POLITICS

LabourToo Probe Into Sexual Harassment To Report Its Findings To Party Next Month

Members, councillors and staff have been sharing their experiences anonymously.

01/11/2017 17:00 GMT | Updated 02/11/2017 17:32 GMT
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A campaign set up by six Labour women to probe the extent of sexual harassment and abuse within the party will report its findings to officials next month. 

LabourToo has been collating anonymous submissions from party members, staff and politicians for several weeks in a bid to change the processes and policies around dealing with serious allegations.

Today its founders told HuffPost UK they plan to verify and collate all of the responses received into a report, which will be presented to Labour officials in December. 

A spokesperson said: ”We decided to set up the campaign off the back of recent inappropriate and unacceptable comments made by Labour MPs Jared O’Mara and Clive Lewis and the rise of the #MeToo campaign, which saw lots of women sharing their stories.

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Sheffield Hallam MP Jared O'Mara has been suspended from Labour over abusive comments made online.

“Obviously since then the issue has become a lot bigger and we are continuing to ask people to send us their experiences, in complete confidence.

“The focus is very much on Westminster at the moment, but we know it is a problem throughout politics as a whole - affecting people across the whole country - and people have come to us with stories of incidents ranging from harassment and inappropriate comments to sexual abuse.

“It is not just a central government issue that needs to be dealt with - it’s local government too.”

Recent research by the Fawcett Society revealed four in ten female councillors reported having experienced sexist comments from within their own party, a third were subjected to sexist comments in the council chamber and one in ten experienced sexual harassment from other councillors.

Those connected to the Labour Party who have experienced unwanted attention can report it anonymously through the LabourToo website - the founders of which have decided to withhold their own identity from the public.

LabourToo
The LabourToo website is collating anonymous experiences of sexual harasssment

“We are six women from within the Labour Party - but we don’t want to attach our names to the campaign publicly for fear of any further abuse this might generate,” the spokesperson told HuffPost UK.

“It’s sad that we should have to do that.”

Well-known Labour activist Bex Bailey came forward on Tuesday to say she had been raped at a party event in 2011 - and discouraged from reporting it by a senior official.

Labour has improved its policies around dealing with sexual harassment and assault allegations since then - but LabourToo campaigners say the changes do not reflect their main concerns.

The spokesperson added: “It does not address the fact there is still no independent body that can investigate such claims - in the first instance, any allegations will still be investigated by a member of party staff.

“Aside from that, we want to see proper safeguarding training given to staff, volunteers and elected officials.

“We have no idea at the moment whether any of the allegations submitted to us are as serious as those made by Bex, as we are yet to go through all of them, but this campaign exists to enable women like her to feel able to come forward and speak out.

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The campaign has won support from MPs, including Stella Creasy.

“We will ensure everything is verified and that victims cannot be identified, and will collate all the information into a report, which we are hoping to hand over to the party in December, to show the full extent of the problem.

“Until that time, we aren’t able to set out details of the nature of the allegations or the number of people who have come forward.”

The campaign has received the backing of several female MPs who support its aims, including Jess Phillips, Mary Creagh and Stella Creasy.

A Labour spokesperson said LabourToo was not an official party website and urged any complainants to come forward so their allegations could be properly investigated. 

“The Labour Party takes all complaints of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination extremely seriously and will thoroughly investigate any evidence presented to the party,” they added.

“When evidence of misconduct comes to light, all appropriate disciplinary action will be taken in line with the party’s rule book and procedures.

“The party has been working with its affiliates to develop procedures specifically designed to deal with complaints of sexual harassment in order to improve internal processes and make it easier to report concerns.”