“Sex harassment rife in Commons: Dozens of young aides claim to have been victims of drunken MPs” howled the Mail yesterday as it struggled to keep up with a report on Channel 4 News, which the paper routinely rubbishes, except that, this time, the story fits the Mail agenda of generally bad conduct by those we elect to govern us. The findings were, sadly, not surprising.
Still the stuff of nightmares
“Researchers from Firecrest Films discovered that a third had personally experienced sexual harassment which they saw as an abuse of power. A further 21 per cent told us they had witnessed someone else being sexually harassed, or that a friend had confided in them. And less than a half (46 per cent), said they had no first or second-hand knowledge of such behaviour”.
But here a problem entered: the Mail loves to use its roster of pundits to drive its love of confessional journalism, but it had nobody on the inside who could relate anything about what all those young people got up to. I mean, the Dacre punditry in that field extends only to the likes of Quentin Letts (let’s not). Word went out that someone with Westminster experience must be found.
And cometh the hour, cometh the pundit: today has brought a suitably salacious memoir of her (albeit brief) time as spin-doctor to William ‘Ague from Amanda Bloody Platell, who tells “How I fell foul of sex pest MPs”. She did? “I can vouch for the existence of the culture of sleaze. I was not some ingenue, but a 41-year-old battle-hardened journalist of 20 years’ experience when I started work there”.
“It wasn’t long before I was propositioned and groped (what is now – in our politically correct age – called a ‘sexual assault’) many times ... One married Shadow Cabinet minister regularly grabbed my backside – even in public – despite me angrily telling him that I’d either break his arm or expose the fact he was gay”. Cue search of shadow cabinet in months leading up to the 2001 General Election.
And, as the man said, there’s more: “Another MP, after a convivial lunch, tried to kiss me roughly. I reminded him I was due to meet his wife at a function the following week. I’ll never forget either the man who, when we attended a residential conference, appeared at my hotel bedroom door at 1am and made a lascivious lunge at me”. You don’t, Sheila? Mind if I do?
“I was old enough and strong enough to cope with such unwanted sexual advances” she reassures readers, before musing “but I fear that vulnerable, younger Westminster staff are unable to deal with such attacks”, which means she more or less says the same thing as the Channel 4 report. Except it’s from a Daily Mail pundit. Who ought to realise that it doesn’t just happen in Parliament.
Still, it gives the impression that the Mail is on the ball, so that’s all right, then.