08/03/2018 Newsnight


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08/03/2018

In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Emily Maitlis.


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He was particularly nasty to those

he felt were below him.

I witnessed

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him sort of explode at people. He

was known for having a dreadful

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temper.

So he harasses you, he gets a quiet

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word and you have to change jobs?

Yes.

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Aggressive, dismissive, rude. And

ultimately bullying.

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It ground her down.

Basically

reached crisis point and she could

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no longer do her job.

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Harassment, bullying

and intimidation behind the walls

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of the Palace of Westminster.

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Three MPs named in our exclusive

report - Newsnight has testimonies

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from the women at the centre.

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Good evening.

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Tonight, we take you inside

the House of Commons

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in a tale of bullying,

harassment and intimidation.

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Newsnight has spoken

to dozens of female workers

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within the palace of Westminster,

who are known as the clerks.

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There is a pattern

to their testimonies.

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They told us of aggressive and

threatening behaviour, of the lack

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of proper redress, of careers

terminated or misdirected.

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And then they told us that the very

system put in place to address this

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kind of bullying, had in itself

failed to deal with it.

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We heard of woman with post

traumatic stress disorder.

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She left her job.

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Another quit and left the country.

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Even the Speaker of the House

himself, John Bercow,

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faces accusations.

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The women's stories are unflinching,

and there is some swearing

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in this exclusive report

by Chris Cook and Lucinda Day.

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Before we get to it,

Chris joins me.

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One of the things that is really

struck us as we have spoken to these

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dozens of women is the remarkable

sort of unity of the story. Usually

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when you do a thing like this, you

will find some people who disagree

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and some who agree. We found a

strong consensus there is a serious

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problem in the House of Commons. The

culture in part is the reason why

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processes don't seem to operate

properly. There is really no

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confidence among women who work for

the house of commons that any of the

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proposals being discussed at the

moment about reforming the way the

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house works to protect them, will

really work. What I hope we will

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show in our film is the reason why

they don't have any that confidence.

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The House of Commons is not just

a seat of political intrigue or

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tourist destination.

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It is also a workplace.

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But it is a workplace

with a particular problem with

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bullying and with sexual harassment.

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We've heard a number

of allegations against MPs.

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And not just backbench MPs

at the bottom of the pile.

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These accusations run

all the way to the top.

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To John Bercow, the Speaker

of the House of Commons.

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And the people making these

allegations are public

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servants who have dedicated their

lives to making our parliament work.

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This group is always there,

even in the biggest

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parliamentary moments.

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But you probably never

really look at them.

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He was the future once!

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You might have spotted

some of them, perhaps

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the people down here

who until recently routinely

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wore wigs to sittings.

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Nothing is really impossible

if you put your mind to it.

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After all, as I once said,

I was the future once!

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Now politicians come and go

but this little army of

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public servants,

they are always there.

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In the chamber...

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Forgive me.

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Please contribute to this question.

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This is a big piece of information.

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And committees.

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These people work for something

known as the House of

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Commons service.

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And they have a range of job titles.

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Clerks, inquiry managers,

committee specialists, but

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together, we are going to refer to

them by the term by which they are

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known to the rest of Westminster.

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The Clerks.

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These are the people who run

committee inquiries and to quietly

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umpire the business of the House.

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Newsnight has heard shocking

testimony that women in these roles

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face a particular problem.

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Newsnight has spoken

to dozens of current and

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former clerks who allege

to us that they face

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a real issue with sexual

harassment and bullying by MPs.

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Almost all have reasons

to request anonymity.

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Usually because they still work

in Westminster or Whitehall.

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He sort of manoeuvred me out

into the corridor and, um, put

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his arms around me, and um kissed me

on the lips, and I couldn't do

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anything about it.

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I could not force him off.

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My arms were against my chest

and he was holding me so

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tightly that I couldn't

push him away.

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I made a chocolate cake for one

of my colleagues's birthday

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and I was just putting

the finishing touches

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before without our end

of the day little celebration.

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And I was kneeling,

putting the rest of

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the icing on the cake,

and the MP in question coming

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he came in and laughed and came

and stood right

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over me, I remember it being very

overbearingly close, and him saying,

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"Right where you belong,

on your knees with a face

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full of chocolate."

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The MP exploded on me so

aggressively that my colleague stood

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between us to physically

shield him from me.

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These cases run from the 1990s

to more recent years.

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And in that time the

House has changed its

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HR policies several times

but there's one we constantly

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keep hearing about.

