What is going wrong in the British Parliament? One sex scandal follows the next – and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticized for dealing with the misconduct of his party friends.
When the “porn MP” Neil Parish, of all people, lectured the British Prime Minister about morality in politics, it was clear that Boris Johnson had a problem. The 58-year-old had once again acted as it is his way: A scandal arises, the prime minister wants to sit out the case. But under public pressure he is forced to act.
The problem: While Johnson pushed his party friend Parish, who had been observed watching porn in the boardroom, directly out of parliament, Christopher Pincher was initially allowed to keep his seat. The previous deputy chief whip (“Whip”) of Johnson’s Conservative Party had – very drunk – groped two men. Only after violent protests was Pincher initially excluded from the faction, but only while the investigations are ongoing. Not only Parish then spoke of “double standards”.
Welcome to “Pestminster”
Welcome to “Pestminster”, as the “plagued” London parliamentary district of Westminster is disparagingly called. The Pincher and Parish cases are just the latest excitement. Johnson’s Tories in particular have staggered from one sexual harassment scandal to the next for years. Ex-MP Charlie Elphicke has been jailed for sexual assault, as has ex-MP Imran Khan for sexually abusing a 15-year-old. Most recently, an unnamed Tory MP was arrested for rape. He is free on bail. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“Harassment, sexism and misogyny: 5 years of ‘Pestminster’,” the Huffington Post recently noted. And the magazine “Politico” stated in April that it seemed that the country had been going through “the same charade every few months since 2017”: the shock of revelations was followed by empty promises of “zero tolerance” and reforms. “Only that nothing changes and the cycle starts again a few months later.” The New Statesman magazine commented: “Elected officials with a lot of power seem to think that their status in Parliament means that neither the law nor the rules of common decency apply to them.”
Numerous investigations against MPs are ongoing
Police investigations into sexual misconduct are ongoing against around 9 percent of the 650 members of the House of Commons. Government members also become conspicuous. The fact that surveillance cameras documented how the married Health Secretary Matt Hancock kissed a close colleague in his office is still one of the harmless events in Westminster. Hancock resigned.
Johnson himself is said to have been caught in a clearly compromising situation in his office with his now-wife Carrie in 2018, when he was Secretary of State. Several media reported that the prime minister had repeatedly tried to help his companion get lucrative government jobs. Downing Street denies this.
Boris Johnson is in the middle of a scandal – again
Johnson is also in the thick of the “Pestminster” scandal. He denies knowing about the long-standing allegations against “Whip” Pincher. His once most important adviser Dominic Cummings, now his greatest enemy, disagreed. The 58-year-old is lying again, Cummings tweeted. Rather, Johnson joked long before the appointment that the MP was “a pincher by name and a pincher by nature.” “Pincher” means “pincher” in German.
The new scandal comes at a bad time for Johnson. He has just left the “Partygate” affair about illegal Corona celebrations in Downing Street behind. Admittedly, with quite a few bruises, such as an internal party vote of no confidence that was narrowly won. Now his handling of “Pestminster” could cost the prime minister further support within his own ranks.
In addition, a real reform is not in sight. “It’s easier to laugh at the absurdity of a congressman claiming he accidentally clicked on porn while googling for tractors than to defoliate a culture that encourages fellow workers to harass their employees,” commented the New Statesman “. It must first be recognized how bad and unacceptable the situation is. “And how ashamed we should be that Westminster is so well known for sexual misconduct that we created our own word for it.” One thing is clear: “Pestminster” is not over.