Tory MP Faces Commons Suspension for Telling Male Staffer to Be ‘Less Alluring’

Official portrait of Rob Roberts MP. Rob Roberts is the Conservative MP for Delyn, and has been an MP continuously since 12 December 2019.
UK Parliament

MP Rob Roberts has been suspended from the Conservative Party and faces a suspension from the House of Commons after an internal complaints panel ruled he had sexually harassed a male staff member, at one point telling him to be “less alluring” because the MP found the subordinate attractive. Roberts had also asked a 21-year-old female intern if she wanted to “fool around” with him.

The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) recommended that Roberts be suspended from Parliament for six weeks. The ban would be put into effect only if MPs vote to support the decision.

The Times explained that ordinarily, any suspension longer than ten sitting days would lead to a recall petition. If the MP’s constituents backed the removal of their elected representative, it would trigger a by-election for the seat. However, as the recommendation came from the IEP rather than the standards committee, such a process would not follow, with the newspaper noting it was ‘unclear’ if Roberts could face removal.

Roberts has since had the whip removed, meaning he has been suspended from the party but may continue to sit as an MP, according to The Guardian.

The episodes of sexual harassment related to an unnamed male junior member of staff. The MP was found to have frequently propositioned him despite his advances being rejected. Roberts also exhibited jealous behaviour towards the man and often attempted to book private meetings alone with him.

The MP for Delwyn in Wales, who had revealed he was gay after being married for 15 years, had been elected in December 2019 and made his “first advance” in early 2020, just ten days after the staff member started work.

While alone together in a car on a constituency visit, Mr Roberts had said to his employee: “I find you very attractive and alluring and I need you to make attempts to be less alluring in the office because it’s becoming very difficult for me.”

The staffer went on to tell the BBC that despite rejecting his boss’s advances, the MP that weekend tried to make further moves, and even put “one-to-one” events in the employee’s diary. During one of these private meetings, Roberts had brought up the incident in the car and said that he wanted to pursue the advance further because it would “make me very happy”.

In the following days, Roberts then exhibited “jealous behaviour”, including quizzing the employee whether he was having lunch with men or women and continued to book private drinking sessions in his diary without his consent.

The employee eventually made a complaint, was reassigned, but eventually left Parliament.

Other allegations levelled against the MP include messages Roberts had allegedly sent in April 2020 to a 21-year-old female intern asking her if she wanted to “fool around” with him.

The messages, seen by the BBC in July, appear to show Roberts write to the young intern at 11:23 pm on April 12th: “Just thought we could have some fun maybe, no strings. Will leave it with you. I might be gay but I enjoy… fun times,” following by a grinning emoji.

After sending five more messages within six minutes — including one where he begged her, “Pweeeease!” — she responded that she was suffering from a mental health issue.

Despite being told that the young woman was in a fragile state, Roberts replied: “I was just thinking about fun times… Maybe if you thought of them too it might help you.”

She told the broadcaster the messages made her feel “incredibly sick”.

“I had had one of the worst days ever, and then I messaged him saying I’m crying, I’m not okay — and his solution to that was to proposition me,” she said.

The prime minister’s spokesman said he was committed to bringing about the vote on the suspension. When asked about the current procedure for automatic recall petitions, the spokesman told The Times: “We are considering next steps and will update shortly.”

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