The latest political explosion emanating from Westminster, that of Christopher Pincher and a growing list of those accusing him of sexual harassment, has confirmed to many what they already knew. Inappropriate, and sometimes criminal, sexual behaviour is too often tolerated in British politics. The MP for Tamworth has been suspended by the Party for allegedly groping two men whilst drunk last week, whilst further historical accusations have also been brought to light. Whilst there is no guarantee of Pincher either resigning or being forced out of his position, another tricky by-election seems to be on the cards for a bruised and battered Conservative Party. 

Unfortunately, it is not surprising to see another allegation such as this emerge from one of our political institutions. Only this year, another now former Conservative MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy. The Conservative MP for Reigate and Banstead, Crispin Blunt, took the ludicrous position of defending Khan, claiming that Khan did not have a “fair trial,” although CCHQ did describe Blunt’s position as “wholly unacceptable.” It would be inappropriate to describe the culture of sexual harassment within Parliament as anything but endemic. A Channel 4 News investigation has revealed that a quarter of surveyed parliamentary staffers had witnessed sexual harassment of some form in Westminster, whilst one in ten described being subject to sexual harassment themselves. Perhaps the Christopher Pincher story will be the straw which breaks the camel’s back regarding the awful behaviour seen within Parliament? If it does not inspire change, one fears that nothing ever will.

Beyond the howls of condemnation that are justifiably thrown at those found guilty of such crimes, there must be a change in culture throughout British politics. The Houses of Parliament, and especially those that we elect to represent us in the Commons, should serve as an example to the nation when it comes to morality and public standards, with said example starting from the Prime Minister. Johnson has already failed in living up to the standards the public expect of their elected officials, as seen in the Partygate scandal. Breaking the laws you have imposed on the public is never an advisable course of action to take. Unfortunately, it would appear that Mr Johnson has again failed to meet the ethical bar that accompanies his role. Johnson has reportedly previously described Pincher as “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature,” and was aware of previous allegations against Mr Pincher, dating from 2019-20, when appointing him Deputy Chief Whip in February of this year. To appoint a man with allegations of sexual harassment hanging over him to a pastoral role within the Conservative Party is outrageous; Mark Harper MP has said much the same thing, expressing anger that his “colleagues’ welfare and safety” had been compromised in such a fashion. Through ignoring, or even accepting, Pincher’s unacceptable actions, Johnson has given the impression that criminal sexual behaviour is not an offence that prohibits MPs from serving in his government. Such a stance is directly at odds with taking a stance against the plague of sexual harassment that festers inside our politics.

Westminster’s culture must change. It should not be the case that young people who are considering whether a career in politics is for them must accept that there is a considerable chance that they will be subject to persistent unwanted sexual attention. The Conservatives should be at the forefront of calls for change. We should stand firmly against such disgusting and criminal behaviour. The outrage that is pouring out of the Party suggests that we might do so. However, I must ask whether we can truly claim to be taking a stand against the toxic culture which so stains our politics with our current leader in place.