Labour 'dragging its feet' on tackling sexual harassment – activist

Bex Bailey accuses party of delaying independent report by Karon Monaghan QC

Senior Labour party figures have failed to take sexual harassment seriously, according to an activist who alleged last year that she had been raped at a party event.

Bex Bailey, who waived her right to anonymity to bring the issue to light in October, also claimed that an independent report on the issue had been kicked into the long grass.

She said she had to fight to be allowed to see the report herself and she believed the party’s national executive committee (NEC) was still being kept in the dark months after the party was handed the document.

“To be honest, I don’t know why the party is dragging its feet on this,” Bailey, whose allegation led to the commissioning of the report by an independent expert, Karon Monaghan QC, told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on Monday.

“It’s not just my case that’s not been handled properly but we’ve got a situation where the report clearly says … senior members of the Labour party even have closed their eyes to these issues. They have trivialised sexual harassment, accommodated it and not handled it as they should have done.”

Bailey, a former NEC member, said the ruling body could “start the ball rolling” on the creation of a properly independent complaints system on Tuesday, when it meets before the party’s annual conference. But she said it would be difficult for it to do so if members had not been given sufficient time to read and fully understand the report and its recommendations.

A Labour source said the NEC was due to discuss such a rule change at the meeting, and “many of the recommendations made in Karon Monaghan QC’s report have already been implemented”. It is understood that a working group has been set up to report to the NEC on the issue, rather than each member being handed a copy of the highly sensitive report.

Bailey’s claim that she was raped by a more senior party member in 2011 came amid a host of allegations of sexual misconduct in Westminster. Both she and a second woman, who asked to remain anonymous, criticised the lack of proper processes for reporting their allegations.

In response, Labour commissioned the Monaghan report and overhauled some of its procedures, including calling in the specialist organisation Rape Crisis to conduct an audit.

Bailey said she had felt “continually let down by the party I love” and it needed to change in order to be considered a “safe place for women” – including by making it easier to take allegations of sexual misconduct to an independent body.

“The sort of frustration I have faced so far and the delays and the sort of pushing the issue into the long grass haven’t inspired confidence. But I know that we can get there,” she said.

A Labour party spokeswoman said the party was “committed to continually improving our procedures for dealing with sexual harassment complaints and we thank Bex Bailey for her work to improve these procedures and for her incredible bravery”.

She added: “Karon Monaghan QC’s report assessed the party’s previous procedures, which we recognise were not fit for purpose. These procedures have since been improved, for example by introducing a helpline for members to report complaints, anonymising all cases and appointing an independent specialist organisation to offer confidential advice and support to any individual affected by sexual harassment within the party.”


Kevin Rawlinson

The GuardianTramp

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