With Prime Minister Theresa May’s grip on the government already shaky as she negotiates Britain’s painful break from the European Union, the sort of sexual harassment accusations that have stirred the media, entertainment industry and politics in the United States have driven one of her ministers from office and rocked her Conservative Party.
Britain’s defense secretary, Michael Fallon, quit last Wednesday after a series of allegations of sexual misconduct, including a complaint by Andrea Leadsom, the leader of Britain’s House of Commons, that at a parliamentary meeting six years ago, he lewdly suggested where she could warm her hands. Mr. Fallon denies the allegations.
A list of more than 30 lawmakers in Mrs. May’s Conservative Party — with names redacted — has been circulated online with anonymous charges of sexual misconduct ranging from “handsy in taxis” to accusations of extramarital affairs. The former work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb has apologized for “sexual chatter” with a 19-year-old woman who applied for a job in his office, and the Conservative Party member of Parliament Mark Garnier has admitted he asked his female assistant to buy sex toys for him.
The Labour Party has been affected too. A party activist, Bex Bailey, says she was raped by a Labour official in 2011 and was told by a senior party member to keep quiet about it if she valued her career.
Both Labour and the Conservatives are drawing up codes of conduct and grievance procedures for victims of sexual misconduct. But the seriousness of the official response is already in doubt.