Peston: “Tory MPs fear the sexual-harassment scandal could bring down the government.”

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“The growing fear among Tory MPs is that the sexual-harassment scandal is evolving into the equivalent of the MPs’ expenses debacle – and that it could bring down the government.

It’s all the fault of that bloomin’ list of MPs and their alleged misdemeanours that was compiled by Tory aides and was published by the Guido website overnight, with names blacked at.

The blacking out is not preventing reputational damage to a pair of cabinet ministers and several other senior members of the government.

Their names are being openly touted in Westminster – and it won’t be long till they are outed on social media, and on offshore websites.

For May the big risk is that the story moves to how long she has known about the alleged misconduct, via her whip’s office, and why she didn’t move earlier to deter and punish.

Since time immemorial prime ministers and their whips have gathered intelligence about the flaws and transgressions of MPs as a way of enforcing loyalty. But that is not a good look for a prime minister who has said so much about wanting to stamp out gender discrimination, bullying and the abuse of the vulnerable.

That said, any escalation of the scandal that prompted resignations of MPs and by-elections would be a catastrophe for a prime minister and Tory party whose grip on office is the most tenuous of any government since the 1970s.

May somehow needs to hose down this fire pronto.”