Britain’s ruling Conservatives suspended an MP over unspecified “serious allegations”, as Prime Minister Theresa May announced a new party code of conduct in response to a growing sexual harassment scandal.
The action was taken on Friday against lawmaker Charlie Elphicke “following serious allegations that have been referred to the police”, announced chief whip Julian Smith, who enforces Conservative party discipline in parliament. Elphicke said on Twitter: “The party tipped off the press before telling me of my suspension. I am not aware of what the alleged claims are and deny any wrongdoing.”
The move comes amid a deepening row over sexual abuse and harassment at Westminster, which earlier this week forced Michael Fallon to resign as defence secretary. Two other ministers remain under investigation for alleged inappropriate behaviour, including May’s de facto deputy Damian Green, who denies any wrongdoing. The opposition Labour party meanwhile on Thursday suspended one of its MPs, Kelvin Hopkins, pending an investigation into claims he sent suggestive texts and acted inappropriately — which he strongly denies.
May announced a new code of conduct yesterday for Conservatives from lawmakers through to councillors and local party officials, as well as a new complaints procedure. A new hotline will be set up for reporting breaches of the code, which will be investigated by a panel that for the first time will include an independent member.
May has also called a meeting with other party leaders on Monday to discuss improving parliament’s grievance procedure, noting that many staff are not hired on a partisan basis. Even for those who are, she said it was not right that “vulnerable or concerned people” could be left to “navigate different grievance procedures”.
Fallon quit as defence secretary on Wednesday, saying his behaviour had fallen short of the standards required. He had earlier admitted touching a journalist’s knee 15 years ago. The Sun newspaper reported yesterday that House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom had also complained that he made a string of inappropriate remarks to her when they were members of a parliamentary committee.
May’s Downing Street office said Leadsom “did not, and has not” asked her to sack Fallon while he was defence secretary. Former chief whip Gavin Williamson was named Fallon’s replacement on Thursday. His appointment triggered some dismay in Conservative ranks, with reports saying MPs were angry he had seemingly orchestrated Fallon’s departure — then became a beneficiary.