Mark Garnier is one of Theresa May’s Brexit Ministers. I say one of, because she appears to burn through them pretty quickly.
Garnier, however, seems to be one of the few holding on to his job – despite being caught up in a sex toys scandal in Westminster.
One of his former employees has revealed he once asked her to buy sex toys. He also called her, “Sugar t**s”. But you know, it’s all just high japes and capers. A bit of fun. Nothing to see here.
P.S. She’s a disgruntled employee, don’t you know. That falls broadly into the category of excuses that goes like this:
1) It didn’t happen
2) If it did happen, it was a joke
3) [Insert name of accuser] has a grudge against me and I’m the victim.
When the Prime Minister was asked what she was going to do about all of this, she said she was checking to see if Garnier had broken the ministerial code. I mean, surely the ministerial code explicitly bans asking your secretary to buy you sex toys? I think it’s in the section next to killing puppies and the guidance on appropriate use of brown envelopes.
Give me strength.
So, the weekend papers turned in to a hunt for Westminster perpetrators of inappropriate language and behaviour.
The Labour Party had their first MP exposed with Jared O’Mara being suspended while allegations old and new against him are investigated.
The rumour mills are circulating and apparently there’s a WhatsApp group of female MPs sharing stories about the behaviour of numerous male counterparts across all the political parties.
This has fuelled a cry of “name them” from the press and all those a bit of tired of all the rumour and speculation.
The same cries have landed in the Scottish Parliament circles as the hunt for the “Holyrood harassers” mounts. And there are some.
I’ve certainly heard stories of sexual harassment by several male MSPs against female colleagues and researchers.
Just writing that down will ramp up the demands to name them.
But you have to sit back and ask why women – even elected, strong, independently minded women – haven’t stepped forward and told all.
The truth is they don’t want to be singled out. They don’t want to be cast as troublemakers and they fear not being believed – or if they are believed that nothing is done and no action taken.
What’s more, I fear a scenario where one individual is perhaps found out or hunted down.
They are then pilloried by the media, the problem looks like it has been dealt with and the world moves on.
This isn’t about the actions of individuals, it’s about the culture that permeates. How loose and inappropriate language that seems like a bit of fun makes women feel, and how that feeling stops them from raising their hand.
The First Minister is right to call for Parliament to take control, but I suspect they will have to do something quite dramatic if they are serious about addressing this culture.
Without that commitment, I suspect the public will never know who those “Holyrood harassers” are.
This article was first published in the Daily Record newspaper on the 31st of October 2017.