the event of harmonisation will be to harmonise to the terms and conditions which are the most favourable to all staff e.g. mileage rates; special leave provisions.

      It is eyebrow raising the reps seem to be asking for a lower rate when the protection is here from the agreement. Also it is a contractual position that has also got a sub section. Napo locally and Nationally need to be raising a legal case surely? Having missed the protection one has to ask about the competence of the union leaderships.

  14. The unredacted list