Labour candidate investigated by party for alleged sexual harassment

Darren Rodwell has been campaigning for Labour in east London  (Supplied)
Darren Rodwell has been campaigning for Labour in east London (Supplied)

A Labour candidate for a seat in east London is being investigated over an allegation of sexual harassment.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, the leader of Barking and Dagenham Council and Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Barking, has been accused of “inappropriate touching” of an attendee at an event last month.

The Independent has seen the details of the allegations made to Labour’s complaints unit by a party member on Friday. It comes after another Labour MP was suspended from the party last week after a complaint about his behaviour.

Mr Rodwell’s alleged victim said she met him for a coffee while at an event, believing the meeting was set up to discuss a development in Barking.

In the communication to the party, the complainant said: “After 10 to 15 minutes, he started asking personal questions which I was not happy to answer. He was ordering more drinks for himself.

“As I was obviously not happy to be present and was looking for a way to leave, he started touching my hands and legs in a sexual way.

“He clearly had other ideas about the meeting. He touched my legs and body inappropriately and I’ve made it clear to him that I did not want him to touch me and left the meeting immediately.”

The complaint file reads: ”The complainant has received confirmation that an investigator will be contacting her in regards to the allegations.”

Labour has declined to comment on what it calls an ongoing disciplinary matter, however, the allegation now raises questions over whether Mr Rodwell will still be allowed to stand in the election.

Last week, former Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle was suspended by the party over “historic allegations” and prevented from standing as a candidate.

Rodwell with Sadiq Khan during the London mayor’s reelection campaign this year (Supplied)
Rodwell with Sadiq Khan during the London mayor’s reelection campaign this year (Supplied)

In a statement responding to the allegation, Mr Rodwell said: “Allegations regarding my behaviour have been made to the Labour Party Complaints Unit.

“I utterly refute what is being said, specifically: I have not engaged in sexual harassment of any kind; I did not indulge in ‘inappropriate touching’ of an attendee at an event last month; I have no recollection of meeting someone for a coffee to discuss development in Barking; there is no evidence of any such meeting in my diary; likewise, I have no recollection of asking personal questions.

He went on: “It’s not clear what drinks I was ordering, but for the record, I do not drink alcohol. It is inconceivable I would have touched someone’s hands, legs and body inappropriately

“I can only imagine that I am a victim of some sort of attempt to prevent me being selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Barking. I am prepared to fully address this complaint, I am in process of consulting lawyers and I would ask it were expedited so my candidature can proceed.

“I believe the people of Barking deserve an MP who knows the constituency well and will properly look after and promote their interests. I look forward to serving them should I be successful.”

Mr Rodwell is hoping to replace Labour veteran Dame Margaret Hodge as the MP for Barking.

He is a highly influential local government figure in London who has been praised for delivering more new housing than any other borough.

He has attended football matches with Sir Keir Starmer and has led the regeneration of Barking and Dagenham following the closure of the Ford factory. This included bringing in a film studio, a university campus and a free port.

The investigation emerged at the same time as a BBC report claiming Mr Rodwell asked police not to respond if they were contacted by a resident he was planning to confront at their home.

Mr Rodwell claimed he used official systems to find the address of the person who had threatened him online.

“I found out where the person lived,” he told a podcast, “because I have the ways and means – so I used them.”

He added: “My office phoned the police up and said the leader wants to let you know: ‘Don’t worry if you get a call from this address’.”

It is unclear if he ended up confronting the person at their home and the incident was prompted by a Facebook page set up in 2022 which he said aimed “to have me taken out”.

Mr Rodwell also recounted how, in a separate incident, he chased two men down the street with a baseball bat after they attacked his home.

Last week it emerged Mr Rodwelll had claimed there was a “smear campaign” against him regarding historic footage of him making allegedly racist remarks.

The incident in 2019 saw him joke he had “the worst tan possible for a Black man” at a Black History Month event in the London borough.

When the clip emerged in October 2022 he apologised, admitting his remarks were “extremely stupid and embarrassing”.

But in an email to a supporter, revealed by The Independent last week, he said: “What I can tell you is that it was part of a smear campaign against me.”

Mr Rodwell was also criticised for hanging banners over gravestones in Barking when he launched his parliamentary campaign last October.

Labour has set a deadline of 4 June to finalise candidates with nominations officially closing at 4pm on 7 June for candidates to be officially registered.