At the start of this week 15 current ministers and over 20 more Tory MPs faced allegations of sexual misconduct.
MPs are accused of sexual harassment, harassing researchers and other offences.
One Tory MP is accused of agreeing a “non-disclosure” settlement with a researcher.
A group of current and former parliamentary researchers drew up the list of nearly 40 Tory MPs. One said, “If half of them face allegations and have to stand down it could bring down the government.”
The growing scandal goes right to the top of the Tory party.
An aide to Theresa May has claimed May receives weekly updates about Tory MPs’ misconduct—and allows ministers accused to serve in her cabinet.
The aide said the updates, given by Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson, are known as the “ins and outs” chats. “Theresa just sits there and doesn’t say much,” they added.
Another Downing Street source said Tory officials treat allegations of abuse as they do an affair with a consenting adult—“a bit of a laugh”.
International trade minister Mark Garnier and former welfare secretary Stephen Crabb were the first to be named.
Garnier admitted asking his secretary to buy sex toys and calling her “sugar tits”.
He said his actions did “look like dinosaur behaviour” but insisted, “It absolutely does not constitute harassment”.
Crabb admitted sending explicit messages to a 19 year old job applicant.
The Tories are already in crisis over Brexit, May’s leadership and the looming budget on 22 November (see right).
The abuse scandal has severely deepened that crisis.
But the allegations aren’t limited to Tory MPs.
At least four Labour MPs have also been accused of harassing women.
The Labour Party suspended Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O’Mara after he was found to have made racist and sexist comments.
It comes after Labour MP Clive Lewis told an audience member at a fringe event at Labour’s conference this year to “get on your knees, bitch.”
The scandal shows up the deeply sexist and oppressive culture that exists in parliament.
And there is a widespread failure to take abuse seriously or to address the roots in a wider sexist society.
For instance, cabinet minister Michael Gove has compared the abuse and rape of women by Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein to being interviewed. He told Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys that being interviewed by him was “a bit like going into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom”.
He added, “You just pray that you emerge with your dignity intact.” Gove was later forced to apologise.
May has called for a “mediation service” to deal with the allegations.
She had resisted pressure to remove the Tory whip from Crabb and to dismiss Garnier as Socialist Worker went to press.
But rightly with more allegations—and names—emerging, the Tories’ crisis will only grow.
Hammond faces big problems in budget
Growing pressure to put more money into public services could force chancellor Philip Hammond to scrap a pledge to eliminate the deficit.
The Financial Times newspaper reported this week that Hammond “is under significant political pressure to abandon the
1 percent pay cap and delay the rollout of universal credit”.
It added that some services “are struggling to cope with their budgets”.
Refusing demands for extra funding risks increasing the anger towards the government.
But giving more money wrecks the Tories’ claims to be cutting debt—and could also spark more demands.
The Tories may also be forced to impose a budget on Northern Ireland, after a breakdown in its government.
Theresa May had promised the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) £1 billion so that the DUP would back up the Tories in parliament.
Now the Tories may withhold that money, putting the deal in jeopardy.
Labour and the unions should be seizing on the Tories’ crisis. Unfortunately London Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s main demand is for more money for the cops.
And while some unions, such as the PCS and UCU, are moving towards ballots for pay strikes (see page 22), it’s nowhere near the level of resistance needed.
The Tories are weak and getting weaker. Their attacks can be beaten—if our side fights back.