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Women do not feel that if they

complain to the House authority

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and their concerns will

be taken seriously.

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In part because the culture

of the House emphasises the

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idea that clerks need to be tough.

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From the day you start working

in the House of Commons,

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there can be situations

where you are required to

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deliver difficult messages.

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In those circumstances,

it's seen as very

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important to be robust,

and if you have pushback

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from members to be resilient and be

able to hold your

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ground, to respond appropriately.

And that is entirely appropriate for

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staff, the difficulty is one that

extends to one member behaves

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inappropriately towards you, you're

still expected to just put up

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with that situation.

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Clerks talk a lot about resilience

but it doesn't mean

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in the House of Commons

what it means outside.

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It means absorbing behaviour

from members of Parliament

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and also senior clerks and not

questioning it or not complaining

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about it.

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When you say behaviour,

harassment, bullying?

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Yeah.

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They expect you to suck it up

and not make a fuss?

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Yeah.

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I think that is deemed

to be a trait of a

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successful clerk in the House.

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It's your ability to absorb

and be resilient, yeah.

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We found that women working

for the Commons often feel

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that they pay the price

of complaining about misconduct.

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This former clerk's

manager attempted to

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deal with the sexual

harassment by the MP that

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she described earlier.

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Having spoken to the MP and some

other senior management team

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members, she didn't tell me who,

that the best course of action would

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be to move me from that committee.

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So if he harasses you, the solution

is he gets a quiet word and

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you have to change jobs.

Yes.

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That doesn't seem like a reasonable

response to workplace harassment.

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Not at all.

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I didn't want to do.

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I enjoyed what I was doing,

I really enjoyed my

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team and despite was was going

on I didn't want to move.

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That's something

of a theme we found.

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Clerks told us that they fear

that if they raise

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complaints about MPs it will be them

who is moved not the MP.

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They also fear that

complaining just marks

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their cards, as weak,

sensitive, or a troublemaker.

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One of the women we have heard

from did complain to

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her manager about sexual assault

by an MP early in her career in

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the 1990s.

Nothing happened.

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She was harassed

throughout her time there.

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So here is how she filed by the end

of a long career in House.

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There was absolutely no

point in me reporting

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anything because I would have been

made to feel I wasn't resilient or

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tough enough.

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So one of your friends told us.

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They thought that they had done

a bit better than you in the

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House of Commons, even though

they thought you were more talented,

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because she had stayed

quiet and you have not.

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Do you think that's possible?

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I think that's possible.

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I think I'm not alone

as a woman in feeling inferior

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in the workplace.

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And that is something that I have

carried with me for quite a

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long time.

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People are still fearful

about speaking out because there are

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recent examples where people end up

getting moved or leaving the House

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in relation to raising these things.

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Management have told us to report

stuff but I think if I raised

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something I'd be moved.

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In all my time here

I haven't seen one case go

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against a member.

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CHEERING

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Lets start naming names.

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This is the Tory MP for...

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Mark Pritchard.

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We have heard time

and again about his

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reputation among women clerks.

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He was particularly

nasty to those he

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felt were below him.

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I witnessed him explode

to people, he was known for

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having a dreadful temper.

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The people in the room

who were administering

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to the needs of the committee

were all female.

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And we got called a useless gaggle

of girls or something

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along those lines, I wish

I remember the exact phrase.

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His attitude was vile,

I remember him once giving a

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female clerk a dressing down in

front of everyone, the way he spoke

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was threatening and aggressive.

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I have seen him with my own eyes

screaming at people for

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nothing, really.

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He went mad at me, it got very

personal, he said something

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like, you stupid young woman,

you haven't got a fucking clue

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what you are talking about,

who the fuck do you think you are?

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I remember being very upset by it.

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A number of the outbursts by Mr

Pritchard that we have heard about

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seem to follow a pattern.

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He has on several

occasions sought to change

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arrangements for committee trips.

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For example, changing his flights,

or in one case during the trip to

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Los Angeles, trying

to change his hotel.

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Then the clerks refuse because there

are strict rules about the

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stuff and he will fly into a rage.

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We have been told that House

managers know about this because he

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would often take years and Greek

complaints directly to them.

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-- angry complaints.

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This was seen, we

were told, as a means

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of intimidating the clerks

on his committee.

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Mr Prichard said we didn't

provide him with enough

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detail to respond but said...

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The thing is, clerks

tend not to raise

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formal complaints.

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Indeed since 2014, no complaints

have been escalated to

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the point where even

mediation is required.

