Sexual harassment and abuse taking place 'at all levels' within Labour party, survey finds

Written by Kevin Schofield on 28 February 2018 in News

An anonymous survey by LabourToo founds claims of routine abuse in the Labour party

Steps at Labour conference - Image credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Female Labour members are being forced to endure sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination "at all levels" within the party, according to a damning report.

The study, based on an anonymous survey by the LabourToo group, uncovered claims of "the routine abuse of women by senior people in positions of trust".

Allegations included incidents of rape and sexual assault by MPs, councillors and other male party staff.

The alleged victims include female Labour staff, activists and candidates and politicians at a local and national level.

In its findings, the report says that party bosses take no action against well-known culprits, women have little confidence in Labour's disciplinary processes, while some female members were "actively dissuaded" from making complaints.

"These stories do not come from one part of the Labour party, nor from one region of the country," the report says.

"Sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination is not restricted to the corridors of Westminster, but is taking place at all levels within the Labour party, and throughout the country."

In all, 43 women told the survey they had been the victims of abuse at the hands of male Labour members.

One woman told the survey: "As an intern, I was sexually harassed by a married male MP at a Labour Christmas party.

“He got drunk and I remember he was very red in the face and started coming up behind me and stroking my arm.

“I felt really uncomfortable and not able to report it to the Labour party because the people I had to tell would have known him and wanted to protect him."

Another told the survey: "There was a councillor who was very well known to senior figures in the local Labour party for being a serial groper of women…if I was running the board at a canvassing session he would come up behind me and put a hand on my hips or round my waist when feeding back the data, and would always want to put ‘vote Labour’ stickers on women in a way that meant he could touch their breasts."

One victim said: "I was raped at [party conference], a man was harassing me and wouldn’t leave me alone…I am no longer a member of the party and this at least in part played a role.

“I told my region and an MP I trusted. No-one cared."

And another woman said: "I went to my first CLP (constituency Labour party) fundraiser on my own.

“The MP there spent the night stroking my leg under the table...at the end of the night I was getting a lift home and he got in the car, when we got back to his house he was insistent on me coming in his house."

The report is published on the same day MPs will debate how the parliamentary authorities plan to deal with sexual harassment at Westminster.

In a statement, LabourToo said: "Despite being prepared for it, we have found it genuinely distressing to read about this level of inexcusable behaviour taking place within the Labour party.

"Sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination is not restricted to the corridors of Westminster, but is taking place at all levels within the Labour party.

“We want to ensure that women who have been victims of sexual harassment, abuse, assault and discrimination have confidence in reporting their experiences and can do so in the knowledge that everything will be done to ensure perpetrators are held to account.

"We need a system that is not open to political bias or interference from the friends and allies of the usually more powerful men whose behaviour causes the problem in the first place."

A Labour party spokesperson said: "Labour is committed to continually improving our procedures, which is why Karon Monaghan QC has been appointed to make an independent assessment of the party’s current procedures for dealing with sexual harassment and an independent specialist organisation is conducting an audit into the procedures from the perspective of those who have experienced sexual harassment.

"LabourToo’s report will feed into these ongoing reviews, which aim to ensure our procedures are as robust as possible."

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