Boris Johnson is facing calls to back the introduction of mandatory training for MPs after new revelations about sexism and harassment at Westminster.
After Neil Parish became the latest MP to be embroiled in a scandal after he admitted to deliberately viewing pornography in the House of Commons, political parties and Commons authorities have been accused of not doing enough to rid the Parliament from his image of “pestminster”.
Although changes were promised in the wake of #MeToo – and with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle backing MPs who no longer directly employ staff – a government minister said it was “horrific and alarming” to see so many reports of unacceptable behavior.
Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, told Sky News that the “misogynistic dinosaurs” were in the minority and “do not represent the majority of MPs”.
But others felt it was time the mandatory training was rolled out for all their colleagues, given that up to 56 MPs are accused of sexual misconduct.
Chris Bryant told the Guardian Parliament was ‘no different to any other workplace’ and should do more to specifically tackle sexism and harassment.
He said: ‘It is time we put in place regular training for all MPs on best practice as an employer and understanding the Code of Conduct and House Rules.’
A Tory MP also admitted: ‘It shouldn’t be necessary and it really is.’
Abena Oppong-Asare said the Labor Women’s Network she chairs provides “resilience training” so that women running for public office are “prepared for the unfortunate fact that they will face misogyny and Sexism”.
She told the Guardian that it should not be left to outside organizations to provide such training, but added: “Unfortunately, in 2022 we have to do things like this to ensure that women entering in politics are encouraged to stay in politics”.
The Labor MP also said improving diversity and representation was also key to reducing the sexism and harassment women face in parliament.
After the recent spate of scandals, one MP told the Guardian he had started telling new staff to beware of Westminster and warned them to ‘be witty’. They said, “It’s not a pleasant conversation to have, but I just want them to know how to avoid getting into awkward situations.”
The government has so far resisted the idea of supporting compulsory training specifically to tackle sexism on top of the induction all MPs receive when they join the Commons and the ‘value everyone’ session which is voluntary.
Mark Spencer, the leader of the House of Commons, dismissed the idea last week, saying: ‘Obviously different people will be elected with different skills, but I think we could all benefit from some training, frankly .
“I would welcome and encourage more MP training and more opportunities to improve, but whether that is mandatory is a different debate. If you force someone to take a training course they don’t want really not engage, he won’t engage and he won’t get anything out of the training.
“I think you’re much better with the carrot here than the stick.”
The Tories have also faced calls to ensure a woman is selected to fight the by-election when Parish vacates her seat in Tiverton and Honiton.
Robert Hayward, a Tory peer and election expert, said the party “will be keen to select someone who is local first and female second” as it would be “the best way to survive” a potentially grueling.
While the Tories secured a majority of 24,000 in the last election, opposition parties may seek to use Johnson’s low popularity as a chance to try and inflict upheaval similar to those seen in North Shropshire – after the resignation of Owen Paterson – or Chesham and Amersham – after the death of Cheryl Gillan.
One MP also said the Tories should have a clearer policy on sexual harassment, so that when the next incident happens there is a proper process to deal with it.
Another said she had never experienced sexual harassment at Westminster and feared the attention given to her would “deter women” from entering politics.
A House of Commons spokesman said: “Both houses have made it clear that valuing each other’s training is essential for everyone working in parliament. It was attended by over 6,000 pass holders, including over 790 peers and over 600 MPs. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far – over 92% of participants rated the course as good or very good at increasing their ability to recognize unacceptable behavior.
“The Parliament’s Code of Conduct sets out clear standards of behavior expected of everyone in parliament, with both houses offering a range of resources to ensure that all who work in parliament are able to recognize bullying, harassment and harassment. sexual misconduct and feel confident to take action to address and prevent it. .”