The Conservative party has refused to suspend a senior MP who was arrested on suspicion of a raping a former parliamentary aide in her 20s.
The former Minister was being held at an East London police station last night after his accuser was interviewed by Scotland Yard officers at a separate location on Friday.
He is alleged to have coerced the woman into having sex with him while they were in a relationship.
Shadow safeguarding minister Jess Phillips has criticised the Tories for failing to suspend the whip from the MP in question, a move that would effectively eject him from the party.
A leading Tory MP was arrested last night on suspicion of raping and sexually assaulting a Commons researcher. Pictured, the Houses of Parliament
Speaking to Times Radio, the Labour MP said: ‘It is very difficult to comment on the case itself, because it is quite rightly in front of the criminal justice system.
‘But what I would say in this matter, is in any organisation – especially one like Members of Parliament who every day work with vulnerable people, young activists, members of staff – in any other organisation, were this police investigation to be going on, somebody would be suspended while the investigation was taking place.’
Calling the lack of action ‘shocking’, Ms Phillips said it sent a ‘terrible message’ that senior figures were still able to secure ‘protection’ from their Westminster status.
She added: ‘While pending a police investigation for a sexual crime, I think it is only right that the whip is withdrawn.’
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said he did not know the name of the MP involved, but added that he was ‘confident’ the party was taking the matter seriously.
‘I’ve read the accusations in the newspapers this morning but I don’t know more than you do in that respect,’ the Cabinet minister told Times Radio.
‘These are very serious allegations and they should be investigated. They’re in the hands of the police, so I don’t think I can comment any more than that.’
Asked whether he personally wanted to see the Tory whip removed from the MP under police investigation, Mr Jenrick said: ‘We need to take allegations of this nature very seriously and I’m confident that the party is, and will do.’
The claims have caused consternation in the party, with one senior Conservative politician said to have been ‘close to tears’ after being informed of the allegations.
It is likely to increase pressure on Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer, who failed to take action against the MP, who cannot be named for legal reasons, when he was told about the allegations a month ago.
Mr Spencer last night said the woman had reported ‘abusive behaviour and threats’, but he does not believe there was any mention of sexual assault during the discussion.
The former Minister’s accuser – a woman in her 20s – was being interviewed by Scotland Yard officers yesterday at a separate location (file photo)
The former researcher, who cannot be identified, says she was assaulted four times between July 2019 and January this year, including claims of a rape necessitating hospital treatment.
The Mail on Sunday was unable to contact the MP for his response to the allegations. As of last night, he had not been charged.
Test for ‘safe hands’ whip
The latest potential sex scandal to hit Westminster will thrust Mark Spencer, Boris Johnson’s little-known Chief Whip, reluctantly into the spotlight.
The job traditionally requires a mixture of charm, aggression and a complete command of the dark arts – skills displayed to varying degrees by recent occupants of the post such as Michael Gove and Gavin Williamson
But the job – memorably immortalised in the fictional form of Francis Urquhart in the House Of Cards novels and television series – also requires the holder to be the political equivalent of a bomb disposal expert.
So there is likely to be dismay in Downing Street if another sex scandal has not been properly dealt with by the Whips Office.
Mr Spencer is not a natural Urquhart: a former dairy farmer who first entered the Commons in 2010, he has been described as ‘one of the nicest people in the parliamentary Conservative party’ – usually a disqualification for the post.
Mr Spencer backed Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, before switching tactically to backing Brexit under Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
Mr Spencer, who lives with his wife and children in Nottinghamshire, has played in goal for the Commons football team.
But if the rape investigation leads to another Tory MP losing the whip – or even his liberty – Mr Spencer could lose his slightly dull reputation as a safe pair of hands.
It is likely to increase pressure on Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer, who failed to take action against the MP when he was told about the allegations a month ago
A friend of the complainant said the woman was in a toxic sexual relationship with the politician – defined by coercion and an imbalance of power – as he held sway over her Commons career.
It is understood that police have studied hundreds of texts between the pair which back up claims that their relationship was seriously troubled.
The woman was interviewed for five hours yesterday by specialist officers from the Metropolitan Police.
The investigation comes just days after Charlie Elphicke, the former Tory party whip, was found guilty on three counts of sexually assaulting two women nine years apart – a conviction which led to the end of his marriage to wife Natalie. He became the first Conservative MP to be convicted of sexual assault in a generation.
Last night, Scotland Yard released a statement saying: ‘On Friday July 31, the Metropolitan Police Service received allegations relating to four separate incidents involving allegations of sexual offences and assault.
These offences are alleged to have occurred at addresses in London between July 2019 and January 2020. The Met has launched an investigation into the allegations.
‘A man was arrested on Saturday August 1 on suspicion of rape and is in custody in an East London police station’.
A friend of the complainant alleged that the MP had threatened to ‘destroy her life’, including by having her sacked from her job with a fellow Tory MP, if she ever went public with her allegations.
The woman believed she had been ‘coerced’ into a relationship with the MP, the friend said, explaining: ‘This was a controlling situation, where he would call her an ‘ungrateful little bitch.’ ‘
The source said the woman had no experience of toxic relationships and believed his behaviour was normal, when in reality it was ‘straight abuse’.
‘He had power and control over her,’ the friend said,
It is alleged the MP told the woman he would ‘come after her’ if she went to the police – but backed off when her parents intervened and told him he was abusing their daughter.
A Conservative MP first raised the woman’s allegation a month ago with Mr Spencer, the Chief Whip, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, after speaking to the alleged victim.
It is understood that Mr Spencer did not take the allegations further when he was told of them because the complainant had asked him not to mention the complaint to the alleged perpetrator – and because Mr Spencer didn’t believe that there was any mention of a sexual assault.
He advised her to refer it to Parliament’s independent complaints and grievance scheme, which she then did.
A spokesman for Mr Spencer said when asked about the claims last week: ‘The Chief Whip takes all allegations of harassment and abuse extremely seriously and has strongly encouraged anybody who has approached him to contact the appropriate authorities, including Parliament’s independent complaints and grievance scheme’.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: ‘We take all allegations of this nature extremely seriously. As this matter is now in the hands of the police it would be inappropriate to comment further.’