Tory MP Anna Soubry says she has no confidence sexual assault victims would have claims taken seriously by the party

Former minister warns of 'profound failings' to deal with harassment and abuse within all political parties 

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 01 November 2017 09:47 GMT
Picture: (AFP / Getty / Niklas Halle'n)

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Conservative MP Anna Soubry has said she does not have confidence that victims of sexual assault would be taken seriously by her party.

The former minister spoke of her concern amid growing allegations of sexual harassment and abuse within British politics, including claims from a prominent Labour activist that she was raped at a party event and then told not to report it.

Bex Bailey, a former member of Labour's ruling NEC, said she was told by a senior party official that it would "damage" her career to report the alleged incident, which took place in 2011.

Ms Soubry also said she would urge Damian Green to stand aside over claims he made inappropriate advances towards a Tory activist if she was Prime Minister, but said it was a matter for Ms May to decide.

Asked if Ms Bailey would have received better support from the Tories, Ms Soubry told Sky News: “No, I am not confident that she would have been. It upsets me to have to say that.

"I am not confident because I don't think any political party has taken these things in the serious way that they should of done and the biggest problem we have is whenever anyone makes a complaint - whether it's about bullying, whether its some other form of abuse or harassment - is that politics comes into play.

"So already people will be saying, 'You know what, we don't want this to get out of control. We don't have a majority' ... That whole attitude has got to stop."

Ms Soubry said there were "profound failings" in the way all political parties treated harassment and abuse but she stressed the majority of MPs were decent, hard-working people.

Pressed on whether Mr Green should step aside while being investigated, she said: "Personally I would say, 'There's an investigation, by some mechanism you stand out, you remove yourself from this position until the conclusion of that investigation,' - that is what I would do.

"But I sometimes I see things rather differently as I have worked in other job situations."

Jeremy Corbyn said there would be "no tolerance of sexism, harassment or abuse" in the party after Ms Bailey, 25, described how she failed to get the support she needed from Labour colleagues after the alleged rape.

Westminster has been gripped by a series of allegations of sexual impropriety and harassment in recent days, as a dossier compiled by parliamentary aides was circulated, containing allegations of inappropriate behaviour among some 40 Tory MPs.

Another woman, who has not been named, also spoke out yesterday, saying she had been sexually assaulted by an MP on a foreign trip.

Meanwhile, Theresa May's de-facto deputy is also facing a Cabinet Office investigation after Kate Maltby, who is 30 years younger than Mr Green, told The Times that the First Secretary of State had touched her knee during a meeting in a pub in 2015 and a year later sent her a "suggestive" text message after she was pictured wearing a corset in the newspaper.

Mr Green said the claims were "absolutely and completely untrue" and his text was sent in the spirit of "two friends agreeing to meet up for a regular catch-up".

He added: "This untrue allegation has come as a complete shock and is deeply hurtful, especially from someone I considered a personal friend."

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