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Women know what happened

to the last clerk to pursue

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a case.

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They have all heard of someone

called Emily Commander.

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She was brilliant, probably the best

line manager I ever had in the House

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of Commons.

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She was incredibly bright,

had a very deft way at

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understanding huge amounts

of information very quickly.

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But she also had the

people skills which I

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found quite unusual

in clerks sometimes.

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And she was good at managing MPs,

which is not always

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easy sometimes.

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She was appointed

as the clerk of the

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culture media and sport

committee in 2010.

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She was laid clerk on perhaps

the highest profile of a select

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committee investigation,

the phone hacking inquiry.

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Where Rupert Murdoch

was attacked with a foam pie.

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Also on that committee

was Paul Farrelly, the

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Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme.

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Mr Farrelly and Ms Commander had

worked together before, she had been

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a clerk on the science

and technology committee.

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They had even been

on a committee visit to Italy

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in May 2004.

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This is what one witness

said happened there.

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He treated appallingly

in front of everyone.

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He wound her up like a screw

and reduced to tears.

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The more he upset her,

the more he enjoyed it, the

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more he kept turning the screw.

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He was very aggressive. It felt like

no one had the ability or the

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authority to intervene. Everyone

knew it was wrong.

When they were

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reunited on the culture media and

sport committee other witnesses told

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us Mr Farrelly started again.

He

undermined her and pretty much every

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given opportunity. We were in a lot

of meetings and in these meetings

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pretty much whenever she opened her

mouth, he would undermine her. He

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would interject. He would call into

question pretty much every time she

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spoke.

How would you characterise

his attitude towards her?

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Aggressive, dismissive, rude. And

ultimately bullying.

And how much of

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an effect on her?

It ground her

down. It basically reached crisis

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point. She could no longer do her

job. He had undermined her and

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bullied her so much, so regularly,

so badly, that she was left entirely

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exhausted, and incredibly

distressed.

And e-mail chain

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obtained by Newsnight summarising

the case reveals the testimony of

0:15:150:15:18

Miss Commander to her bosses.

I have

an anxious about encountering him, I

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have repeated nightmares about

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have repeated nightmares about going

on committee visits with Mr Farrelly

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and been criticised by him for

having neglected tiny details. After

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particularly unpleasant meetings I

have felt physically six.

In 2012

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formal complaint was raised against

Mr Farrelly, a novelty, the

0:15:430:15:47

procedure had been introduced just

eight months before. This was the

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so-called respect policy. On inquiry

was set up to be run by has official

0:15:520:15:56

and it found to other women had

complaints about his previous

0:15:560:16:02

behaviour. Both testified. Newsnight

has obtained a summary of one of

0:16:020:16:06

those testimonies.

I remember on

occasions I noticed my hands shaking

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before a meeting of the committee. I

began to sleep badly and lost my

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appetite. My husband and friends

wanted me to go to the doctor and be

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signed off with stress.

The three

testimonies gave the House

0:16:200:16:24

authorities a pattern of behaviour

going back eight years. But

0:16:240:16:28

Newsnight has learned that the House

had decided that only behaviour that

0:16:280:16:34

postdated the adoption of the

Respect policy should fall within

0:16:340:16:37

the scope of the investigation. The

Respect policy was only introduced

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eight months before. An inquiry that

began in February 2012 was only

0:16:430:16:47

accepting evidence from June 2011

onwards. The testimony of those to

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other women was discarded. The

inquiry ruled that Ms Commander's

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complaint in 2012, it could only

reach a decision on a field of

0:16:570:17:02

allegations yet overall it upheld

the complaint, concluding that had

0:17:020:17:05

been an abuse of power and position,

and fair treatment and undermining a

0:17:050:17:10

competent work by constant

criticism. The process than called

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for that decision to be considered

by the House of Commons commission,

0:17:160:17:20

a committee of MPs.

Order, order.

The commission was chaired by John

0:17:200:17:25

Burkle, then as now the Speaker of

the house. Yet when they first met

0:17:250:17:29

in November 2012 they couldn't reach

a decision on what to do. Newsnight

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has obtained documents logging how a

senior clerk in the house let it be

0:17:340:17:38

known into the union in the House

that Ms Commander should go into

0:17:380:17:43

mediation with Mr Farrelly. They

should sit down and work it out.

0:17:430:17:47

Because if she did not, the hint was

dropped, the commission would vote

0:17:470:17:51

to conclude that no bullying had

taken place. So what happened then?

