UK Politics

Activist says Labour has shown 'lack of respect' over harassment case

Ava Ava Etemadzadeh
Image caption Ms Etemadzadeh has said she felt ignored by the party

A female Labour activist has accused the party of showing her a lack of respect over her harassment complaint against veteran MP Kelvin Hopkins.

Ava Etemadzadeh said she was told she would learn by Wednesday whether the case would be referred to a hearing of an internal disciplinary committee.

But it has been confirmed the decision will not be made until the New Year.

The MP categorically denies acting inappropriately towards the 27-year old after meeting her in 2014.

The 76-year old Luton North MP has had the whip suspended pending an internal inquiry into Miss Etemadzadeh's claims he made inappropriate physical contact while hugging her, after she had invited him to speak at a university event in 2014, which "made me feel extremely uncomfortable".

She also claims he made suggestive comments when she went to his office in Parliament and in text messages to her.

He was reprimanded by Labour's chief whip after Ms Etemadzadeh first made the complaint in 2015 but was later briefly promoted by Jeremy Corbyn to his shadow cabinet.

Ms Etemadzadeh said she had been told that a special panel convened by Labour's ruling body, the NEC, would decide by 13 December whether to refer the case to the party's National Constitutional Committee.

The BBC understands the panel will not make a decision when it meets on Thursday - to allow both parties time to make full representations in line with its rules for dealings with such complaints.

It is understood it will be dealt with in January when the panel receives all the relevant paperwork.

Ms Etemadzadeh suggested it was "deeply disappointing" that Labour did not appear to know "how to handle those making complaints with respect, seriousness and transparency".

"I hope that this further delay means that the case is going to be taken seriously, rather than a further attempt to sweep things under the carpet for one of Jeremy Corbyn's friends."

'Woman to woman'

Meanwhile, Labour MP Jess Phillips has written to Prime Minister Theresa May pressing her for "honest answers" about the misconduct claims facing Conservative cabinet minister Damian Green, who is her second-in-command.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray has been examining claims that Mr Green made unwanted sexual advances to writer and Tory activist Kate Maltby, who is 30 years his junior.

It is not known when her report - which has also looked into suggestions by an ex-police officer that pornography was found on a computer in Mr Green's Commons office in 2008 - will be published.

Image copyright House of Commons
Image caption Jess Phillips has written to Theresa May over the Damian Green case

Ms Phillips - who has spoken out on behalf of victims of sexual harassment - said she wanted to speak to the PM "woman to woman" about claims the First Secretary of State propositioned Ms Maltby.

In her letter, she asked if the PM knew of Ms Maltby's "discomfort" with the MP before she made him her effective deputy in July and whether she knew if Mr Green had ever had a relationship with a "woman he was employing or mentoring in the Conservative Party".

Ms Phillips quotes texts Ms Maltby reportedly sent to friends regarding Mr Green in which she said the MP had "hit on her" while offering her a job at a meeting in a bar in 2015 and subsequently sent her "sleazy" messages in the summer of 2016.

The MP wrote. "The message that hits me hardest is where she is asking her friend if she has to just tolerate this. My inbox is full of messages from women who have to tolerate stuff for the sake of work.

"Do these messages sound to you like a young woman who has been made to feel uncomfortable and compromised?"

She added: "I expect a standard reply, expressing that you are awaiting the ruling of the enquiry but what I hope you do is answer me honestly."

Downing Street said it could not confirm whether Mrs May had received the letter, details of which were published in the Sun, and would not comment on individual cases before the Cabinet Office inquiry reported.

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