The stark phrase “Tory rapist” has been trending on Twitter following reports that a Conservative MP has been arrested on suspicion of raping a former parliamentary employee.
The abuse is alleged to have taken place last year and led to the woman going to the hospital.
Calls have since been made for the politician to be removed, but a spokesperson for Government chief whip Mark Spencer has said he wanted to await the conclusion of the police inquiry.
“These are serious allegations and it is right that they are investigated fully,” they said.
“The whip has not been suspended. This decision will be reviewed once the police investigation has been concluded.”
Jess Phillips – who was recently appointed the Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding – is among those who have criticised the “appalling decision.”
Speaking on Good Morning Britain via video link on 3 August, the Labour MP said: “Absolutely something that has to be taken into account but what we are talking about here is a safeguarding matter, as far as I am concerned.”
She continued: “Of course, everybody is innocent until proven guilty in our criminal justice system.
“However I am not sure I would want to send my child, for example, to a school where a teacher had been arrested and bailed for the crime of rape.
“I would expect, under those circumstances, as is safeguarding law, that those people would be suspended pending further investigation.”
“This is about risk,” Phillips added.
“Before I came on air this morning, I was talking to a woman who is homeless and has called out to me for help.
“Members of parliament, every single day, speak to vulnerable people.”
She finished powerfully: “The Prime Minister has to ask the question today: is he happy for a young woman who may have been raped, may have been abused, to go and seek support from this person?”
The passionate interview follows a series of tweets from the minister, who has questioned the Conservative party’s claims that they are taking the matter seriously.
“This is an appalling decision that sends a message that the Conservative Party do not take either their safeguarding responsibility or people who come forward seriously,” Phillips said.
“I hope that decent Tories privately contact Number 10 and their whips and express their disgust.”
Phillips, sharing a screengrab from the Conservative party whips’ statement on the matter, continued: “How exactly has the Conservative party taken this seriously? What action have they taken?
“What assurances can they give the young women who work in our offices in Westminster?”
The Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, has confirmed that it has launched an investigation into the allegations.
“On Friday 31 July, the Metropolitan Police Service received allegations relating to four separate incidents involving allegations of sexual offences and assault,” the force said in a statement.
“These offences are alleged to have occurred at addresses in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney between July 2019 and January 2020.
“A man in his 50s was arrested on Saturday 1 August on suspicion of rape. He has been released on bail to return on a date in mid-August.”
According to Rape Crisis, 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16 in England and Wales.
If you or anyone you know needs help and support, you can call the Rape Crisis national helpline on 0808 802 9999 (open 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm daily). You can also find your nearest centre here or visit the website for more information.