No 10 strategist ‘criticises MPs’ complaints about porn-watching Tory’

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Boris Johnson’s strategist criticised the manner in which female Conservative MPs raised complaints about colleague Neil Parish for watching porn in parliament, it has been claimed.

Deputy chief of staff David Canzini reportedly told No 10 staff that he was “shocked” that Tory MPs had chosen to raise the matter in an open forum – calling for “blue on blue” attacks to end.

Mr Canzini suggested to government special advisers that such matters were best raised privately as he called for more party unity, according to the Sunday Times.

“It felt really grubby. Several female spads special advisers looked uncomfortable,” one source told the newspaper about the strategist’s alleged comments at a meeting on Friday.

“Dismissing the concerns of multiple female MPs as a shocking blue-on-blue attack is appalling … If this is the Conservative offering, we are screwed,” they added.

Downing Street did not respond to request for comment on the story, but No 10 are said to have insisted that Mr Canzini did not explicitly single out the female MPs behind the complaint against Mr Parish.

One senior female MP responded by saying there should be better “mechanism” so that MPs could raise their concerns about a colleague with the whips “with the confidence it would actually be acted upon”.

She told the Sunday Times: “We do have to end the blue-on-blue attacks, but we can only do that by having proper respect for female colleagues. This epitomises the concerns about whether female colleagues are there to be tolerated or valued.”

Neil Parish has resigned last weekend as the Tory MP Tiverton and Honiton after admitting watching pornography in the Commons, in what he described as a “moment of madness”.

A female minister has initially raised that matter at a meeting at a meeting of Tory MPs and the chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris in Westminster the previous week, saying she had seen Mr Parish viewing adult material on his phone. Her complaint was backed up by a second female MP.

It was not until after the story had broken in the press that the chief whip referred it to parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, which deals with allegations of harassment and bullying.

Mr Heaton-Harris, criticised for reacting too slowly to the claim, wrote to MPs this week to acknowledge that “we need to do more to improve the culture we work in”.

He said two female whips, Amanda Solloway and Rebecca Harris, would “look at how we can better respond to any welfare issues”.

The chief whip also revealed that Foreign Office minister Amanda Milling had been asked to set up a “support group” for Tory colleagues dedicated to providing more guidance.

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