If reports of Ross Thomson groping several SNP researchers in the House of Commons bar are proven true, he must be sacked from his party. For too long, men have abused their power in dark seedy corners of Westminster without facing consequences.
Thomson is the Tory MP for Aberdeen South. He’s young, vibrant, and active on Twitter. He has socially liberal values and is also a Brexiteer; in other words, he is a Tory golden boy. But the Conservatives do not need to cling onto their Scottish champion who has already turned sour.
Refraining from sexual assault is not a high standard that we only expect our politicians to adhere to. It is the law. Most employers take action if their staff break the law and abuse colleagues. Thomson knew better that night than to grope the men around him and he knew there would be consequences.
In a statement on Twitter, Thomson denied all accusations, asserting that ‘no complaint has been made to the police’ by the victims. The men he groped, however, were SNP researchers just forging a political career. If they publicly come forward, their entire careers may be tainted by this incident. We must not take their silence as an indication of Thomson’s innocence; there were numerous eyewitnesses, including Kathryn Stone, the researcher who has lodged a complaint with the Westminster Standards Commissioner. Lurid accounts are still appearing, with reports that Thomson was very drunk that night and had been asked to leave several times before the incident.
Colleagues have suggested Thomson’s stress over Brexit explains his behaviour. This is a trying time for politicians, but it is the job they signed up to do and that their constituents trust them to do. Furthermore, Thomson was only elected in 2017. If he did not think he could handle the stress of Brexit without sexually harassing people on a drunken evening, he should not have become an MP.
Although more needs to be done to make the role of MP accessible, family-friendly and realistic in this day and age, Thomson cannot blame this behaviour on stress. That is an abuse of the system, of his position and of the current political turmoil around Brexit. It also forgets the law, which applies to us all and cites sexual assault and harassment as a crime.
Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Tory leader, has described Thomson’s actions as ‘completely unacceptable,’ but at this rate, it seems unlikely that Thomson will face serious retribution. Even though he groped men’s genitals, he was back in Parliament, surrounded by the same people just a week later.
The heart of our establishment, The House of Commons, is an arena for hyper-masculinity and laddish competitiveness. Our system fosters sexism more than gender equality and Thomson is just one man among many who do not think the law applies to the lawmakers. We must hold him to account for his actions and he should be fired.
In our post #MeToo world, how much has really changed? Last month Alex Salmond was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape after decades of suspicion. Women in his party knew to avoid being alone with him. Salmond was the most powerful man in Scotland and a global personality. The women he assaulted were helpless in comparison, scared into submission by his power.
Thomson’s actions do not need to be compared to Salmond’s, but there are clear indications from his behaviour that he does not respect the boundaries of the law or his career. He must be sacked before he is allowed to sexually abuse more men and further tarnish the reputation of parliamentarians.
Image: Chris McAndrew via Wikimedia Commons