• Will Penkethman-Carr

The political wank: Just another scandal swept under the rug?


Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq


So Neil Parish MP had a wank. So what? People do it all the time, and while there is a question on the ethics of pornography — a separate realm of enquiry, there is hardly space to even skim the subject here — the real subject should be ethical double-standards. By pleasuring himself, he has done far less damage to the honour of Parliament, than say, hosting a party during lockdown or sending refugees to Rwanda. If I was him, I’d be fuming. To have to resign over a wank! Better to be hanged as a sheep than a lamb: he should have had pornstars join him on the back bench, an open orgy during the speeches.


Earl Jellicoe and Lord Lambton hired sex workers in the 1970’s; Jerry Hayes was hounded in the press for homosexual adultery in the 1990’s; now a wank in the House of Commons. Do we need the full list? The point is that sex scandals in and around the UK government are as part of the establishment as racism. And Neil Parish’s resignation will do little to change the standards there. A course of action that would be far more effective would be launching an Inquiry into the Psychology of Members of Parliament, which would have the theoretical scope to cover sexism, racism, and the will to power that seems common among those after the No. 10 job.


The criminal wank, it is suggested, is not in itself the issue, but that it is symptomatic of a culture of sexism in Parliament. Well, yes. But we cannot be “shell shocked” that that is the case. It is surely one of the biggest open secrets that there is sexism in the UK government. A resignation and quickly moving on, however, will not address the issue — which is seemingly what has happened. By the time this article will be published, this is already old news. Another Wikipedia entry into the long list of parliamentary embarrassment. The secondary accusation is that having a wank in Parliament is unprofessional. Which is a laughably ironic accusation: haven’t we forgotten that we’re living through the government of Boris Johnson? Professionalism died long ago.


Instead of resigning over coming on the back benches, he should have resigned over his political brutality. I’m referring to his voting record: he has voted against spending on welfare and housing benefits, voted against laws which promote equality and human rights, voted against gay marriage, voted against investigations into the Iraq war, and voted against measures to prevent climate change. These are but a few of his parliamentary proceedings. The suspicion lingers that an MP rises and falls in Parliament, not by the moral acuity of their politics, but by the prevailing winds of British Puritanism.


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