As pressure grows on Theresa May’s government over the spiralling Westminster sexual harassment scandal, it fell to Amber Rudd to face questions on the Sunday morning political programmes.
On the Andrew Marr Show, the Home Secretary was pressed on what the Tory party Whips knew. And when did they know it.
The allegation is that Whips, the enforcers that maintain party discipline, collected information about sexual abuse by politicians in order to ensure MPs voted how the prime minister of the day wanted.
But Rudd said this was not the case. “There was no black book,” she insisted. “I was a Whip myself and I don’t recognise some of those more lurid stories that are told about the sort of things Whips knew and did.”
Rudd was backed up by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. He told ITV’s Peston on Sunday that “the idea there is some kind of Whips Office conspiracy is wide of the mark”.
Home Office minister Sarah Newton, who has served as a Whip in the past, told the BBC’s Sunday Politics she had heard “rumours” about a “black book or a black spreadsheet” of secrets, but had never seen it herself. “If anybody had brought a complaint to me about the behaviour of one of the MPs that were in my flock, I would take that really seriously. But no, that didn’t happen,” she added.
Tory MP Anna Soubry told Marr the prime minister should call in Tory whips and find out what information they have on MPs.
“All the stuff that they know must be given to the Prime Minister and we must do things properly, and not behind the scenes, in some instances covering up, which is totally unacceptable,” she said.
Rudd used her appearances on Marr and Sky News’ Sunday with Paterson to notionally defend her cabinet colleague Damian Green, who has denied allegations that pornography was found on his parliamentary computers in 2008.
“He strongly denies the allegations. Let’s give him time and the inquiry time to put it straight,” Rudd told Paterson. “I really look forward to him clearing his name.”
However the Home Secretary revealed the inquiry in to the first secretary of state’s conduct, launched after he was accused of making inappropriate sexual advances towards a young female Tory activist, would now be expanded to include the claims about pornography.
I know that the Cabinet Office is going to be looking at this tomorrow along with the wider inquiry about Damian Amber Rudd reveals inquiry will include new claims
Rudd’s intervention came as Tory MP Heidi Allen became the second backbencher to call for Green to stand aside from his job as de facto deputy prime minister until the inquiry was completed.
On Sunday morning, Daniel Kawczynski became the third Tory MP to be referred to the party’s disciplinary committee over allegations he pressured a young woman who worked in parliament into meet a wealthy businessman. He denies anything inappropriate took place.
The scandal has already forced Sir Michael Fallon to resign as defence secretary. However he remains an MP.
And interesting Rudd suggested those found guilty of sexual harassment should face being kicked out of parliament altogether.
She told Sky News she would “encourage” a review into how parliament operated to “look at” whether MPs could be kicked out mid-term.
And she said there would be a “clearing out Westminster of that sort of behaviour” which would make both parliament and government “better for it”.
It is, of course, not just the Conservative Party that has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment.
Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure to explain why Kelvin Hopkins was promoted to the shadow cabinet even though allegations, which he denies, had been made about his behaviour towards a young female activist.
Former shadow cabinet minister Clive Lewis has also denied allegations he groped a woman during an event at the Labour Party conference in September.
Appearing on Sunday with Paterson, Emily Thornberry said she was “ashamed of what’s been going on” within Labour.
But during the combative interview, the shadow foreign secretary also said she was “happy to go” and walk out of the studio after Paterson pressed her on Hopkins.
not in a position to be able to comment on these matters in detail because they are under investigation. “I am not in a position to be able to comment on these matters in detail because they are under investigation,” she said.
After Paterson said Labour perhaps owed a “debt of gratitude” to the media for exposing claims of abuse within the party, Thornberry told him: “I think that the people who we owe a debt of gratitude to are those who have come forward with these allegations and who have been brave in the way that have.”
Over on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics, shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith said “the rules internally within the Labour Party were not appropriate” to deal with the problem of harassment.
Smith, who has said she was on the receiving end of unwanted behaviour from a Labour councillor, said “rules were not fit for purpose” to deal with the problem.
Away from sexual harassment, there was still time on the shows to squeeze in a bit of Brexit.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told Peston on Sunday that business investment in the UK has “picked up” but not as much as it should have. And he blamed Brexit.
“It should really be booming and it is just growing. I think we know the reason why this is the case, they are waiting to see the nature of the deal with the European Union,” he said. “What we would say is that Brexit uncertainty is reinforcing something that started in 2008. We actually think that productivity is going to pick up over the course of the next couple of years but not to the same degree as in the past and it is that Brexit effect.”