Tag Archives: silence

‘Pestminster’ scandal means Theresa May must tell us – IMMEDIATELY – what she knows and when she was told

Theresa May: The minority prime minister has serious questions to answer [Image: Carl Court/Getty Images].

Michael Fallon has owned up to touching Julia Hartley-Brewer inappropriately, marking him out as possibly the first sex pest on the Tory spreadsheet to be identified.

Perhaps he thought there was no point trying to deny it – after all, we already know he had to be peeled off a female Russian agent while drunk, and also that he referred to a female journalist as a “slut” – to her face, not recognising who she was.

To This Writer, it suggests that he is the person described as “perpetually intoxicated and very inappropriate with women” on the spreadsheet.

I may be wrong! In that case, I stand ready to be amazed at the name of someone whose behaviour is even worse.

The recipient of Mr Fallon’s unwanted attention was Julia Hartley-Brewer, a very strong supporter of the Conservative Party who has played down the incident:

Note that her tweet clearly identifies Mr Fallon as the man the Sunday Times claimed “placed his hand on the thigh of a senior female journalist in full view of his frontbench colleagues at a party conference dinner some years ago and announced: ‘God, I love those tits.'”

But Ms Hartley-Brewer stated: “I believe it is absurd and wrong to treat workplace banter and flirting – and even misjudged sexual overtures – between consenting adults as being morally equivalent to serious sexual harassment or assault.

“It demeans genuine victims of real offences… I have not been a victim and I don’t wish to take part in what I believe has now become a Westminster witch hunt.”

Others may have a strong opinion about that!

Perhaps Ms Hartley-Brewer was able to put off a sex pest, but others – in a similar situation – may not be able to do so. Perhaps she did not consider that when she wrote her tweet.

As a man writing about this subject, perhaps I should pause and make it clear that I have spent a considerable time thinking about what may be deemed appropriate behaviour, and what may not.

I would agree that workplace banter should not be equated with serious sexual harassment or assault – but what do you call workplace banter? I would imagine it would be joking about another person – perhaps about their sexual nature, life or abilities – in a way that the other person does not find offensive (or at least, they can get their own back), and I would strongly suggest that it would be with at least one other person present and aware of the behaviour in question. Even then, there is a danger that it could cross the line. Workplace banter should not be a sexual advance, I think.

Flirting should be obvious as such, and it really shouldn’t be possible for anyone to infer threat from it. I have enjoyed flirting with other people very much, and would be absolutely desolate if any of the people with whom I enjoyed those moments considered them anything more than humorous and complimentary. The key is that both people should be at their ease, I think.

As for misjudged sexual overtures – would inappropriate touching come under this heading, or is it going too far? I think the answer to that question is found in the overall demeanour of the person making the overture. If they’re aggressive in any way, then perhaps it’s a little more serious than a misjudgement.

In the case of Mr Fallon, we have examples of the language he is alleged to have used – and it seems entirely inappropriate to me. If I was trying to attract a woman sexually (and I admit it has been a while, as Mrs Mike and I are quite happy in that department, thank you very much), then I would not make a habit of using words like “slut”, or phrases like “God I love those tits”!

Also mentioned by Ms Hartley-Brewer are the words “witch hunt”. Let’s consider that aspect of this story.

The Independent has run an article claiming: “May knows she can’t sort this out: she’s the figurehead of a boys’ club whose male members would scream ‘Witch hunt!’ if she ever dared to try”.

The piece imagines that Mrs May takes a dim view of various potential shenanigans, before making the very serious point that bemusement at the behaviour of her errant MPs is “no excuse to tolerate abuse”.

It continues: “While the case of Mark Garnier, minister for ‘Brexit trade’ … has no criminal implications [he described his behaviour as “good humoured high jinks], it is less hilarious than our more Neanderthal MPs will think. In the hours since the Mail on Sunday broke the story, the gallant Garnier has admitted addressing his secretary as “sugar tits”, and sending her into a Soho shop to buy a brace of choicest vibrators on his behalf.

“Even Chuckles Gove, the Rumpelstiltskin of sexual wit, couldn’t spin that into comedy gold. And whether or not this is a relatively trivial abuse of the power imbalance between male boss and female employee, it simply isn’t funny.

“With Stephen Crabb … it is worse. Having quit his leadership bid when outed for sexting, Crabb now fesses up to having sent “explicit messages” to a woman of 19 he interviewed for a job in 2013 when a minister for Wales.  What he calls ‘foolish’, I call ‘an abuse of power for which the Speaker should drag him from the Commons by the penis, promising to remove it with rusty garden secateurs if he ever tries to return’.”

And the article concludes, in agreement with This Writer, that the problem lies in a whips’ office that covers up MPs’ behaviour – especially if it is criminal – in order to use it for political gain.

Theresa May, who receives weekly reports on these “Ins and Outs”, is a part of this process.

