POLITICS
18/06/2018 11:54 BST | Updated 18/06/2018 12:37 BST

Sir Christopher Chope's Office Covered In Knickers As He Returns To Work

The Tory MP blocked criminalising upskirting last week

Nigel Nelson
The underwear protest outside Sir Christopher Chope's Commons office on Monday morning

Knickers, thongs and a suspender belt awaited Sir Christopher Chope when he arrived at his Commons office on Monday after he blocked legislation making upskirting illegal.

The underwear was draped across the door of Chope’s office in protest at the Tory MP single-handedly preventing the act of taking pictures under someone’s clothing without their consent becoming a specific criminal offence.

The protest mirrors one made outside his constituency office in Christchurch, Dorset, which appeared within hours of him objecting to a private members’ bill tabled by Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse on Friday.

It is not known who carried out the stunt, but HuffPost UK can reveal one of the items still has the sales tag attached - suggesting it was bought specifically for the protest.

However, other items did not have tags on them, suggesting the culprits may have had to sacrifice a degree of comfort to make their point.

One source said scores of researchers and other Parliamentary workers had been visiting Chope’s office to take pictures of the protest.

PA Wire/PA Images
Sir Christopher Chope insists he is not a "dinosaur" or "some kind of pervert".

The 71-year-old MP insisted this weekend he was actually the victim, telling his local paper: “I feel a bit sore about being scapegoated over this.

“The suggestion that I am some kind of pervert is a complete travesty of the truth.

“It’s defamatory of my character and it’s very depressing some of my colleagues have been perpetuating that in the past 48 hours.” 

He urged the government to find the “fastest, fairest and surest passage” for a bill banning upskirting, and accused ministers of “hijacking” backbenchers’ time with the Friday afternoon debate.

The MP added: “I am not a dinosaur. I am very much alive and kicking. There are too few colleagues who are prepared to stand up for the rights of Parliament against the executive and that’s when the freedoms we cherish will be eroded.”

Theresa May called the act “invasive” and “degrading” when she pledged to revive an attempt to ban it.

Gina Martin, an upskirting victim whose petition to criminalise the act won her a legion of celebrity supporters and political backing, said Chope’s actions left her extremely upset.

Culture Minister Margot James said the backbencher had brought the Tories into disrepute, while the Prime Minister expressed her “disappointment” at his move.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “dismayed and appalled” and Labour MP Richard Burgon said he was “disgusted”.

Without a specific law, victims in England and Wales must seek prosecution of upskirting through other legal avenues, such as outraging public decency or harassment.

A specific law already exists in Scotland and the blocked bill would have seen upskirting offenders face a maximum of two years in prison.

May reassured campaigners on Sunday that the government would provide time for anti-upskirting legislation to pass through Parliament.

“It is an invasive, offensive act and we need to take action against it,” she added. 

Bath MP Hobhouse, who had secured cross-party support for her bill, told Sky News: “I think it’s very frustrating and annoying that one MP can block a consensus that had been built over several months.”

The Lib Dem press office added in a tweet: “Christopher Chope really is odious.”

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins, also minister for women, and Tory MP Will Quince were among those who said “shame” when the bill was blocked by Chope.

It only requires one MP to shout “object” when the title of a private member’s bill is read out to halt its progress.

Hobhouse said it appeared Chope had objected to her bill “on a general principle that he doesn’t like private member’s bills”.