Boris Johnson Criticized for Not Suspending U.K. Tory Accused of Rape

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Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party faced criticism for not suspending a Member of Parliament arrested on Saturday on suspicion of rape.

The main opposition Labour Party’s spokeswoman on Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, Jess Phillips, told Times Radio on Sunday that it’s “shocking” the MP hadn’t been suspended.

“In any other organization were this investigation to be going on, this police investigation, somebody would be suspended while the investigation was taking place,” Phillips said. “I find it shocking this morning, the news that the Conservative Party have decided not to withdraw the whip in this case.”

Withdrawing “the whip” -- throwing someone out of the parliamentary party -- is a form of discipline in British politics reserved for serious breaches of the rules.

Government chief whip Mark Spencer, who is in charge of Tory party discipline, said the allegations were very serious and said the status of the accused MP would be reviewed after the police conclude their investigation. Speaking to reporters, Spencer suggested that acting against the MP now could risk identifying the victim, who is legally entitled to anonymity.

London’s Metropolitan Police issued a statement saying they’d arrested a man in his 50s on Saturday on suspicion of rape. Detectives have received “allegations of four separate incidents involving allegations of sexual offenses and assault” in London between July 2019 and January 2020, the police said. The man has been released on bail and asked to return in mid-August, according to the statement.

On Monday, Nadhim Zahawi, who is currently a minister in Johnson’s government, said the allegations were “very serious,” but refused to comment on the details of the case, citing the police investigation. And Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters it would be “inappropriate” for him to comment on an ongoing probe.

“It’s only right that we wait for that investigation to conclude before you’ll be hearing from the chief whip,” Zahawi told BBC TV.

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