The Independent piece states – again rightly – that “wherever there is strong evidence of a sexual offence, moral or criminal or both, it should be removed from the whips’ safe and exposed to the cleansing light of day… But I don’t imagine May will do that. She can’t afford to, as the figurehead of a boys’ club whose male members would scream “Witch hunt!” if she did, and the hostage of a tottering Government that could fall at any time for any number of reasons.”

I think the Independent is far too lenient on Mrs May. She has serious questions of her own to answer – starting with how long she has known about the sexual harassment allegations against her MPs and cabinet ministers – of whom we are told at least six are implicated, among 21 serving ministers, ex-Cabinet ministers and a permanent private secretary.

Will Downing Street answer? No.

A spokesperson for Theresa May today repeatedly refused to say when the prime minister first heard about dozens of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour made against Conservative MPs and serving cabinet ministers.

May’s spokesman told Business Insider that May acted once the allegations were “made public” but was unable to say when the prime minister was first informed about them.

So she was quite happy to let these people carry on with their nasty pastimes while the wider public remained unaware – and is only acting, half-heartedly, now that the revelations are starting to fly. Now that they – and she – have been found out.

This fits the “boys’ club”/”witch hunt” scenario, certainly – but then there’s the allegation that her advisors, silenced a survivor of historic child sexual abuse in order to keep Mrs May’s way clear to Downing Street during the 2016 Conservative leadership selection process (we can’t call it an election).

Sharon Evans claimed that the contracts panel members were made to sign by the Home Office were used to stop them from speaking openly about “very serious allegations about very public figures” – allegations which she says were taken back to the inquiry leaders, but ‘nothing was being done about” them. She said:

I suggested that we wrote to Theresa May, who was the Home Secretary, to express our concerns. At the end of the day I was taken to one side and it was made clear to me – this is what I was told – that Theresa May was going to be Prime Minister, that this inquiry was going to be part of this, and that if I didn’t toe the line and do as I was told, if I tried to get information out I would be discredited by her advisors.

If true, why would Theresa May do this?

As the evidence mounts, it seems reasonable to conclude that the rot is not limited to “workplace banter”, “flirting”, or even “inappropriate sexual advances”, but goes much further and involves people in positions of enormous power – possibly even the person with the most power.

That is why it now seems increasingly possible that this so-called “Pestminster” crisis could topple the minority Conservative government.

Not only has the Conservative Party lost its credibility as a responsible party of government but serious questions – indeed, the most serious questions – must now be asked of that party’s, and the government’s leader. Now – not at her convenience.

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Gove is desperate to avoid fallout over free schools

Underqualified: This Labour Party campaign meme highlights the drawbacks of Michael Gove's foolish and expensive 'free school' experiment.

Underqualified: This Labour Party campaign meme highlights the drawbacks of Michael Gove’s foolish and expensive ‘free school’ experiment.

The country has been concentrating on government sleaze for the past week or so – and this is a mistake. We should also monitor government incompetence and thankfully Michael Gove is around to provide plenty of it.

He wants organisations that are part of his struggling ‘free schools’ pet project to receive special fast-track attention – to avoid the political embarrassment that would be caused by their failure.

Last year the project was rocked by the failure of the Al-Madinah Free School in Derby, and the resignations of unqualified head teachers at Pimlico Free School in London and Discovery School in Crawley. Vox Political discussed all three at the time.

The Discovery School was one of four that were declared inadequate by Ofsted and closed down at the end of March.

Last week, The Observer revealed that Gove wants to hush up any further damaging revelations by ensuring that problems are tackled before Ofsted can publicise them.

The article stated: “It suggests that party political considerations are now driving education policy a year ahead of the general election.”

Quite. It is also a sharp reminder of how far the Coalition government has deviated from its original claim, to be uniting “in the public interest”.

The plan adds extra pressure to the Education department, where morale has already plummetted due to Gove’s determination to employ his own advisors, to overrule the expert advice provided by civil servants in favour of ideologically-motivated dogma.

It also shows that Gove is giving preferential treatment to his pet project. State schools go into special measures after receiving a ruling from Ofsted that they are inadequate – and can remain there for more than a year.

More damaging still is the fact that many of the problems with free schools have nothing to do with education, but are organisational in origin. According to the article, these include: “Operating in temporary sites without a clear permanent home; new, inexperienced and often isolated trusts needing to upskill themselves to run a school for the first time; instability in principal appointments and senior leadership teams.”

So when you hear that your child’s school has been under-performing because it has been deprived of resources and support from the Department for Education, just remember that this has happened because we have an Education Secretary who is more concerned with hiding his own inadequacies – problems that could have been avoided if he had concentrated a little more on the details.

