Labour steps up inquiry into complaints against MP Kelvin Hopkins

Heather Stewart Political editor
Kelvin Hopkins will face a national constitutional committee hearing. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Kelvin Hopkins, the Labour MP for Luton North, could face expulsion from the party after accusations of inappropriate behaviour towards two women were referred to its highest disciplinary committee.

A spokesperson for the party confirmed that the complaints made by Kerry McCarthy, the MP for Bristol East, and activist Ava Etemadzadeh, would be referred to the national constitutional committee, which has the power to expel Labour members.

“After consideration of statements provided by the complainant and the respondent, the NEC’s sexual harassment panel has agreed that on the balance of the evidence the matter should be referred to a full hearing of the national constitutional committee,” the spokesperson said.

Hopkins has strenuously denied both women’s claims. He said in a statement on Friday: “This issue needs to be dealt with by due process and I am happy to go to the NCC to clear my name”.

However, Labour faced accusations that it had failed to handle the case sensitively enough, after it emerged that the two complainants had learned of the decision to escalate the case from journalists, instead of from party officials.

McCarthy said: “I welcome the fact that it has been referred to the NCC, although I would rather have been informed first rather than finding out about it through the media. The most important thing now is a speedy resolution. We need clarity as soon as possible about how this is resolved.”

The NCC, which ruled on the case of Ken Livingstone over his controversial remarks about Nazis, is an elected body that meets in private. It will summon both sides to hear their accounts, although party sources refused to say when such a hearing might take place.

Etemadzadeh warned that Labour’s process for handling sexual harassment complaints was not sufficiently independent and transparent. “I know the NCC will take its responsibilities seriously, act with integrity and I look forward to finally having my say. But the only way victims of harassment in politics can see justice is through the establishment of an independent politically neutral body. Without such a body, there will always be the risk of the sort of political meddling we have seen in cases like mine, and women in the Labour party will not be safe,” she said.

Labour whips initially 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.” She claimed he had pressed his crotch against her.

Hopkins admitted texting Etemadzadeh but “absolutely and categorically” denied any “inappropriate conduct”.

McCarthy subsequently complained that she had received unwanted attention from Hopkins, who is now 76, over a period beginning in the mid-1990s. As well as describing awkward encounters between them, she handed party authorities letters sent to her work addresses that commented on her physical appearance.

The latest, on parliamentary notepaper, was received in the past three years and said: “I dreamt about you last night. A nice dream … Much time has passed but I do remember earlier times … and you remain a very attractive woman.”

Hopkins is one of several MPs who have faced accusations of misconduct since the sexual harassment scandal swept through Westminster last year.

It also emerged on Friday that the case of Bury South MP Ivan Lewis has been referred to the NCC. The former minister, who like Hopkins is suspended from the party, apologised last year for any behaviour that may have made women feel “uncomfortable”.