A British minister is under investigation on charges of sexual harassment made by his former secretary, in what has been revealed as a culture of harassment in U.K. politics.
Mark Garnier, a junior international trade minister, gave secretary Caroline Edmondson money to buy two sex toys and called her “sugar tits” in front of a group of witnesses, the Daily Mail reported.
Garnier told the paper that the comment was part of an amusing conversation about a TV show and that asking her to buy the toys was “good-humored high jinks.”
Edmondson, in comments to the paper, disputed Garnier’s recollection of the incidents, including his assertion that they were “high jinks.”
The report came after another British newspaper, the Sun, on Friday described a culture of sexual harassment among lawmakers and their staff working in parliament.
Almost 40 Tory ministers have been named as perpetrators by parliamentary staff. Testimony from women workers and parliament members — who have created message groups to warn incoming staffers about harassment — falls in line with the claims.
"I think people at home will be quite angry about this because, a bit like the Harvey Weinstein stuff, parliament, like Hollywood, is very good at preaching to people what they ought to be doing and how they ought to be behaving,” Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said to ABC, referring to the scandal involving Hollywood director and producer Harvey Weinstein.
“But I'm afraid this shows that in our own backyard we don't live up to the high standards that we would expect others to," he said.
Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the minister’s behavior Friday, saying it was “completely unacceptable” and that any minister who behaved similarly will face serious consequences.
However, a spokesperson for May refused to divulge when she had first heard of the numerous allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, only saying May acted as soon as the news of Garnier became public, and was not aware of any other allegations.