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The Rundown Podcast: MPs Are Tired Of Westminster's Misogyny Problem

3 min read

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes and Labour MP Abena Oppong-Asare join PoliticsHome's Eleanor Langford and Noa Hoffman to discuss sexism, misogyny and sexual misconduct in parliament on this week's episode of The Rundown.

On Wednesday, a male MP, who has not been named, was accused of having watched pornography on their phone in the Commons chamber.

The scandal marked the latest incident in a week of reckoning over misogyny in Westminster, after the Mail on Sunday made unfounded claims that Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner used her legs to "distract" Boris Johnson in the House of Commons and The Sunday Times reported that 56 MPs were being investigation over sexual harassment. 

Labour MP Abena Oppong-Asare, shadow exchequer secretary to the treasury of the UK and chair of the Labour Women’s Network, and Conservative MP and chair of the women and equalities committee spoke to The Rundown podcast as women working across Westminster came forward with their experiences of sexist encounters in parliament.

Oppong-Asare explained how she felt women have been made to become "resilient" as a result of what she saw as a "normalisation" of misogyny in politics. 

“Just generally as women, and as women of colour as well, we're so resilient, that to an extent some of the stuff has become quite normalised when it’s not normal,” she said. 

“When I've had emails come into my office and my team have said ‘this is unacceptable,’ I've come to a point where I've just kind of normalised that kind of behaviour.

“I'm realising actually, you know, this is not normal actually, and more needs to be done to call it out or report it.”

Nokes said she has also developed a thick skin following years of sexist abuse. The senior Tory added that when she chooses to directly call out misogyny will often depend on how busy she is.

“Sometimes I just look and think I really don't have time to deal with this now,” Nokes said.

“If you were to look at the micro-aggressions, the really unnecessary, horrible things that people say to you and send to you, you'd spend your entire life tied up in knots about it.

“I just block it out. I've got incredibly, incredibly thick skin nowadays.

“You have to be gratuitously offensive now for me to even notice and that’s a horrible place to be in actually.”

The Conservative whips office has asked that the MP accused of watching porn in the Commons be referred to parliament's Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme.

However, Nokes told The Rundown that calls from Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris for the complaint to be referred to parliamentary authorities amounts to “kicking it into long grass”.

It “could be months before anything is done," she said. 

“It's not shouldering the burden of responsibility of dealing with it, and I think the whips should have dealt with it immediately,” the MP added

“I thought I would wake up on Wednesday morning to find somebody had had the whip withdrawn, and that didn't happen.

“We've seen the whip withdrawn from colleagues for a variety of reasons over the years. I thought this seemed to be fairly straightforward. It was raised by one colleague, it was corroborated by another. That seems to me perfectly enough to withdraw the whip."

Subscribe to The Rundown to listen to the full interview with Caroline Nokes and Abena Oppong-Asare, out now.  


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