Belfast Telegraph

Sleaze scandal shows an unsavoury culture

First it was the expenses scandal at Westminster, and now it’s the allegations of sexual sleaze which are making the headlines.

Over the past few days a very disturbing picture is emerging of the culture in certain sections of Parliamentary life, and already there are serious allegations levelled at some senior figures.

A number of women have made allegations which range from harassment to serious sexual offences.

One major theme which has emerged is that the victims have felt that they were ignored, or actively encouraged to remain silent, by people in positions of power who should have known better. It is incredible that Parliament appears to have been operating outside the kind of rules which govern other institutions, where such behaviour would not be tolerated, and rightly so.

Members of the public, who elect these people to power and influence, are rightly asking why they believed that such behaviour was permissible at Westminster, and why they should be allowed to get away with it.

Already the very senior former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has fallen on his sword, and others may follow.

This unsavoury culture crosses all the party boundaries, and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also to deal with a situation affecting his own people, just like Theresa May with the Tories.

The Prime Minister’s initiative to bring together all parties to chart a way ahead is to be welcomed, and this is long overdue. All allegations must be investigated thoroughly, but by the same token those who stand accused should be given a fair hearing, and the judgments must be based on the facts.

The reputation of Parliament is taking a battering, just as it did during the expenses scandal.

The reality of sleaze is not confined to Parliament alone, but this is a serious situation which further erodes the credibility of the political classes.

This is all the more unfortunate because it comes at a time when Parliamentarians’ total focus should be on Brexit, which is one of the most fundamental developments in the United Kingdom’s politics since the end of the Second World War.

However, there is every likelihood the fallout from the allegations of sleaze in Parliament will continue for some time to come.

The best that can be said about the current mess is that it is now out in the open, and that this will give Parliamentarians across the board an opportunity to draw the line on such unseemly behaviour, and to make sure that it cannot, and will not, happen again

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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