0:17:510:17:57

The case was allowed to Peter out

over the next six months. Mr

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Farrelly wrote an apology in private

and that was it. The case was

0:18:010:18:06

closed. So here he is in January at

the hearing about the BBC's gender

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pay gap. Still on the culture media

and sport committee. Miss Commander

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has left the House and emigrated. We

put all of this to the House of

0:18:150:18:20

Commons. The Speaker denies that

either he or the commission ever

0:18:200:18:24

insisted on mediation. They also

point out that when the case of Mr

0:18:240:18:29

Farrelly reached the commission in

November 2012 they suspended the

0:18:290:18:32

respect policy. They came to this

view, they said, because

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investigations were undertaken by a

House of Commons official who might

0:18:370:18:40

be considered to have an interest.

And members had no right of appeal

0:18:400:18:44

if a complaint was upheld, while

staff could appeal it if it was

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dismissed. In other words, they

suspended the Respect policy in

0:18:490:18:54

November 2012 and then reformed and

because they thought the old Respect

0:18:540:18:58

policy was too tough on MPs. That is

Mr Farrelly's reading as well, he

0:18:580:19:04

told Newsnight the allegations were

not upheld by the commission and the

0:19:040:19:08

policy under which they were

investigated was considered so

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unfair that it was immediately

withdrawn and replaced by another

0:19:110:19:15

policy. He denies any bullying. The

House also said that the policy as

0:19:150:19:20

it existed in 2011 lacked the

required legal underpinning to be

0:19:200:19:24

used to sanction MPs.

Order.

There

are discussions once more about

0:19:240:19:30

fixing the houses edge proceedings

but the clerks are not hopeful.

Let

0:19:300:19:36

me make it clear, there must be zero

tolerance of sexual harassment or

0:19:360:19:40

bullying here at Westminster or

elsewhere. Whether that involves

0:19:400:19:50

members or their staff or

parliamentary staff, or those

0:19:500:19:54

working on, or visiting the estate.

This is the Speaker, late last year,

0:19:540:20:00

the same speed get involved in the

inquiry into Paul Farrelly.

House of

0:20:000:20:05

Commons commission, which I chair,

has a duty to provide a safe to

0:20:050:20:10

work.

He remains, in effect, the

boss of all the clerks. But based on

0:20:100:20:17

our interviews, his reputation on

bullying is not good.

For my part as

0:20:170:20:24

Speaker, I am happy to do whatever I

can. Others must do likewise.

Back

0:20:240:20:31

in 2010, a woman

0:20:310:20:38

in 2010, a woman called Kate Emms

became John Burkle's private sector

0:20:380:20:40

to become a major position in the

House. Yet she stood down from that

0:20:400:20:45

post after less than a year in early

2011. His colleagues dash her

0:20:450:20:51

colleagues have told Newsnight that

Mr Burkle's bullying left her unable

0:20:510:20:54

to continue in the job. She was sad

and sick. As managers had to find a

0:20:540:20:59

new role within the House. Has

authorities were told she had

0:20:590:21:04

post-traumatic stress disorder.

Accounts of Kate Emms's experience

0:21:040:21:09

are widely known among clerks.

Witnesses have described John Burkle

0:21:090:21:14

shouting at her comic undermining

her and other stuff. A subsequent

0:21:140:21:18

job was abducted so she would not

have to the Speaker. A spokesperson

0:21:180:21:23

said that the speaker completely and

utterly refutes the allegation that

0:21:230:21:26

he behaved in such a manner, either

eight years ago or at any other

0:21:260:21:31

time. Any suggestion to the contrary

is simply not true. This episode

0:21:310:21:37

left one strange memento. You see

Kate Emms was the speaker's Private

0:21:370:21:42

assistant when he had his official

portraits done. She was supposed to

0:21:420:21:47

be in it with him. She posed for the

artist. However this painting wasn't

0:21:470:21:51

revealed until six months after she

took her next job, and it was

0:21:510:21:58

revealed that her successor had been

painted in, in her place, another

0:21:580:22:03

woman clerk moved. Men suffer in the

system as well but women clerks are

0:22:030:22:09

particularly vulnerable. Lots to us

that the House does not have its

0:22:090:22:13

house in order. That is what so many

of them cast the ultimate vote of

0:22:130:22:18

no-confidence in their own

management and simply choose to

0:22:180:22:21

public service. -- simply choose to

leave.

0:22:210:22:28

That story from Lucinda

Day and Chris Cook.

