Andrea Leadsom criticises handling of Westminster bullying claims

‘A woman in politics should not have to pay this price,’ leader of the Commons tells conference

Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, has strongly criticised the way allegations of bullying and harassment at Westminster have been handled.

Speaking the day after an independent inquiry was announced into bullying by MPs of some staff in the Commons, she condemned the way victims rather than the bullies had ended up suffering the consequences.

“Harassment in workplaces like Westminster is, of course, just one of the contributing factors to a world where women and girls experience violence on daily basis, and it came as no surprise that in a survey of female parliamentarians across 39 different countries, 44% of women have received death threats or threats of rape, assault and of abduction,” she said, giving the closing address at the London conference of Stop Violence Against Women in Politics.

Highlighting the death of the MP Jo Cox in 2016 and that of the Brazilian MP Marielle Franco, a black, gay campaigner from the favelas of Rio, last week, Leadsom said: “From trolling and the echo chamber of social media through to the shocking and violent deaths of female politicians, a woman in politics should not have to pay this price.”

She said that at Westminster the weaknesses in complaints procedures meant some victims felt they had no option but to go to the press. “Others were deterred from escalating their cases precisely because of the risk that they would find themselves on the front pages of national newspapers – so their solution was to deal with the unhappiness by resigning “ she said.

Working with a cross-party group of MPs, Leadsom has now drawn up a code of conduct for parliament. But she told the conference people had to face the truth: “When women speak out and say there is a problem, the answer is not ‘no there isn’t’.

“Even if we worry about what that answer might mean, the response cannot be to close ranks. And when women speak out and say ‘these processes aren’t working for me’, the answer is not ‘yes they are’. Just because things have always been done a certain way does not mean that is the right way.”


Anne Perkins and Anushka Asthana

The GuardianTramp

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