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THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY has been thrown into crisis with young members saying that its officials have ignored complaints against a “nightmare” senior campaigner who reportedly masturbating in public in front of a young activist.
Almost 200 young members of the party have accused it of having an “abhorrent” complaints procedure that fails to protect people from sexual harassment.
On Saturday night, young Tory Elena Bunbury issued a public statement accusing a senior Tory campaigner in Yorkshire of sexual harassment.
Ms Bunbury said that in her experience as an active member of the national party and the Yorkshire Conservative policy forum (YCPF), a regional arm of the party, she had been made to feel “continually objectified and uncomfortable” by the senior figure, who has not been named.
This included an incident of public masturbation on a discussion panel. She described how the “vile individual [rubbed] his crotch over and over” with a “leering expression” while she spoke at a public meeting.
Ms Bunbury said that the YCPF is now viewed by many young party activists as a “seedy” place where “young people are preyed on and obsessed over.” She added that the unnamed senior figure harassed young Conservative women by writing them messages on Twitter and Facebook.
The man was described as a “nightmare,” whose presence made Ms Bunbury feel threatened.
Alarmingly, Ms Bunbury’s letter claimed that though she had reported the individual to the party’s internal structures over a year ago, nothing had been done. She said that she was going public with the allegations in the hope that “the new party management takes our comments seriously” and does “not ignore them yet again.”
Prompted by the statement, other young Conservative activists took to social media to report their experiences of this older Tory, in accounts that included details of unwarranted advances from him.
Party activist Oliver Williams said: “At my first Conservative Party conference, I was informed that many Tory lasses were warned to avoid a certain individual.
“The first time I met said individual, he spent the reception chasing the only young Tory female present after their initial greeting. It was harassment.
“For young members at 15 (maybe younger) who have joined a political party for the first time — the party in government — the pressure not to say anything would be huge. They shouldn’t just have to stay silent and accept it.”
Prominent young Conservative activist Soutiam Goodarzi, who was active in the YCPF, thanked younger party colleagues for “raising issues” on her behalf, adding that she was “only 15 when I joined that group, so not even at the age of consent.”
In response to the allegations, nearly 200 young Conservative activists have signed a letter accusing the party of having an “abhorrent” complaints procedures process, complaining that “individual members within the party cannot be held to account for disobeying its code of conduct.”
The letter went on: “We believe that there are individuals within the party — after speaking to fellow female members — that it is plainly clear that they have not followed and upheld the standards required, and sadly, this has not been taken into consideration in future investigations.
“We are firmly behind the women taking a stand against the intolerable abuse that has taken place. Action must be taken now.”
Leeds Conservatives chairwoman Amy Green criticised the young members for their allegations, tweeting out: “A polite reminder. If you have concerns or complaints about conduct/behaviour of a party member, you have an obligation to report it through the appropriate channels, so it can be dealt with accordingly. Twitter is not an appropriate channel.”
But Ms Bunbury hit back, saying: “We did go through the official channels, over a year ago, multiple times.
“I spent a lot of the time on the phone to you and emailing you about it.
“I appreciated your effort, but nothing was done, nothing was dealt with.”
At the time of going to press, the Star had received no response regarding these allegations from Women’s & Equalities Minister Amber Rudd, party chairman James Cleverly, former chairman Brandon Lewis or the Conservative Party’s central press office.
Labour’s national executive committee youth rep Lara McNeill told the Star: “When it comes to young women feeling forced out of engaging in politics because of the disgusting actions of grubby older men, party politics have to be completely put aside.
“I sincerely hope that the Tory leadership will get their heads out of the sand and address these upsetting, serious issues raised by these young activists, who deserve justice and respect for having the bravery to come forward.
“However, sadly, I won’t be holding my breath.”
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