Why are MPs still bullying their staff – and will it ever be stopped?
Politics Explained: MPs’ staff face an ‘unacceptable risk of bullying and harassment’ – but can anything change, given similar warnings in the past?
Of course they are right, because the report, from independent QC Gemma White, should not lose any of its impact simply because we have heard its deplorable findings before.
“Sexual harassment is also a problem, with staff being subject to unwanted sexual advances, often accompanied by touching, sometimes forceful,” Ms White also stated.
But, given we have heard it before, is there any grounds for hope of effective action to prevent another, identical, similarly depressing, report next year?
First, the commission which runs the Commons is right to stress that action has been taken – including an “independent complaints and grievance scheme” and a “parliamentary behaviour code”.
A “valuing everyone” training programme was set up to ensure MPs, and staff, “recognise bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct”, my briefing note reads.
But, hang on, what’s this? Leaping out from the QC’s report is the revelation that just 34 of the 650 MPs have bothered to sign up to the course so far.
Furthermore, work is only “under way” into whether to involve non-MPs in “considering bullying and harassment cases”.
So what happens next? MPs will debate the White report next Wednesday, when they will be asked to finally allow investigations into historical allegations, those before June 2017.
Intriguingly, this would put John Bercow back in the potential firing line, after an inquiry into bullying complaints against the Speaker was blocked last year, through imposing the cut-off date.
But, on the crunch issue of MPs apparently boycotting their own training sessions, the two big parties are less convincing.
Labour said nothing about numbers, but pointed out it had changed its rules to allow staff to make complaints to the party as well.
It underlined how, as MPs are self-employed, some have to be almost browbeaten to change their ways – an approach that doesn’t appear to be succeeding.