HERE is a game, one for older members of the family only. It is called name that place. Players hear a description of events that occur in a certain location and all they need to do is name it.

Ready? In this place, men put their arms around women, or leave a hand on their knee for an uncomfortably long time. They try to kiss them, grab their arms or bottoms or stroke their breasts or bottoms. Women are abused in vulgar terms, repeatedly propositioned, asked about their sex lives, and told to wear more make-up or skimpy clothes.

Is this place a Top of the Pops studio any time before 1975? A lap dancing club in the 1980s? Or the Mother of Parliaments in 2018?

Well done those who guessed the third option. Alas there are no prizes, certain MPs having already taken the biscuit in their response to the report by Dame Laura Cox QC, published this week, which revealed the shocking goings-on within parliamentary walls.

The senior judge and employment law specialist was asked by the House of Commons authorities to look into BBC Newsnight reports of bullying and harassment of Commons staff by MPs. She took evidence from more than 200 people, current and former employees, from catering workers to clerks. What she found was an institution so rotten it could almost be a guide to how not to run a modern workplace.

“Working there is, for many, a privilege,” wrote Dame Laura of the House of Commons, “and there is an expectation of loyalty to the institution they serve. But that sense of loyalty has been tested to breaking point by a culture, cascading from the top down, of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed.”

MPs would normally have queued up to condemn such appalling behaviour if it had occurred in a private firm or public institution. Calls for heads to roll, even pressure for prosecutions to be considered, would be swift and loud. This sort of knuckle-dragging behaviour cannot be allowed in this day and age, they would harrumph.

Before we get to what did happen, a disclosure. I worked in the Commons for three years, albeit not for the House itself. My employer was unfailingly decent and kind, a fact for which I became increasingly grateful as I began to see how others were treated.

Everyone knew the staff employed by MPs were on their own if trouble occurred. Friends in high party places might have a word on your behalf, but there was no formal complaints system. Each MP was their own small business; what they said went.

One might have thought the Commons staff had it easier, being part of a large institution, one that made the laws of the land. Yet they did not escape bullying and harassment. Whether it was the Post Office or the travel office, staff were treated by some MPs in ways which, had it been any other place, would have resulted in a manager being called. Those were minor deeds carried out in public places. Behind closed doors it could only have been worse.

As Dame Laura’s report found, Commons staff do have access to complaints procedures, but they are fundamentally flawed. As such, any serious attempt at reform would have to begin with a change of personnel at the top of the Commons authorities. An obvious candidate to go was the Speaker, John Bercow. Not only had he presided over the current, failing system, he had been accused of bullying two former private secretaries. He has denied the allegations.

Lest there be any doubt about which head should roll first, Sir Kevin Barron, a Labour MP and former chairman of the committee on standards, used a newspaper article to urge the Speaker to stand down.

Did he go? Dream on. Rare are the days lately when the Commons covers itself in glory, but even by their own low standards the Labour benches on Tuesday were a disgrace. Not Kevin Barron. Not John Mann, who called for every MP found involved to be named, shamed and sacked. It was those Labour MPs, many of them women, who stood up to either back Mr Bercow, or say the problem went wider than him, who put the party to shame. Others, male and female, argued that now was not the time, with Brexit looming, to ditch such an old hand (and prominent Remainer) as Mr Bercow. Presiding over all of this in the Speaker’s Chair was, you’ve guessed it, Mr Bercow.

Outside the chamber, Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary, backed her colleagues, saying this was “absolutely not the time” to change Speaker. Dame Margaret Beckett, former deputy leader and acting leader, said in an interview with BBC PM: “Abuse is terrible, it shouldn’t happen, it should be stopped, behaviour should change anyway –whether the Speaker goes or not. But yes, if it comes to it, the constitutional future of this country, the most difficult decision we’ve made possibly for hundreds of years, yes it trumps bad behaviour.”

There you have it. In this instance, the need for Labour to gain whatever slim advantage it can from keeping Speaker Bercow in place overrides whatever victims have been through. Even if, in some cases, as Dame Laura’s report made clear, “many of the incidents of reported touching could be legally classified as sexual assault”.

Never mind that the party cannot itself make up its mind where it stands on Brexit. It has shown where it stands on the bullying and harassment of Commons staff, and it is not shoulder to shoulder with the victims. Nor does it say much for Labour backbenchers’ opinion of those deputy speakers, two of them women, who could do Mr Bercow’s job at a moment’s notice.

Those Labour MPs protecting Mr Bercow may tell themselves they are doing so for some greater good, but in not backing a fresh start under a new Speaker they have fallen down on their fundamental duty to protect the weak against the powerful.

This was not a game, it was a test, and man did they fail.