0:22:280:22:30

Details of organisations

offering information

0:22:300:22:31

and support with bullying,

sexual harassment or abuse, are

0:22:310:22:33

available at bbc.co.uk/actionline,

or you can call for free at any time

0:22:330:22:36

to hear recorded information

on 0800 077 077.

0:22:360:22:44

Joining us now, deputy leader

of the Liberal Democrats,

0:22:450:22:47

Jo Swinson, who sits

on the cross party working group

0:22:470:22:49

on an independent complaints

and grievance policy.

0:22:490:22:52

Jo, nice of you to come in. Let me

ask you, did any of those stories

0:22:520:22:58

reach you, are those names all cases

familiar?

Not those specific cases

0:22:580:23:05

although in the working group we

considered evidence from staff but

0:23:050:23:09

most of it was anonymous because

staff did not feel comfortable,

0:23:090:23:13

there is still this via issue around

it and we had on our working group

0:23:130:23:19

three staff representatives who were

excellent. They collated the stories

0:23:190:23:23

and brought them forward. It does

chime in, we obviously started this

0:23:230:23:28

process following reports about

sexual harassment at Westminster

0:23:280:23:32

which was obviously very serious,

and would have come forward with

0:23:320:23:36

proposals on that. What was

interesting from the staff

0:23:360:23:40

representatives, while there were

also concerned about but they said

0:23:400:23:42

in terms of the quantity of general

experiences, the more general

0:23:420:23:47

bullying and harassment was a great

issue in terms of how many people it

0:23:470:23:51

affected.

So what does this story as

Chris has told it to might tell you?

0:23:510:23:57

What it raises questions about is

the existing Respect policy which

0:23:570:24:02

exists for House stuff. One step

ahead of where we were. Working from

0:24:020:24:08

members of parliament, which we were

looking at in our deliberations,

0:24:080:24:12

because they had nothing like this.

At least House stuff had the respect

0:24:120:24:17

policy. But clearly the

implementation of that, from the

0:24:170:24:21

testimony in your report, does raise

significant questions.

Be blunt, it

0:24:210:24:26

hasn't worked. It doesn't work. If

the whole Respect policy has to be

0:24:260:24:32

suspended the moment you bring an

allegation and change because it is

0:24:320:24:36

considered too hard line,

fundamentally that is worse than

0:24:360:24:38

having nothing, is it not?

There is

a fair point about making sure an

0:24:380:24:43

appeals process is built-in, that is

fair enough. We concluded on the

0:24:430:24:47

working group that it would be

helpful if this new process bringing

0:24:470:24:53

in would ultimately help House stuff

because we did not think the Respect

0:24:530:24:58

policy was sufficient. Particularly

in terms of sexual harassment where

0:24:580:25:01

it had not been used at all, which I

don't take to believe that none of

0:25:010:25:05

it was happening but more that it

was not trusted to bring those

0:25:050:25:08

complaints forward.

So when you look

and hear and what you have seen

0:25:080:25:13

tonight, what should happen to those

men named, Pritchard, Farrelly and

0:25:130:25:18

Jon Bercow?

The obvious thing to say

would be that there should be a

0:25:180:25:25

thorough independent investigation.

That is what is supposed to have

0:25:250:25:27

happened.

Can they keep their jobs?

Whispered one side of the story. We

0:25:270:25:33

have heard denials. I've heard this

for the first time this evening. But

0:25:330:25:37

they do deserve to have a proper

independent process and I think that

0:25:370:25:41

is what clearly, in terms of the 20

job process, just going to a

0:25:410:25:46

committee of MPs is not sufficient.

This is where independence is so

0:25:460:25:49

important because you have this

power dynamic in Parliament.

So who

0:25:490:25:54

does it then? The frustrations of

Jon Bercow in particular, it is that

0:25:540:26:00

he is presiding over the system

while being part of the alleged

0:26:000:26:03

problem. Where do you go to address

that?

Is always an issue in any

0:26:030:26:07

organisation where you'll have some

of the other top of the organisation

0:26:070:26:11

who is where the complaint goes.

This is what we've recommended a

0:26:110:26:15

properly independent process with

the investigation will be carried

0:26:150:26:17

out in terms of sexual harassment by

Rob Lee trained sexual violence

0:26:170:26:22

advocates and in terms of workplace

by, will contract an independent

0:26:220:26:26

service to be able to conduct that

investigation thoroughly.

But what

0:26:260:26:30

does it say when legislators are not

able to look after their own

0:26:300:26:38

judicial process!

