Money for questions to ‘casting couch’ claims: 10 times Westminster has been embroiled in foolishness

The shadow of ‘Westminster sody’ once again looms over the Houses of Parliament after a new wave of grim allegations emerge about the behavior of Britain’s elected representatives.

An anonymous Tory MP is at risk of being suspended from his party after being accused of watching a pornographic video on his smartphone in the Commons in full view of his colleagues.

Meanwhile, a Labor MP has claimed she was the subject of ‘vulgar sexual comments’ from a member of her own party, further highlighting the casual sexism women in politics face every day following the fury caused by a Mail on Sunday article published over the weekend, in which another unnamed Tory MP made accusations of a sexual nature against Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner.

The Sunday Times reported on the same day that 56 MPs, including three Cabinet ministers and two shadow cabinet members, were being investigated over allegations of sexual misconduct and had been referred to Parliament’s independent complaints and grievance system .

Of course, it’s not the first time in living memory that the conduct of Britain’s political leaders has been found wanting – here’s a look at some of the biggest scandals of the past 30 years.

A surprising affair

The publication of Tory MP Edwina Currie’s diaries in 2002 offered the startling revelation that she had an affair with future Tory Prime Minister Sir John Major between 1984 and 1988 when she was a backbench MP and that he was party whip and they were both married.

David Mellor, aggrieved that he himself was forced to resign from Mr Major’s cabinet in September 1992 over an extramarital affair, wryly observed that the story could have been very different if his former boss’ infidelity had been became public while he was still in office.


The phrase ‘Westminster sleaze’ first gained national prominence following the ‘cash-for-questions’ case in 1994, when Tory MPs Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith were coerced to resign from government duties after Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed. revealed he had given them money in brown paper envelopes to ask specific questions of the Commons.

The scandal also led to the jailing of former defense minister Jonathan Aitken for secret meetings with Saudi officials and prompted the creation of Lord Nolan’s ‘seven principles of public life’, to which all civil servants are bound. now required to join – altruism, integrity, objectivity, responsibility, openness, honesty and leadership.

“A moment of madness”

Welsh Labor leader Ron Davies, Tony Blair’s Secretary of State for Wales, resigned at the end of October 1998 after being attacked at knifepoint by a stranger he had met at Clapham Common in the south London, after agreeing to go to dinner with the man, losing his wallet, mobile phone and keys during the incident in an area then notorious as a pick-up location.

Mr Davies was married at the time but divorced the year after he fell from grace.

“It was a moment of madness for which I subsequently paid a very, very heavy price and I am deeply sorry,” he said. “I bitterly regret it.”

New Labor resignations

Mr Blair was Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007 and was forced to sign off on the resignations of a number of Cabinet ministers for various transgressions, including his Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, who reluctantly resigned at the end of May 2002 after it emerged that one of his special advisers, Jo Moore, had sent an email on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York which advised: ‘Now is a very good day to get out everything we want to bury.

Meanwhile, Peter Mandelson has been forced to resign twice, first over an undisclosed home loan from a fellow minister and then for allegedly trying to help a Millennium Dome donor with a passport application. .


David Blunkett has also quit twice, allegedly while trying to fast-track a visa for a lover’s nanny and ahead of an investigation into a paternity testing company, which eventually cleared him of any conflict. of interests.

The spending scandal

The real parliamentary opera spending scandal of 2009, sparked by a freedom of information request into members’ financial claims, rocked Westminster to the bottom and cost a number of government members their heads by Gordon Brown, including Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears and Geoff Hoon. , Speaker of the House Michael Martin and a slew of Labor and Conservative backbenchers and House of Lords peers.

Public outcry raged for months and ornamental duck jokes were commonplace.


During the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition years, Liberal Democrat Climate Secretary Chris Huhne was forced to resign in February 2012 after being accused of perverting the course of justice for speeding in 2003.


Rather than simply accept the fine and accompanying penalty points, Mr Huhne had persuaded his then-wife Vicki Pryce to take the fall so he could avoid being banned from driving, an accusation which he denied until he stood trial a year later, after which he changed his guilty plea, resigned as an MP, and left the Privy Council.

He and Ms Pryce were sentenced by Southwark Crown Court in March 2013 to eight months in jail, with Mr Huhne serving nine weeks before being released. It was later immortalized on a vase made by Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry.

“Casting couch”

A more troubling scandal to hit the same party was the sexual harassment allegations made against chief executive Chris Rennard in a Channel 4 News report broadcast in February 2013.

One of his accusers, Alison Smith, claimed the senior civil servant made unwanted overtures to women at party events and enforced a ‘casting couch’ policy, preventing those who rejected his advances from advancing in party ranks.

Lord Rennard denied the allegations of ‘inappropriate touching’ and said he was ‘disappointed and angry’.

His party membership was suspended for seven months in 2014 while an investigation was carried out before being reinstated when police found insufficient evidence to bring charges and it was ruled that no further action was taken. was needed.


On September 19, 2012 David Cameron’s newly appointed Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell got involved straight away with PC Toby Rowland, guarding Downing Street, who asked him not to cycle before leaving the main gate , to which Mr Mitchell reportedly replied: ‘You better learn your goddamn place. You don’t run this fucking government… You’re fucking plebs.


The minister apologized when the story became public but took issue with certain aspects of the officer’s account, in particular the use of the word “pleb”, before resigning exactly one month after the incident in question, for then pursue defamation actions against The sun newspaper and PC Rowland and lost both in 2014.

A certain senior official by the name of Sue Gray led an internal Whitehall inquiry into the matter.


Since turning on his heels and leaving Downing Street with a nonchalant buzz following the Brexit vote in the summer of 2016, Mr Cameron has been accused of using his past influence to lobby ministers, including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak on behalf of Capital of Greensill.

Mr Cameron has denied any wrongdoing.

Cummings, Hancock and “Partygate”

Boris Johnson’s government has been nearly brought to its knees on several occasions due to breaches of its own lockdown rules introduced in 2020 and 2021 to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior adviser Dominic Cummings has not resigned after admitting he drove to Barnard Castle in County Durham ‘to test his eyesight’ – an episode which particularly enraged the public – Mr Hancock went after being caught in pictured breaching social distancing orders in a clinch with Gina Coladangelo, an aide he had an affair with, while Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak have so far refused to quit despite being fined from the Metropolitan Police for attending illicit parties in Downing Street while the public stayed at home.

The fearsome Mrs. Gray is once again due to pass judgment, with further notices of fixed penalties supposedly to come.

About Kristina McManus

Check Also

“Inject that stoicism into my veins!” »: 10 ancient philosophy tools that have improved my life | philosophy books

It was by chance that I became interested in Stoicism around 2018 – because by …