Tories ‘failing to act’ against MP who watched porn as doubts grow over inquiry

Boris Johnson insists parliamentary probe is ‘proper procedure’, but is accused of kicking controversy ‘into the long grass’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 28 April 2022 18:42 BST
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Keir Starmer says Tories should discipline 'porn MP' immediately

The Conservatives are being accused of failing to act against an MP who watched porn in the Commons, amid doubts over when an inquiry will start – or if it will take place at all.

Labour and some Tories demanded to know why the whip has not been stripped from the unnamed MP, after he was identified by two female colleagues for watching the porn on his phone.

The Tories have suggested that an independent complaints scheme investigate the controversy, but admitted only witnesses, not third parties, can trigger an inquiry in parliament.

One senior Conservative MP told The Independent that “in any other workplace” someone facing such an accusation would be suspended, while a second said the party should “sack him now”.

The Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) is respected, but – as well as requiring a witness to come forward – can take many months to complete an investigation.

The Conservative Party declined to say whether the two female witnesses are satisfied with the ICGS carrying out the inquiry, after a meeting with the chief whip, Chris Heaton-Harris.

Caroline Nokes, a former minister, protested that in asking officials in parliament to investigate, instead of taking tough action itself, her party is “kicking it into the long grass”.

One Tory MP said they had expected the party to “grasp this with both hands and withdraw the whip from whoever it is immediately”.

A vice-chair of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories revealed it will “work closely with the chief whip to really look into this”, questioning why the MP’s name remains under wraps.

“Take a very, very long, hard look at yourself, look into your soul. And ask yourself, should I still be here?” Nickie Aiken said on Times Radio.

And Keir Starmer demanded to know why the Conservatives are stalling, when the offending MP’s identity is known to the party’s whips’ office.

“This is an unusual case because the Tory party knows who this individual is,” the Labour leader said, on the local elections campaign trail in Cumbria.

“I think that they should deal with it and deal with it sooner rather than later and take appropriate action.”

The Independent has been told that some male Conservatives have questioned the seriousness of the offence, suggesting the MP might have “opened an email inadvertently and there was porn in it”.

However, one of the complainants, a minister, has said it was not a quick incident and the man appeared to be aware he had been seen, yet continued to watch the porn.

A second female Tory MP said she had also seen the man watching pornography. She is believed to have attempted to film him as proof of what he was doing.

Government sources have suggested the man in question is a backbencher, not a minister, acknowledging his identity is known.

The Tuesday night meeting at which the allegation emerged was attended by some of the most senior women in the Conservative Party, including Theresa May and some current ministers.

The Independent has been told that the “united view of the meeting is that this MP should be suspended by the party”.

Pressure also came from within the government, including from the attorney general Suella Braverman as she warned a minority of men in politics “behave like animals”.

“The whip should be removed,” if the case is proven, Ms Braverman said, adding: “I am ashamed that this person is carrying the Conservative rosette.

“I think they really do need to be subjected to a recall and be no longer holding that privileged position as a member of parliament.”

Speaking in Burnley, Boris Johnson called the alleged behaviour “obviously unacceptable” – but insisted a referral to the ICGS was the correct action to take.

“What needs to happen now is that the proper procedures need to be gone through, the independent complaints and grievances procedure needs to be activated and we need to get to understand the facts,” he said.

The ICGS will also not confirm or deny if an investigation gets under way, because it “operates on the basis of absolute confidentiality”.

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