You can expel your MP for fiddling expenses – but not violence or misogyny. Why? | Mandu Reid

As long as they avoid a custodial sentence, men who assault or harass cannot face recall from Commons. This is a scandal

• Mandu Reid is leader of the Women’s Equality party

I have never grabbed someone by the neck. Nor have I ever groped anyone, or looked at porn at work. I’ve never sent a colleague an inappropriate text message or asked someone I manage to buy sex toys for my partner. I have never been accused of rape. You would think that I wouldn’t need to clarify those things but, as a politician, I increasingly feel the need to. After all, there are more than a dozen men sitting in our House of Commons who have been accused of doing at least one of the above.

When Mark Field was caught on camera last week shoving a peaceful Greenpeace activist, Janet Barker, seizing her by the neck and roughly escorting her from a black-tie dinner there was public outcry. As a result he has been temporarily suspended from his ministerial position and police are investigating third-party reports of assault against him. I believe he should face recall by his constituents. But under current legislation that is impossible.

Nor is it possible to recall Damian Green, who admitted to lying about the thousands of pornographic images on his Commons computer and was accused of sexual harassment by a Tory party activist. Or Jared O’Mara, who made misogynistic and homophobic comments online in his 20s, including inviting the members of Girls Aloud to an orgy. Or any of the 20 other MPs, MSPs and assorted politicians who were accused of misconduct ranging from unwanted sexual advances to rape during the 2017 “Pestminster” scandal.

Those men continue to sit in our democratic institutions, voting on legislation that affects women’s lives. They work in Westminster, where one in five employees have reportedly experienced harassment. And while a few have been suspended from their parties, the public has no power to recall them from their position as elected representatives.

Under the Recall of MPs Act 2015 constituents can recall their MP if they receive a custodial sentence, if they are banned from the House of Commons for 10 sitting days (which only happens if they’ve previously been banned for a shorter period) or if they are convicted of providing a misleading expenses claim.

That means that so far this year, the public has been able to recall one MP for lying to avoid a speeding ticket and another for fiddling his expenses claim for two landscape photographs. But even if an MP admits to aggressive or violent behaviour, without a custodial sentence they are untouchable until the next election. That’s why the Women’s Equality party has written an open letter calling on parliament to amend the Recall Act 2015, to give the public the power to recall their representatives in cases where they have been found guilty of violence or harassment by the independent parliamentary commissioner for standards.

We live in a country where violence against women and girls is endemic yet rarely prosecuted. An astonishing 98.3% of rapes reported to the police in England and Wales do not lead to a conviction. Nor does assault always result in a prison sentence, with many perpetrators getting off with a fine. These problems urgently need to be addressed, but we should not have to wait for an improvement in conviction rates to ensure that MPs are held accountable for their actions.

Violent people do not belong in government. Let’s make that clear.

• Mandu Reid is leader of the Women’s Equality party

Contributor

Mandu Reid

The GuardianTramp

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