How ‘Conservative staffers for change’ is trying to stamp out sleaze

Scandals on the parliamentary estate ‘taking toll’ on staff of politicians

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has been told to end the ‘constant cycle of scandal’ in Westminster
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Dozens of staff working for Tory MPs have written to Boris Johnson urging him to do more to tackle abuse and bullying in Westminster.

According to The Spectator’s Steerpike, a new grassroots organisation, known as “Conservative staffers for change”, is being launched by “two enterprising young researchers”, Henry Dixon-Clegg and Angus McVean.

“Sleaze is the watchword in Westminster at the moment,” said Steerpike. Morale was already low before the latest “partygate shenanigans”, and “recent embarrassments about outside interests, dodgy MPs, drinking on the estate and historic sex offences have taken their toll”.

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He believes that “few of the twenty-somethings” working behind the scenes in Parliament “have a good word to say about our elected members at present”.

‘Major allegations treated as gossip’

In the letter, which has been seen by The Guardian, staffers said “persistent stories of abuse and denigration of standards in parliament” had left them “ashamed”.

They complained of a “culture of indifference and fear” and said that “things would never have been allowed to get this bad” in any other workplace.

“Change must come from the top,” said the signatories. “MPs must call out their colleagues’ behaviour and end this constant cycle of scandal that tarnishes all of us.”

The letter, which also went to the Conservative Party chair Oliver Dowden and Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, said that “major allegations of illegal behaviour are treated as mere gossip” and warned that “sexual abuse, harassment and bullying have started to become synonymous with politics”.

‘Don’t bet on change’

A spokesperson for the Conservative chief whip said the whips’ office “values the work that all parliamentary staffers do and will always work to ensure they are looked after in parliament”.

But The Guardian noted that other staff “dismissed the letter, saying it was too scornful of the government and so was unlikely to lead to the desired changes”.

The Spectator’s Steerpike was also sceptical, given the recent scandals involving Tory MPs Neil Parish, who resigned last month for watching pornography in Parliament, and Imran Ahmad Khan, jailed this week for sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

“Will anything change as a result?” he asked. “Don't bet on that any time soon.”

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