Abuse survivors to take on five MPs at next general election

Members of the Women’s Equality party to challenge parliamentarians accused of assault or sexual harassment

Five members of parliament accused of assault or sexual harassment will face survivors of violence and abuse on the stump at the next general election, with the new candidates representing the Women’s Equality Party on an anti-violence platform.

The WEP is pushing for stronger action nationally, after years of cuts to vital domestic violence support services, and in Westminster, where they claim there is a culture of impunity.

“If parliament won’t hold these men to account, then we will hold them to account at the ballot box,” said Serena Laidley, WEP candidate for Luton North. She will stand against Kelvin Hopkins, a Labour MP suspended from the party while under investigation for sexual harassment allegations.

No MP has stepped down because of sexual violence or abuse of women, although some have lost their party whip. A recent survey found one in five people who work in parliament reported they had been sexually harassed in a single year.

Jenn Selby, WEP candidate for Cities of London and Westminster, said that violence cannot be tackled while men suspected of violence remain in positions of power. “As long as they continue to influence legislation that affects the lives of women and girls across the country, we cannot hope to create a more equal future or one that is free from violence,” she said.

Selby will stand against Conservative MP Mark Field, who was caught on camera grabbing a woman by the neck. He was fired from his ministerial role over the incident, but prime minister Boris Johnson dropped the investigation into Field’s actions when he took over from Theresa May.

Boris Johnson. The prime minister dropped the investigation into Mark Field’s actions when he took over from Theresa May.
Boris Johnson dropped the investigation into Mark Field’s actions when he took over from Theresa May. Photograph: Reuters

Field said in a statement in June he had reacted “instinctively” to an intruder and “unreservedly apologised” to the woman.

The WEP has launched its new policy now because Johnson is expected by many to call an election within weeks or months.

Three other MPs will also face survivors. The first is Jared O’Mara, ex-Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam who was accused of sexual harassment. In a statement in July O’Mara, now an independent, admitted he sent messages during a mental health crisis that were “not of a sober or rational mind”. He was arrested last week on suspicion of fraud, the BBC reported.

The others are Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, who has been charged with three counts of sexual assault, and Ivan Lewis, independent MP for Bury South. He quit the Labour party last year before an investigation into sexual harassment allegations had been completed.

Elphicke, Lewis and Hopkins have denied any wrongdoing.

The WEP wants changes to the law governing when MPs can be recalled, and an independent investigations system for allegations of violence, harassment and assault. They also want to reverse years of cuts to refuges and other support for domestic violence survivors.

Contributor

Emma Graham-Harrison

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Women’s Equality party leader seeks backing for a clear run to beat ‘misogynist’ MP
Sophie Walker’s challenge to Tories’ Philip Davies comes as ‘progressive alliance’ gathers support in key marginal seats

Ben Quinn

23, Apr, 2017 @5:59 AM

Article image
What have we learned from the general election campaign?
We ask respected commentators what lessons – if any – can be drawn from the build-up to polling day

03, Jun, 2017 @11:05 PM

Article image
Millionaire Brexit donor targets 140 remain MPs in general election
Financier Jeremy Hosking takes aim at Labour heartlands and says he wants no backsliding on Europe

Michael Savage Observer policy editor

13, May, 2017 @9:00 PM

Article image
What five different election outcomes will mean for Britain
The polls point to a range of scenarios on Thursday – we look at their consequences

Andrew Rawnsley

03, Jun, 2017 @11:05 PM

Article image
How Jeremy Corbyn turned a youth surge into general election votes
Labour outmanoeuvred the Conservatives with digital knowhow, an army of activists, a sense of humour and a new political vision

Michael Savage and Alex Hacillo

10, Jun, 2017 @7:56 PM

Article image
General election: Ukip donor Arron Banks decides not to run in Clacton – as it happened
As parties here digest the lessons of the French election, Labour prepare for defence flak and the Tories take a leaf out of the book of Miliband

Chris Johnston (now) and Andrew Sparrow and Martin Farrer (earlier)

24, Apr, 2017 @7:26 PM

Article image
Remainers urge united strategy for election
An audience of 1,300 debates the future of post-Brexit Britain

James Tapper

13, May, 2017 @11:05 PM

Article image
UK transgender rights row intensifies as book fair is cancelled
Accusations of ‘transphobia’ have led to bitter divisions within Labour and the Women’s Equality party, feminist and anarchist movements

Ben Quinn and Dulcie Lee

26, Nov, 2017 @12:05 AM

Article image
Election is a Tory power grab, says EU Brexit chief
European parliament’s Brexit coordinator says result will be an irrelevance in Brussels

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

22, Apr, 2017 @8:33 PM

Article image
Victorian abortion law ‘breaches human rights’
Women’s Equality leader calls for decriminalisation as party is set to gather for its first conference

Tracy McVeigh

20, Nov, 2016 @12:04 AM