The nights out were what I remember the most. And they were often big nights for those of us working as Conservative researchers and interns in the House of Commons.
In the bars around Parliament the same faces would join us every week and they stuck out like a sore thumb.
We were young men – ambitious and just starting off in politics. They were older, often quite senior MPs – and a few new members as well.
Drinking together, to the outside world, we must have made an incongruous group – but somehow it seemed normal inside Parliament.
I was only in my early 20s then, and was surprised by what I saw. There would be quite senior MPs, very drunk – flirting with us and sometimes more. No one batted an eyelid. But, the day after, it was always one of those things people would gossip about – they would shudder and say, did you see what happened to such-and-such – did you see what happened last night?
I can’t honestly say though that the MPs were solely to blame. The young guys I knew wanted a career in politics. They wanted to be involved long term. It was not in their interest to raise a complaint.
They might push the MPs away if it got too physical or if they weren’t interested, but I don’t think any of these young researchers or interns were necessarily that naïve.
I think they knew what they were doing. I think there was complicity on both sides. The researchers wanted to get ahead and get introduced to the right people. They would exploit the situation. It was tragic MPs and even more tragic researchers.
But what did concern me was that it made me think that none of us was being judged on merit. That regardless of how good you were, how intelligent, or how much insight you had into a subject area, there would always be others who might get on because they were better at ingratiating themselves into a certain group of MPs. They would be introduced at the right parties, or taken along to the right events.
But if on the other hand you had male MPs going around feeling up female employees, would people raise eyebrows? I think they would.
At the time, though, it was seen as just something that happened – young men and closeted politicians. It was accepted as something that went on and the way you got on. Nobody questioned it.
Hopefully the Nigel Evans trial will change all that. At least for the time being.
The author, whose identity ‘The Independent’ has agreed to protect, is a former House of Commons researcherReuse content