- UK Parliament
- Two Conservative MPs blocked the passage of a bill that would have criminalised “upskirting” in the UK.
- Other Tory MPs are furious, and moving quickly to try and distance themselves from the pair amid fears of a PR disaster.
- “In every party, there are one or two MPs whose knuckles drag along the ground,” one MP tweeted.
Conservative MPs and ministers are moving quickly to try and distance themselves from two colleagues who blocked the passage of a law that would have made “upskirting” illegal in the UK.
On Friday, two Conservative MPs – Philip Davies and Christopher Chope – blocked a cross-party bill to make the taking of photos up women’s skirts a criminal offence.
The bill, which is backed by both the government and opposition parties, seeks to make upskirting a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison. However, the pair spent several hours on Friday speaking in the House of Commons in a successful attempt to talk out the bill.
Under archaic parliamentary rules, MPs are able to block bills brought forward by backbench MPs on Friday sessions if the debate extends beyond 2.30pm. Once the 2.30 deadline passed, MPs were asked whether they objected to the bill continuing its route through parliament after which Chope replied “object” – thereby delaying its passage until July at the earliest.
Their colleagues are now furious, and Chope has come under particular fire as Tory MPs express their outrage and attempt to avert a PR disaster for the Conservatives.
Home office minister Caroline Noakes said the move was “completely unfathomable,” tweeting: “Hugely disappointed to see a colleague block a bill to protect women from so-called ‘upskirting’ today. No woman should ever face such an abhorrent act with no recourse to prosecution. Completely unfathomable.”
“In every party, there are one or two MPs whose knuckles drag along the ground,” Nick Boles MP tweeted. “Today, unfortunately, a sensible reform to protect women was blocked by one of ours.”
In WhatsApp messages leaked to political blog Guido Fawkes, Conservative MPs attacked Chope’s record. “He also blocked a law to protect police dogs from getting stabbed, shortly after blocking the upskirting law. Great look,” said former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith. (Note: As Business Insider’s Adam Payne points out on Twitter, MPs are known to selectively leak their own WhatsApp messages to improve their public image.)
“I worked with Gina [Morris, the campaigner and upskirting victim who pushed for the bill] on this and I’m disgusted by Chris,” wrote Ross Thomson, Conservative MP for Aberdeen South.
A message from Mark Menzies MP hints the Conservatives’ concern that Chope’s actions may damage their public image. “Chris blocking the ban is the lead and most read story on BBC online,” he wrote. “It is very damaging and sends out every type of negative message.”
Some people are now calling for action to be taken against Chope.
Comedian and broadcaster and comedian Sue Perkins urged his constituents to vote him out at the next election, tweeting: “Citizens of Christchurch, does this gentleman represent your views? If not, then the rest of us would be delighted if you booted him out at the next election.”
And Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting, called for him to be stripped of his knighthood. “I am dismayed to think we hand out honours to people who block bills like this,” she wrote. “This is disgraceful – it’s a disservice to politics and public life. His knighthood should be removed.”
Both Chope and Davies have a long history of talking out backbench bills. In the past, they have talked out bills on everything from an attempt to give carers free hospital parking, to a bill designed to protect tenants from being unfairly evicted.
In an interview with Business Insider in 2016 Davies said that he was only doing his job by delaying such bills. “That’s the method we have in the rules,” he said.
“I don’t set the rules but if you believe that a piece of legislation is bad and you want to block it then you’ve got to use the method that the rules allow to block it.”