The Guardian view on sexual harassment in Westminster: no grey areas, no excuses | Editorial

Editorial: No industry or profession is immune from the problem, but parliament has a unique chance to lead the change

The Palace of Westminster is an unusual workplace. A clue is in the name: it is the apex of a power structure. By definition, few enjoy the privilege of serving there.

MPs are effectively self-employed. Their staff are doubly vulnerable when it comes to protection from harassment and bullying. First, there is no independent authority, short of the police, to receive complaints. (Yet there are many workplace offences that require disciplinary action, while falling short of the threshold for criminal prosecution.) Second, the culture of political recruitment, with its huge premium on ideological and personal loyalty, militates against disclosure. This vastly inflates the power that a political employer or mentor wields over juniors. And when it comes to sexual harassment, power is everything. The abuser owns a kind of currency that he uses either in a forced trade for sexual gratification or, with sex as the proxy, as a way of asserting control.

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