As speculation continues over his identity, the fate of the Tory MP who is a former minister in his 50s is pored over by today’s papers, especially the fact that the party, despite enjoying a Commons majority of around 80, has chosen not to suspend him, even though serious allegations, including one of rape, have been made against him.has reported that “A woman who told police she was raped by a former Conservative minister complained about his behaviour to a senior party figure four months ago. It is understood that Tory chief whip Mark Spencer spoke with the complainant in April, but Mr Spencer insists she did not make any allegation of serious sexual assault”.
So why the delay? “According to sources, Mr Spencer had not known the ‘magnitude’ of the allegations … But a report in the Daily Telegraph suggested the woman became frustrated after they spoke that nothing was done”. Why “magnitude” needs the quote marks is an interesting one. As is the non-removal of the Tory whip.
Which led to understandable criticism from Labour. “The decision not to remove the whip - which effectively expels members from the party - has been criticised by Labour's Jess Phillips, who said the decision was ‘shocking’ and sent a ‘terrible message from Westminster’”. But the Tories are caught in one of those Very Difficult Positions.
Clues as to the MP’s identity keep being dropped, like this from the Mail: “The chairman of the association, who the Daily Mail has chosen not to name, said: '[The MP] has made us aware of allegations made against him. He denies these totally. And this association give him our 100 per cent support. Some of the officers of this association have known him for around 25 years and from our knowledge of him in a political and personal capacity we can't accept that there is any truth whatsoever in these accusations.’”
But what the Mail’s report does do is to point up one potential problem in suspending the MP: despite Parliament being in recess, there is the distinct possibility that someone in that constituency association would make their views known very forcefully if their man were suspended - meaning a leak would not be far behind.
Also, how does the party at Westminster keep the suspension hidden from the general public? Maybe the line would hold until the end of the summer recess, but no longer. That the press already knows who it is does not augur well for keeping the name out of the public eye. And that is the dilemma facing Mark Spencer right now.
Add to that the strong possibility that revealing the MP’s name will enable identification of the complainant, endangering the Police inquiry, and the dilemma becomes yet worse.
Couldn’t happen to a more deserving political party. I’ll just leave that one there.