It says Parliament

is an outdated workplace. It doesn't

0:26:380:26:43

have modern professional standards.

There a culture of exceptionalism

0:26:430:26:47

which has many MPs see themselves

above other members of staff rather

0:26:470:26:51

than being in a collegiate

environment where we work with

0:26:510:26:54

clerks and other members of staff to

deliver good legislative lawmaking

0:26:540:26:58

for the good of democracy. And that

culture, whatever process you put in

0:26:580:27:03

place, it is part of what is so

important to change. Because what we

0:27:030:27:08

have seen on that video tonight is,

even when you have a process, if

0:27:080:27:13

your power relationships are what

they are, the dynamic is that MPs

0:27:130:27:16

have all the power, and if your

culture is that it's easier to move

0:27:160:27:19

somebody more junior than challenge

someone in power, then nothing will

0:27:190:27:23

happen.

Joe Swinson, you are sitting

on a committee in a position to

0:27:230:27:29

help. -- Jo. Do you have any sense

of optimism that you can change

0:27:290:27:34

this?

I have some but I don't

underestimate the challenges. We

0:27:340:27:38

have agreed and we are starting on

the process now of consulting on a

0:27:380:27:42

behaviour code for everyone who

works in parliament that we hope

0:27:420:27:45

will encompass all staff, all

members. And there needs to be

0:27:450:27:48

proper training. Because the

assumption that just because someone

0:27:480:27:53

is elected to parliament that they

understand how to be a good

0:27:530:27:56

employer, that they understand all

these issues about how to treat

0:27:560:27:59

others...

And not bully others

you

would hope they would but having the

0:27:590:28:05

training to set the cultural tone is

essential.

Jo Swinson, thank you for

0:28:050:28:10

coming in.

0:28:100:28:12

The police officer who rushed

to the aid of the Russian who spied

0:28:120:28:16

for Britain is tonight recovering

in hospital in Wiltshire.

0:28:160:28:18

Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey

is still in a serious condition

0:28:180:28:20

after his own exposure

to the nerve agent.

0:28:200:28:22

Police have praised his

courage and dedication.

0:28:220:28:24

Last night, after

several days' silence,

0:28:240:28:25

Russian domestic news put

the attempted assassination

0:28:250:28:27

of the former spy on its evening

bulletin, with what sounded

0:28:270:28:30

like a couched, possibly

satirical threat -

0:28:300:28:31

warning anyone who dreamt

of a career as a double agent could

0:28:310:28:35

expect their life to be curtailed.

0:28:350:28:43

The presenter went on to advise

"traitors or those who simply

0:28:430:28:45

hate their country in their free

time" not to choose Britain

0:28:450:28:48

as a place to live.

0:28:480:28:49

But back to our own broadcast

and our diplomatic editor,

0:28:490:28:52

Mark Urban, who's been

leading the way on much of

0:28:520:28:54

this investigation,

is with me again tonight.

0:28:540:29:02

As the search for the nerve agent

become any clearer?

Yes. We now know

0:29:030:29:11

more about the nerve agent. They

have got things pretty specific. It

0:29:110:29:14

has taken them a few days. It is

much more specific now. What I am

0:29:140:29:24

hearing is that this has been used

to construct a case that there are

0:29:240:29:32

very few labs in the world that

could have produced something.

0:29:320:29:36

Esoteric and sophisticated in

chemical terms.

You mean this could

0:29:360:29:42

not be a criminal lab, it would have

to be something else?

Exactly, it

0:29:420:29:47

points towards a state institution.

A comparatively small number of

0:29:470:29:50

states have real expertise in

chemical warfare.

What are the

0:29:500:29:55

indications?

First and foremost,

first Sergei Skripal and Yulia, the

0:29:550:30:01

most precise information they have

about how this agent operates, I it

0:30:010:30:04

attacks the body, there may still be

some hope of getting them back from

0:30:040:30:10

the pretty catastrophic condition

that we understand they were in

0:30:100:30:12

after they were poisoned on Sunday.

They remained in critical condition.

0:30:120:30:18

We don't know when it will be

possible to bring them back to

0:30:180:30:22

health. More broadly, it is going to

form part of a diplomatic offensive,

0:30:220:30:27

if you like. I think we can see this

building up. Some fascinating

0:30:270:30:31

commons today by US under Secretary

of State to Christian Fraser.

0:30:310:30:39

If it was proven there was a link to

the Kremlin, would the United States

0:30:390:30:42

do something about that?

