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The responsibility of being an MP is hard to overstate. The honour to be elected to serve your constituency as a Member of Parliament. The trust each of those votes carries. The duty that comes with that honour and trust; to be their elected representative and the collective voice of your constituency. The responsibility to protect people.
All desecrated because a peerage wasn’t granted?
The revelations from Nadine Dorries’ new autobiography suggest she chose to protect an alleged serial rapist MP, which she knew about for years, over the young female parliamentary staffers that he is accused of having attacked.
If the Johnson ultra-loyalist had received her yearning for peerage, would she have taken these accusations to her grave?
Did she use her position as a Member of Parliament to protect these young women or help them seek justice? Even if it’s said the Conservative party paid for one of the victim’s medical after rape care, the failings are clear to see – and devastating.
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Did Dorries sit next to him during Prime Minister’s Questions? Did she praise him at conference? Did she at least avoid sending her own female staffers to situations where they might be alone with him? At what point is she culpable for turning a blind eye? Did she tell herself that it was an open enough secret, in order to sleep at night?
This is not a partisan attack: I know for a fact that Conservative Caroline Noakes MP and Labour’s Jess Phillips would both choose any young staffer’s safety over covering up an alleged serial predator.
I also know that MPs are not even background/DBS-checked. There is no framework to remove them from office when accused of sexual offences. This week, the trade unions that represent House of Commons staff called for formal action to be taken so that they are informed when MPs are under investigation for sexual assault, and that accused MPs are told to stay away from Parliament for safeguarding reasons. Those calls may go unheeded, put in the ‘too difficult’ pile.
We cannot trust the police to act without fear or favour if the men in question are in seats of power. We have watched them look the other way time and time again. There is consistently one rule for them and another rule for us. But even the rule for us only has a 1.7% rape conviction rate, so what hope do any of us really have?
As part of my work with Reclaim These Streets, hundreds of survivors have shared their stories with me and I have felt the responsibility of that trust. Not always to help them find justice; but to hear their testimonies and to ensure that they feel heard and supported.
That includes checking in on them later, when headlines come about about rapist cops or MPs. Listening to them, knowing that some of them have attempted suicide and knowing that their mental health has been compromised by their attacks, often resulting in PTSD. Knowing that the vicarious trauma of their accounts keeps me up at night because I know that I can’t get justice for them; but I can at least listen.
That Nadine Dorries, a high-powered Member of Parliament, had direct knowledge of an alleged serial rapist at her place of work and didn’t appear to take every step to stop him, have him named and arrested and to get those women justice makes me physically wince.
Dorries hit back this week, saying: “Some of my critics have tried to claim that I knew about the unlawful sexual behaviour in Westminster and kept it for my book instead of alerting the authorities. Let me be clear: everything I have recorded in the book I found out about after the police had already been informed.”
There is nothing there on safeguarding or tackling an abusive workplace for parliamentary staffers.
She seems to have sat on this information for years. In those ensuing years the man is accused of victimising other young women. Instead, it feels like Dorries has use their horrendous experiences as a bargaining chip for a peerage, or held it back for a splash to sell books.
I am the first to shout when women are blamed for male crimes; but that an MP that was elected to protect and serve her constituency would make those victims a pawn in her game of ambition has completely disgusted me. If she failed to push for action, she is complicit in a cover-up
His alleged victims had dreams of being an MP. Of serving their constituents and improving the world. They proudly took pictures of their first parliamentary pass. They went to see their MP for advice on getting elected, or for help in getting through the complicated maze of Westminster – only to report being groped or having a hand shoved up their skirt or being assaulted by a man they hoped would help pave their way.
That the Party was then complicit and paid for medical care whilst still allowing his office to hire replacement staffers reads like a horror movie version of the West Wing. But here we are.
To his alleged victims, who have left their dreams of Westminster in tatters, who turn off Prime Minister’s Questions and no longer watch anything to do with politics, I am sorry.
They bury deep in their psyche the rape they allegedly suffered at the hands of a serving MP; only to be used in a serialised fight between Nadine Dorries and the Conservative Party.
I am sorry you were not believed. I am sorry you were not heard. I am sorry your testimony was not treated with the respect it and you deserved. And I am sorry you won’t be running as my MP. I wish you had been given the chance.
Nadine Dorries was contacted for comment.