On the basis of this term work, Mr Gove, we’ll have to give you an ‘F’ – for ‘Fail’.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Hidden plan for ministers to axe laws that protect you – with a penstroke

Gone in a penstroke: If the Deregulation Bill becomes law, Acts of Parliament that protect your freedom could be removed from the statute book at a minister's whim.

Gone in a penstroke: If the Deregulation Bill becomes law, Acts of Parliament that protect your freedom could be removed from the statute book at a minister’s whim.

I have spent much of today putting old paperwork through the shredder in advance of tomorrow’s debate on the Deregulation Bill.

Why? Hidden among the plans to revoke ancient laws regulating pigsties is a clause that revokes the freedom of the press – in particular, the freedom of journalists to protect their sources.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats don’t want reporters to be able to protect political whistleblowers and the information they release from state harassment and confiscation.

Vox Political has long warned that the Coalition government was pushing us towards totalitarianism, and that is exactly what this apparently innocuous – but in fact deeply pernicious – piece of legislation proves.

We’ve had the gagging law, to silence organised dissent; we know that police chiefs want to use water cannons to stifle public protest; now we are faced with a cloak-and-dagger scheme to silence the press.

The removal of these privileges means the media will be unable to report anything that does not meet government approval – or face confiscation of equipment including computers, notebooks, recordings and correspondence that will lead to the identification of people who provide information that the government wants hushed up.

As a blogger who is also a qualified journalist, this directly affects me – and that is why I have been destroying paperwork. Tomorrow is only the Bill’s second reading – it must go through the committee stage, report stage and third reading before moving on to the House of Lords – but it is better to be well-prepared than to be caught napping.

Far more insidious than this, however, is the other part of this ‘red tape-cutting’ Bill that goes unmentioned. The really harmful part…

The part that says ministers should have the power to revoke any law they like, using statutory instruments (at the stroke of a pen) rather than taking the issue to a democratic vote in Parliament and, you know, actually telling anybody about it.

This means freedoms we have enjoyed for centuries-  or just a few years – could be removed with no prior notice, under the pretext of getting rid of ‘red tape’.

We would certainly be living in a police state if this were allowed to happen.

So here’s the big question: Do you think your MP even knows about this?

I only know because I read it on Another Angry Voice – from which site this article has swiped much of its information.

In his article, AAV creator Thomas G. Clark points out: “The Tories that devised this scheme… are clearly relying on the vast majority of Coalition MPs voting this through as the whips instruct them, without bothering to even read the documentation, understand the intricacies or even participate in the debate.

“If you chose to ignore the wealth of evidence and refuse to believe that David Cameron and the Tories would use these new powers to… stamp out dissent for their own sociopathic reasons, then at least consider the possibility that they are enabling the possibility of an unimaginably invasive totalitarian regime in the future. One where open justice is abolished, the population permanently monitored for signs of dissent, and dissenters are silenced in secretive Stalinist style legalistic proceedings.”

Obviously AAV and Vox Political will be right in the firing-line if this happens.

You need to contact your MP and ask what they’re going to do about this appalling assault on your freedom. Tell them about the clauses in the Deregulation Bill that have nothing to do with removing archaic regulations and everything to do with clamping down on your freedom and tell them in no uncertain terms that you won’t have it.

It’s a good bet that they won’t know what you’re talking about. Clause 47 relates to the press, as this Guardian report and this article from Inforrm’s blog make clear.

I believe Clause 51, and those following, relate to the repeal of laws by statutory instrument.

You can find contact details for your MP on TheyWorkForYou.com

If you get an email off to them quickly, there might even be a chance to nip this in the bud.

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Vox Spot: Will the new deputy speaker be “silenced” – or just have ‘foot in mouth’ disease

Dorries or Bone: Who is the most vile? That is the question facing MPs at the moment.

Dorries or Bone: Who is the most vile? That is the question facing MPs at the moment.

The position of deputy speaker in the House of Commons is vacant – and Tory backbenchers are falling over each other in the battle to make the silliest bid.

The vacancy has occurred after Nigel Evans quit the post to fight allegations of sexual criminality.

We have already heard that Nadine Dorries has made the priceless offer to put herself beyond Parliamentary debate by standing for election – now it seems that Peter Bone, he of the long-winded Parliamentary questions and the long-suffering wife, has also put his name in the hat.

For when he interrupted Paul Flynn during the debate on the Transparency of Lobbying Bill yesterday, saying “I am slightly worried that if he carries on for much longer we will not be able to grill the Leader of the House”, Mr Flynn responded that he would not want to deny the honourable gentleman — a possible future Deputy Speaker of the House — that privilege.

“I believe that he is one of the candidates,” said Mr Flynn. “It is fascinating to get these invitations. One from an honourable lady said, ‘Vote for me and you won’t have to put up with me on the benches. I will be silenced.’ Therefore, we are voting for the one we most want to silence and we think is most loathsome.

“It is a hard task, because we have a rich choice.”