Sexual Predator Rob Roberts Has No Place In Parliament | Anna McGovern
Our Members of Parliament are invaluable in the decision-making processes that affect every aspect of our day-to-day lives. We elect MPs to act as our representatives, standing up for the interests of the local constituency on a national level and being our principal point of contact for any concerns that affect us. With the debates conducted, laws scrutinised and constituency work they take directive upon, MPs are pinnacle in shaping the future of UK society as we know it.
With such a vast degree of responsibility on their shoulders, we undoubtedly want to feel rest assured that the most talented, passionate and dedicated individuals are the ones representing us.
We then find out that one of our elected officials, Rob Roberts MP, has been found guilty of multiple counts of inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment to staff. With almost every other job, if someone was found guilty of the same allegations, they would be faced with immediate dismissal. Rob Roberts, still in his position of MP, has been permitted to return to the Houses of Commons from Monday 8th November after serving his twelve-week suspension, with nothing but public shame and a mere slap on the wrist. Something is distastefully wrong about this.
Multiple reports were put forward detailing the inappropriate sexual conduct that Rob Roberts displayed to staffers in Parliament. BBC Wales reported how messages sent from Rob Roberts propositioned a 21-year-old female intern to “fool around” with him. The MP, having split up with his wife and coming out as gay, approached the intern with his sentiment that he “might be gay, but [he] enjoy[s]… fun times”. Having opened up to Rob Roberts about her struggles with mental health, he took this as an open invitation to move forward onto her: “I was just thinking about fun times… Maybe if you thought of them too it might help you”. Describing how she felt “vulnerable” about the MP’s advances onto her, the intern expressed how she “didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone” about what she was experiencing from her boss, worried that if she “wanted to be more politically involved that [she would] be branded by all of this.” This doesn’t include his comments on the intern having “lovely legs” and his indignant attitude towards the intern’s lack of interest, remarking that she is not to ignore him when he is “making [her] feel better”.
Yet, it doesn’t stop there. Despite his friend’s attempts to persuade him otherwise, Roberts relentlessly pursued his staffer undeterred by the latter’s complete disinterest and desire to remain professional. After Roberts organised a private one-to-one session where he expressed his feelings and inevitably got rejected, resentment spewing from the MP began to run rife. The staffer reported how Roberts would exhibit “jealous behaviour” about the staffer’s whereabouts outside of his working hours and was particularly keen to know who exactly he was spending time with. After the staffer declined Robert’s invitation of drinks on account of being busy, Roberts took it upon himself to book drinks for the two of them to take place the following week, outside of the staffer’s hours, without any notice or go-ahead outlined that this was taking place. The staffer described how he felt “forced” to spend time around Roberts and alcohol, prompting him to question whether he was going to have to quit his job due to the persistent, incongruous advances made onto him by his boss.
Rob Roberts’ answer to this? A trivial slapdash recognition of his “inappropriate” advances towards his staffer that caused “lots of drama” — but offers no expression of regret concerning the messages he sent to the intern.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncustomary trend in the House of Commons. In a report written by Dame Laura Cox, it entailed how female staffers were subject to “frequent propositioning and inappropriate touching” in predatory behaviour displayed to them by certain MPs, This included “trying to kiss them, grabbing their arms or bottoms or stroking their breasts or bottoms — in an atmosphere fuelled by ready access to alcohol”. Beyond sexual propositions, other complaints included how staff would be consistently shouted at in the company of others, with one staffer being publicly berated with “You’re f****** useless”, thus being expected to meet “wholly unrealistic” work demands. Whilst the report outlined that the “vast majority” of MPs treated their staff with “courtesy and respect”, there is, without doubt, a worrying culture of power-play in Westminster.
After everything he has done, why is Rob Roberts able to return to Parliament? If an MP was subject to a suspension from Parliament lasting ten or more days, this would permit a by-election to be instigated if 10% of the MP’s constituents signed a petition calling for this. However, as Roberts initiated an appeal for a finding against him by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, this caused his case to be transferred to the Independent Expert Panel. As Sir Stephen Irwin, head of the IEP explained, a recall can only be initiated if the sanction is “imposed on the recommendation of the committee on standards, or another committee of the House of
Commons concerned with standards of conduct”. The Independent Expert panel, as Irwin outlined, is not a committee within the House of Commons. This, therefore, did not trigger the Recall of MPs Act of 2015, allowing Roberts to return as a national representative to his constituents in Parliament.
The sickening irony of this all? Roberts posted a plea of sympathy demanding that how political discourse is conducted “needs to change”, and the state of it “falls a long way short of acceptable”. He implored upon the public to recognise his egocentric perspective that the discourse, particularly facing him, lacks balance. He then announces how he has written to the BBC and ITV to feature the “good work that MPs do” for their constituencies — MPs that would be delighted to see the back of him in Parliament. I don’t even need to tell you that Roberts holds no shame for his actions. Has anyone told the man to read the room?
This is a dangerous loophole that Roberts has bypassed, which the Government needs to close with immediate effect. MPs are our core representatives, expected at the very least to act with cordial integrity, respect and resolution to make a difference to the lives of their constituents — not to abuse their position of power to proposition employees and take advantage of a young girl’s vulnerable mental state for his pleasure.
No one should be told that they are “attention-seeking” for speaking out. No one should feel as though they have to leave their job because of the sexual perversions set forward by their boss. No one should have to go into work and be told by their boss: “I find you very attractive and alluring and I need you to make attempts to be less alluring in the office because it’s becoming very difficult for me.”.
Rob Roberts has no place in Parliament. His constituents deserve a choice; a decision of whether they wish to be represented by a sexual abuser at a national level. They are deprived of this choice. Roberts could do the only right thing by rescinding his power and standing down, but with his rife sense of prerogative to everything he has, I envisage a “fat chance” of that happening.