A cabinet minister has said Westminster has a “real problem” with older gay men making “predatory advances” on young male parliamentary workers.
The anonymous remark, made in a Politico piece published Tuesday (5 July), described an alcohol-soaked “gay scene” within the walls of the Houses of Parliament.
The cabinet minister said: “There’s a real problem in Westminster in general — not just in the Conservative Party — around the gay scene.
“It’s a lot of alcohol and young gay researchers either flirting with or being subject to predatory advances by senior gay men.”
It comes as Boris Johnson faces scrutiny over allegations made against former deputy chief whip, Chris Pincher.
Pincher resigned after he was accused of drunkenly groping two men. It took the Tories almost 24 hours to suspend the whip from him, and No 10 has subsequently been accused of covering up historic claims of inappropriate behaviour against Pincher – claims which were reportedly upheld.
In 2021, Tory MP Rob Roberts was suspended from parliament after he was found to have sexually harassed an employee. This year, former Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan was sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting a teenage boy at a house party.
Staff told Politico of a “whisper network” warning male staffers to stay away from certain MPs, whether it be in taxis or elevators, and claimed that some MPs are notorious for employing “exclusively” young gay men they find attractive.
One employee said Khan, who stood down after he was sentenced to 18 months in prison, had a high turnover rate when it came to young male workers.
While an MP almost exclusively hiring young gay men does not break any parliamentary rules, current and former staffers say this fuels an unhealthy environment where drinking is a “prerequisite” and “problematic behaviour” is rife.
“It becomes self-fulfilling,” the source said. “It attracts young gay men to be spads [special advisers] who then aspire to become members of parliament and then you’ve baked this [behaviour] into the Westminster bubble for the next 10 years.”
Staff said they fear that until Westminster treats sexual harassment towards men seriously, such incidents will become normalised.
And there have been many instances of this, they alleged. One parliamentary worker claimed they witnessed a “long-serving MP” fondle the groin of a young male aide. The aide didn’t raise a complaint – instead, he quit politics altogether.
Many said they were hesitant to complain as they assumed nothing would come out of it.
Downing Street, for example, confirmed that Chris Pincher had been investigated over his conduct in 2019 as a then foreign office minister.
The complaint had enough evidence that it could have led to disciplinary action but was resolved informally.
Boris Johnson then appointed Pincher as deputy chief whip in February, with Johnson’s spokesperson suggesting the PM forgot he was briefed about the complaint.
Pincher resigned from the role on 30 June when it was alleged that he groped two men the night before while drinking at the Carlton Club in central London.
Only the following evening did Johnson suspend the whip from Pincher, meaning he now sits as an independent. On the same day, his spokesperson claimed he was “not aware of any specific allegations against” Pincher.
Labour shadow minister Luke Pollard has said parliament is “not a safe place to work”, and is among the many calling for urgent change.
On Monday (4 July), two unions representing parliamentary workers echoed his words, insisting that parliament must take a zero-tolerance approach.