Will Labour’s next general secretary tackle sexual harassment in the party?

The row speaks to Westminster’s wider post-Weinstein problem.


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In October 2017, Westminster was rocked by the post-Weinstein wave of greater openness about sexual harassment. Bex Bailey, a former member of Labour’s ruling national executive committee, revealed that she was raped at a Labour party event and that party bosses told her to cover it up.

But the issue has been all but absent from Labour’s internal debate about who its next general secretary should be, with the internal struggle between Jennie Formby, a Unite official, and Jon Lansman, the founder-director of Momentum, taking up the headlines.

What Bailey – who, full disclosure, is a personal friend – and other campaigners are seeking is a fully independent process as far as sexual harassment goes: an independent organisation that would handle reports of sexual harassment, conduct its investigation and publish a conclusion, with the only involvement for party officials being the nature of the sanction itself.

But at time of writing, neither Jennie Formby, who is considered to be the overwhelming favourite to take the position, nor Christine Blower, the former head of the National Union of Teachers, has committed to backing the proposal.(Paul Hilder, the founder of CrowdPac, has thrown his support behind the measure, but he was not shortlisted for the post.)

It speaks to the big question about harassment of all kinds at Westminster: while there are politicians who are genuinely committed to securing real change on the issue (one of them is the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom), for the most part, the question of what happens next has been ignored in favour of a return to the old battles between and within the political parties.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.