Labour delays outcome of Kelvin Hopkins harassment inquiry

Jessica Elgot
Kelvin Hopkins denies inappropriate candidate. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Labour has delayed the outcome of its investigation into alleged inappropriate behaviour by Kelvin Hopkins toward a fellow MP and a young activist to give the former shadow cabinet minister more time to respond.

Kerry McCarthy, the MP for Bristol East, has said she began receiving unwanted attention from Hopkins in the mid-1990s. She came forward and gave evidence to the chief whip, Nick Brown, after the activist Ava Etemadzadeh claimed Hopkins had sent her an inappropriate text and rubbed his crotch against her.

A panel from Labour’s national executive committee is considering the case, and was set to decide in the coming days whether or not to refer Hopkins to the national constitutional committee, which rules on disciplinary cases.

McCarthy said she had now been told she would be informed of the outcome by 12 January, giving Hopkins more time to prepare a response to her statement, which she said he received more than a month ago.

“I’m pretty frustrated that this is dragging on, and I particularly don’t think it’s fair on Ava,” McCarthy said. “He has had ample time to prepare his formal response.”

Etemadzadeh, 27, said she had learned about the delay from the media, despite an email promising her she would be given a decision by Wednesday.

“I would have hoped that the party would have had the courtesy to tell me first, but after the last two years of this saga sadly nothing comes as a surprise,” she said.
“It is deeply disappointing that after my original complaint back in 2015, the party still doesn’t know how to handle those making complaints with respect, seriousness and transparency.

“We’ve already learned that Jeremy Corbyn was willing to promote Kelvin Hopkins, despite knowing that these outstanding allegations of sexual harassment existed against him.”

McCarthy told the Guardian last month that Hopkins had sent her several unwanted notes, including one that said he had been dreaming about her. “Much time has passed but I do remember earlier times … and you remain a very attractive woman,” he wrote. In another, he asked whether her then employer specialised in “pretty, petite brunettes”.

She said had been prompted to come forward after media attacks on Etemadzadeh’s motives. “She is me, or an even younger version,” McCarthy said. “I don’t believe that I am the only one.”

McCarthy stressed that Hopkins never attempted to physically assault her, but said she was made to feel uncomfortable and avoided him.

Labour whips first suspended Hopkins over a text message he sent to Etemadzadeh in February 2015, which included the words: “A nice young man would be lucky to have you as a girlfriend and lover. I am sure one such is soon to be found. Were I to be young … but I am not.”

Hopkins, who has been suspended from the party, admits texting Etemadzadeh but “absolutely and categorically” denies any “inappropriate conduct”.

After McCarthy came forward, he issued a statement saying he was under “tremendous stress and pressure” but that he would “of course fully cooperate with any investigation” by the Labour party.

“However I do ask, on my behalf and on behalf of all other individuals and their families dealing with allegations, that these matters are dealt with by proper due process and not by unfair, humiliating one-sided trial by media,” he said.

The delay to the investigation into Hopkins came as the local Labour party in Sheffield Hallam revealed that Jared O’Mara, who is currently suspended from the party over allegations of inappropriate sexist and homophobic remarks, had been advised by his doctor not to attend parliament.

The MP, who won the seat from the former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg in June, has apologised for online remarks from 2002 and 2004 but denies some of the more recent claims against him. He has not been seen in parliament or the constituency since October, and is yet to make his maiden speech in the Commons.

“On the advice of his GP, Jared has limited some of his activities and duties as the MP for Sheffield Hallam. This includes attending parliament at the present time,” the party said in a statement to BBC Radio Sheffield.

“However, Jared continues to serve as the MP for Sheffield Hallam and continues to represent his constituents in other ways. He and his staff are working very hard to serve his constituents in Sheffield Hallam, including with casework enquiries.”

O’Mara has said he is deeply ashamed of his online history, which was unearthed by the Guido Fawkes website.

The comments included jokes about having an orgy with members of Girls Aloud, a claim that Michelle McManus had only won Pop Idol “because she was fat”, and a suggestion that it would be funny if the jazz star Jamie Cullum were “sodomised with his own piano”.

Other allegations also surfaced, which O’Mara denies, from a woman who alleges O’Mara verbally abused her before he became an MP when she encountered him on a night out with friends.

Liberal Democrats in Sheffield Hallam believe they would have a significant chance of retaking the seat should O’Mara decide to step down on health grounds, though Clegg has said he will not stand again. The party has selected Laura Gordon, an international development worker, as its new candidate.