I think we

would be very supportive of whatever

0:30:420:30:47

decision the United Kingdom made.

What I am hearing is, to quote one

0:30:470:30:52

person involved in this, a lot of

conversations are now going on

0:30:520:30:57

between the UK and its Western

allies. Obviously starting with

0:30:570:31:01

America, but obviously European

allies. This suggests to me that

0:31:010:31:06

early next week we may see some

diplomatic push and the finger may

0:31:060:31:10

be pointed at a particular country.

Mark, thank you.

0:31:100:31:14

The role of King Lear is often

called the Everest of acting -

0:31:140:31:20

a part that has been described

variously as unplayable,

0:31:200:31:23

debilitating and almost intolerable

for the actor involved.

0:31:230:31:26

Sir Anthony Sher's portrayal

for the Royal Shakespeare Company

0:31:260:31:29

was called both monumental

and unbearably moving -

0:31:290:31:33

certainly, he brought a sense

of the frustration of frailty that

0:31:330:31:36

comes with old age.

0:31:360:31:39

His new book, Year of the Mad King,

charts the time he spent discovering

0:31:390:31:42

"the smell of mortality".

0:31:420:31:44

I talked to him earlier

about the role of Lear,

0:31:440:31:46

whether Shakespeare's language

was misogynist, and what should

0:31:460:31:49

happen to Kevin Spacey now.

0:31:490:31:55

I started by asking him how much of

a bearing age as on a production of

0:31:550:32:01

King Lear.

0:32:010:32:04

Yes, I think that's true.

0:32:040:32:05

I think because Shakespeare

charts his old age so

0:32:050:32:09

specifically, as you begin

to investigate it, there is

0:32:090:32:15

extraordinary resonance with either

older people that you know, or in my

0:32:150:32:19

case, my own age.

0:32:190:32:27

There are moments of Lear that

are terribly familiar.

0:32:280:32:36

And there's a particular point

Lear has these rages

0:32:360:32:40

in the early part of the play.

0:32:400:32:45

These extraordinary storms of anger

that come out of him.

0:32:450:32:52

And in one of the most famous -

his speech, "Reason not the need" -

0:32:520:32:56

he loses his way in the middle

of the speech, and has a series of

0:32:560:33:03

unfinished sentences.

It's such remarkable writing, that.

0:33:030:33:10

The most eloquent

playwright ever makes his

0:33:100:33:14

character inarticulate.

0:33:140:33:19

And several people have

said that when they see

0:33:190:33:24

that, it really makes

them feel quite strange,

0:33:240:33:28

because it's their dad up

there on the stage who is trying to

0:33:280:33:34

exert his force and

is losing his way.

0:33:340:33:39

It's a very remarkable

piece of writing.

0:33:390:33:43

There are very funny

moments you describe.

0:33:430:33:49

The growing of the beard

for Lear and others, which

0:33:490:33:52

creates havoc with your

own personal life.

0:33:520:33:57

Well, there is a point

where my beard gets very bushy.

0:33:570:34:02

Taxis won't stop for me.

0:34:020:34:06

I hail a black cab, it slows down,

takes a look and then speeds off!

0:34:060:34:11

And I think they're making

some sort of visual

0:34:110:34:17

assessment, that either I am

a tramp or a terrorist.

0:34:170:34:19

Some of the Shakespearean

language really shocked

0:34:190:34:23

you this time around.

He's describing female genitalia.

0:34:230:34:27

He's cursing a woman's loins.

Yeah.

0:34:270:34:30

And you think this

is actually coming

0:34:300:34:33

from the playwright himself?

0:34:330:34:36

Well, there are times

in Shakespeare where

0:34:360:34:42

the writing becomes so visceral

that it starts to feel personal.

0:34:420:34:46

I find it so shocking,

it is so graphic,

0:34:460:34:54

that I just don't know where

Shakespeare is getting that from.

0:34:540:34:57

Do you think it's misogynist?

0:34:570:34:59

It's definitely misogynist,

but surprising to find

0:34:590:35:03

that in a man, a writer

who is so all embracing.

0:35:030:35:11

Do you think Shakespeare was

physically repelled by women?

There

0:35:160:35:21

is a strong theory that he was gay,

mainly based on the fact that his

0:35:210:35:25

most personal writing, the sonnets,

three quarters of them are directed

0:35:250:35:32

to a young man. I don't know why

being gay should make him that

0:35:320:35:37

frightened of women. I mean, it's so

extreme in that speech, that it's

0:35:370:35:45

more than dislike or disgust. It's

like naked terror.

