Bullying in parliament is systemic—and enablers are everywhere. If anything, we should be more surprised by the names that haven't yet appearedby Megan Corton Scott / March 12, 2018 / Leave a comment
Yet again, Westminster is in the news for the wrong reasons. This time, it’s a bullying problem that’s been uncovered, thanks to Newsnight journalists and those within parliament being brave enough to speak out.
In the midst of dealing with still-surfacing sexual harassment allegations following the #MeToo movement, it is only natural that the conversation has expanded to include other abuses of power in politics.
Last week’s Newsnight report of bullying in parliament would have come as no surprise to many people in work in or around politics. For me and my friends, what surprised us were the names that haven’t yet appeared, rather than those that have.
There are rumours that follow certain MPs—of intense yelling heard through heavy Portcullis House doors; of 3am phonecalls; of mind games and insults and threats to future job prospects.
There are those MPs for whom a quick search for their expired job adverts on w4mp will reveal a staff turnover that is far too high for easy explanation.
It is important that bullies be held to account. But there is a danger of becoming too focused on the individual names emerging, rather than the culture from which they emerge.
The power handed over to members of parliament and peers comes with very little direction and next to no accountability. Upon election, members are placed in charge of their own office budgets, staffing decisions and management style.
The satellite nature of the 650 parliament offices means there is no cohesive working style, let alone a united recognition of acceptable or unacceptable behavior. Members receive little training on running an office, or dealing with high stress environments.
Members also currently sit safe in the knowledge that their position is relatively untouchable. The worst that can happen is for them to be expelled by their political party, but even then, their seat in the commons would remain their own until the next general election.
A lack of accountability
The murkiness around accountability only works in the favour of those with more power—confusion about reporting bullying to the party, or the whips office, or the parliamentary standards authority means that staff remain unsure and members remain untethered.
For those staff that work for the House, this…