Bullying and Harassment of MPS’ Parliamentary Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:12 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of John Mann John Mann Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee 4:12 pm, 17th July 2019

The Liberal Democrats have had problems, like every other party, but my specialism is dealing with antisemitism, and I will say that the only political party I have met in the last three years that has a robust process for dealing with antisemitism at the moment is the Liberal Democrat party. The reason why I can say that it is robust is that there are ways in which an external person—someone not in the party, and who may be an opponent of the party politically or electorally—can actually go in, make complaints and hold the party institution to account if it fails to take action. That does not mean it will necessarily draw the right conclusions in my judgment and it does not mean people will be coming forward, but it does mean people are far more likely to have trust in the system. It is a transparent system, and that is the key—it is not an opaque system—and it is impressive. The fact that it is transparent and that I and others were able to go in and say, “Well, you could perhaps change this, do it this way, consider this, speak to that person,” was also very healthy indeed.

Such a system would strengthen any political party. To be honest, it is in the electoral interests—in the medium term, not the short term—of political parties actually to get their act together, because it means they will keep far more young people, particularly women, and encourage more to stay. It will be easier for young people, and especially for women and minority groups, to progress within that party and feel confident in being able to do so. It is a sensible approach for any party that wants to be in power or expand its political base.

The “Panorama” programme shows where these things can end in terms of the impact on individuals. That could just as easily have been an exposé of members of staff in here about what has happened to them—just as easily. If all the emails, the WhatsApp messaging and the secret ways in which people deal with things, such as recordings from Whips Offices of meetings that I and others have unfortunately had to be in—not that they were recorded; I did not record them, anyway, but I hope that they were recorded—were put out there, such transparency would be of significance.

My appeal to this House is to speed up the processes, not to be scared of independence inside it and to get rid of the antiquated structures that are a blockage. We must make sure we have the widest possible definition of who can raise grievances, how complaints can be taken to the independent body and how they will be heard. We should be confident, if necessary and as necessary, in saying to people, “Well, the judge and jury has determined on you: out you get. We’re not having you in here as a Member of Parliament. You are not suitable because of the way that you have treated people.”

That would be a very good thing for democracy, because far too many people—brave people—are suffering anonymously and in silence, but they remain brave because they are refusing to be cowed by what has happened to them. There are far too many of them in here, and we need to think that we will get on top of it, which needs our action and our honesty and, for the political parties, leadership. Perhaps some political parties might be prepared to show some.