0:35:450:35:54

We are at a place

now, it feels as if

0:35:540:35:56

the MeToo movement is

rewriting power allocation.

0:35:560:35:58

Do you think that's

true in the theatre?

0:35:580:36:00

Oh, yes.

Oh, yes, yes.

0:36:000:36:02

At the RSC, much more than half

of the production staff up to

0:36:020:36:10

the directors are women.

0:36:100:36:18

It's very, very evident as a change

in how theatre operates.

0:36:180:36:24

And when it is about

sexual abuse or sexual

0:36:240:36:28

harassment - obviously

not just about women,

0:36:280:36:30

Kevin Spacey was disappeared

from the film he was making, a sense

0:36:300:36:34

of sort of being erased -

is that right?

0:36:340:36:36

Is that the right approach?

0:36:360:36:39

Look, I mean it's -

we are in the kind of shock waves

0:36:390:36:45

of the Weinstein scandal,

so everything is very

0:36:450:36:49

heightened at the moment.

0:36:490:36:54

It's kind of like a big

learning curve that we

0:36:540:36:56

have all undergone,

because of the startling revelation.

0:36:560:37:02

So I don't know how

things will settle.

0:37:020:37:09

Now that we can accept

it as something

0:37:090:37:12

that happens and can avoid it

happening, I don't know.

0:37:120:37:17

Someone like Spacey,

can he come back

0:37:170:37:22

in a couple of years' time?

0:37:220:37:24

Do you think you can?

I...

0:37:240:37:27

I mean, I hope so,

because he is absolutely

0:37:270:37:31

a tremendous actor.

0:37:310:37:36

And I guess in the past

we have forgiven people's

0:37:360:37:41

personal weaknesses.

0:37:410:37:44

It's a tremendous loss to acting.

0:37:440:37:49

There is seems almost

an inconsistency,

0:37:490:37:52

doesn't there, with the people

that we hold up and hang out,

0:37:520:37:59

and the people that we sort

of ignore and move on from?

0:37:590:38:01

I wonder if it makes any

sense to you, the sort of

0:38:010:38:04

arbitrariness?

0:38:040:38:05

It won't any more be

arbitrary, will it?

0:38:050:38:10

I mean, if Polanski

was happening now, with us

0:38:100:38:15

so much more aware of this kind

of abuse, we wouldn't be

0:38:150:38:20

just letting him carry

on, would we?

0:38:200:38:22

We'd...

There would be a different reaction.

0:38:220:38:25

I really think the Weinstein thing

is a big change than perhaps we

0:38:250:38:28

realise yet.

0:38:280:38:36

Sir Anthony Sherman talking to me

this evening. Just before we go, let

0:38:410:38:45

me show you the front pages of

tomorrow's papers. The times has

0:38:450:38:55

Donald Trump saying American allies

could be spared the tariffs on steel

0:38:550:38:59

and aluminium. Traders not safe on

British soil, says Russia. The

0:38:590:39:03

broadcaster mocking it. The daily

Telegraph has give blood pressure

0:39:030:39:10

drugs to half of the UK. Half of the

adult population could be put on

0:39:100:39:15

blood pressure drugs. You can see

Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, the

0:39:150:39:19

officer now recovering, we believe,

from that nerve agent exposure. The

0:39:190:39:27

financial Times has Trump offers

exemptions to -- on steel tariffs to

0:39:270:39:32

real friends. And the border point,

Donald Tusk assurers Leo Varadker

0:39:320:39:41

that Ireland is top of the Brussels

agenda. The Guardian has NHS staff

0:39:410:39:47

getting a 6.5% rise.

0:39:470:39:49

That's all for this evening.

0:39:490:39:50

But before we go, it's

a very modern worry -

0:39:500:39:52

machines, AI, robots are taking

over our jobs.

0:39:520:39:54

What does it mean to be human any

more if we're out-competed

0:39:540:39:57

on every front by computers?

0:39:570:39:58

Ed Miliband once claimed to be

able to solve a Rubik's

0:39:580:40:01

cube in 90 seconds.

0:40:010:40:02

Here at Newsnight we

were pretty impressed.

0:40:020:40:04

Until we saw this invention today

by Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo

0:40:040:40:07

at the Massachusetts

Institute of technology.

0:40:070:40:08

Goodnight.

0:40:080:40:10

Starting in three, two, one!

0:40:100:40:18