Tackling Harassment and Abuse

2 November 2017

In recent days the media has been full of tales of harassment and abuse taking part in politics as well as in the entertainment industry.

No one should have to go to work, worrying about whether they will experience behaviour that makes them feel uncomfortable, especially when it comes from someone in a position of power over their job, or their whole career.

I have worked in politics for over 20 years and am fortunate not to have experienced harassment.  But I have also been lucky enough to have a stable job throughout that time, and not to be dependent on those in positions of power.

The number of allegations being made – which I suspect is still the tip of the iceberg – shows that there is a particular problem in politics, as in entertainment.

Without robust procedures to protect the vulnerable – both men and women – harassment can thrive in male-dominated professions where young people start out in short-term, precarious positions, highly dependent on certain individuals in positions of influence, who can make or break their career.

I am glad that in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein ‘revelations’, more women have felt able to speak out and expose what has happened to them.

Both Parliament and the Labour Party set up new systems to deal with abuse in 2014, but these need to be improved so that victims of harassment can speak with someone independent of Parliament and of political parties.  I am glad to see all parties working together to improve the procedures for reporting and dealing with harassment and abuse in Parliament.

Many MPs themselves are also on the receiving end of dreadful abuse.  I was shocked to learn that my long-standing friend Rosie Cooper, the MP for West Lancashire, had been subject to a murder plot that was fortunately thwarted, but which Rosie has not been able to speak out about until the trial.

Again, I am lucky that I have not experienced such abuse – probably because I have never been a fan of Twitter – but as I start to ‘Tweet’ a bit more regularly, I am sure it will come my way eventually.

With a background of such dreadful stories, it was a delight to attend the performance of ‘Hairspray’ at Buxton Opera House on Saturday.  The story is set in 1960’s America, of a young girl who aspires to dance on TV with her coloured friends, in opposition to the enforced racial segregation of those times.

It was wonderful to see the whole audience on their feet, uplifted by both the music and the message: that we need to tackle prejudice wherever we see it, and we will all be happier for it.


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