An MP from the ruling Conservative party has become the latest subject of a growing furore over sexual misconduct involving British parliamentarians after he was suspended by the party over “serious allegations” that have been referred to the police. Charlie Elphickle, MP for Dover, has denied any wrongdoing and accused his party of informing the media about his suspension last night before informing him directly.
“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,” said the 46-year-old married MP in a statement on Twitter. He becomes the latest in a series of names being linked with inappropriate behaviour, including Opposition Labour party MP Clive Lewis being forced to “completely” deny allegations of groping a woman at the party’s annual conference a few weeks ago.
The Labour Party, however, has launched an investigation after a formal complaint was made against the Norwich South MP yesterday. Lewis, a former shadow defence secretary, is alleged by the woman to have hugged her and squeezed her bottom at the event in Brighton in September.
“Is the person mistaken? Have I given them a hug and this has been misinterpreted? I don’t know. All I know is that I would not deliberately do that, do what’s alleged. I completely deny that,” Lewis said. His denial comes in the wake of another Labour party MP, Kelvin Hopkins, denying sexual harassment allegations made by party activist Ava Etemadzadeh.
The Luton North MP, who was suspended on Thursday while an investigation is conducted, said he had only given Etemadzadeh a “brief, slight hug just before getting into my car”. The highest profile victim of the scandal to hit Westminster politics so far has been former defence secretary Michael Fallon, who resigned from his post this week saying his conduct may have fallen below the high standards expected.
It was widely speculated if it was a so-called “kneegate” incident, involving him touching the knee of a journalist many years ago, that had led to his resignation. A fellow Tory MP, Anna Soubry, told ‘The Times’ that the allegations against him went much further.
“Michael Fallon had to resign because of his behaviour towards women. One person with great courage made a complaint to No. 10 [Downing Street] of sexual assault. Theresa May made it very clear she took these allegations seriously and within hours he had gone,” she said. Her remarks came after it had emerged that the Leader of the House of Commons and Tory party colleague, Andrea Leadsom, had also complained about Fallon making “lewd” remarks at party meetings.
Fallon has strenuously denied the latest set of claims and stressed that Downing Street had not put any specific allegation to him before he stepped down as defence minister. “I’ve already accepted that I have behaved inappropriately in the past but I have never physically assaulted anybody,” he said.
Both the Conservatives and Labour party are working on new policies to deal with sexual harassment in an attempt to get a handle on the crisis that is continuing to spiral out of control with fresh allegations emerging non-stop. Prime Minister May is due to meet Opposition party leaders, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, on Monday to discuss proposals to bring forward a new grievance system for Westminster staff and MPs.