What does the new ‘cover-up’ code for MP’s really mean
By TruePublica: Defeated by 79 votes to 22. That was the result of an amendment that sought to ensure the names of politicians under investigation for sexual harassment or fiddling expenses could be published.
Proposals to grant anonymity to MPs accused of bullying, harassment or expenses fraud, as outlined in a new behaviour code will undoubtedly be seen by the general public as trying to cover-up their misdoings. And let’s be fair, ‘misdoing’s is a charitable term considering the consequences if any other member of society was caught doing the same. Laws that already exist can potentially involve the police, a criminal conviction and jail.
What this ‘cover-up’ proposal does is to provide legal cover for Britain’s lawmakers in the frame for breaking the law.
“Is Theresa May involved in a cover-up of sexual harassment & abuse from her own MPs?” – Owen Jones
Labour’s Sir Kevin Barron said: “If the house today votes for this element of the leader’s house motion, many people outside will criticise us for rolling back the openness that was agreed back in 2010 in view of the expenses scandal.”
The Green party MP, Caroline Lucas, said: “I do share the sneaking suspicion … perhaps there were other forces at play here which are leading us in this direction.”
The Labour MP Jess Phillips said: “I do worry about how it looks in trying to pull back on transparency.”
Disguised under the thin argument by Tory leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom, that more complaints would be forthcoming if anonymity was granted, frankly smacks of little more than a ruse to cover-up the scale of complaints aimed at a political elite who seem unable to behave like the rest of society.
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Since 2010, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has listed all MPs under inquiry on its website with rulings automatically published.
All of a sudden, it’s just a little harder to get than information. Here is the search result for Mp’s under investigation:
A google search for “Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards” produces the desired result but clicking through ends with a “server error.”
Now, a more precise approach has to made in searching for the information commissioner’s work. Once you’ve started drilling down there are some interesting statistics.
One in every five people, not just MP’s, who work in Westminster experience sexual harassment. An explosive document, leaked to The Independent ahead of publication just six months ago, laid bare the extent of the bullying and harassment in Parliament, following a slew of allegations in British politics that ranged from inappropriate behaviour to groping and rape.
In two months of complaints (pdf file) that have been recorded so far (as the year for recording is April to March), 122 complaints that have been received – just one is being taken further.
In 2017, a total of 889 complaints (pdf file) were made against the 650 Members of Parliament. Of that 889, just 22 were deemed by the Commissioner to be accepted as complaints worthy of further investigation. That is a rate of 40 to 1 against a complaint being taken further.
In 2016, 627 complaints (pdf file) were made, just 20 were investigated.
In 2015, a whopping 1174 complaints were made against MP’s – almost two to one and yet only 12 were taken further. That is almost 100 complaints dismissed before one is serious enough to be deemed worthy of investigation.
And yet, the proposal by the Conservative party is that anonymity should be given to Members of Parliament where the complaint to investigation rate over the last three years has averaged barely 50 to one.
What does this say about law and order, transparency and honesty – or indeed about setting an example to the rest of society about standards in public life? It’s a very good job that civil society as a whole does not behave in this way – life would be unbearable for all of us.
What does this say about democracy? A characteristic of authoritarianism is a lack of accountability.
And let’s not forget that a creeping form of authoritarianism has been the mission creep signature of politics in the UK for the last two decades. This is especially so since Theresa May got to the Home Office where illegal state surveillance of the general public was revealed, where secret courts, unlawful imprisonment and sweeping police powers have been granted.
Britain continues to race towards strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom (the actual definition of authoritarianism) – diverted temporarily by Brexit.