Labour: MPs’ staff press Corbyn over harassment claims

More than 100 current and former staff of Labour MPs have urged the party to get “its house in order” over its handling of harassment allegations.

They have written to Jeremy Corbyn to express concern over how misconduct claims against David Prescott, an aide of the Labour leader, were dealt with.

He was suspended from his role in 2017, but returned to work after two weeks.

Labour said all allegations were taken seriously, but no formal complaint had been made in this instance.

Mr Prescott, the son of former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, has strongly denied the allegations.

No reason was given at the time for his suspension from his communications role in Mr Corbyn’s office.

On Sunday, newspaper reports suggested that a female MP had raised concerns with Mr Corbyn and his chief of staff, Karie Murphy, in November 2017, alleging that Mr Prescott had made “unwanted sexual advances” towards her.

The Sunday Times said the MP had told them she had heard of further historic allegations against Mr Prescott, reportedly made by two students.

It went on to cite leaked emails which it said suggested Mr Corbyn’s advisers had rejected a formal request from party officials to suspend Mr Prescott’s membership of the party.

‘Clarity and consistency’

The leadership is now being pressed to explain how the investigation was handled and whether “sufficient action” was taken.

In their letter, the Labour employees said the case raised “uncomfortable questions”, and claims that efforts to suspend Mr Prescott from the party were “apparently blocked” were “extremely concerning, if true”.

The signatories include 50 staff currently working for sitting MPs, as well as Ayesha Hazarika, a former chief of staff to Harriet Harman and Polly Billington, who worked in Ed Miliband’s office when he was leader of the opposition.

“Clarity, consistency and transparency must be put at the forefront of the complaints process so that all sides feel confident that investigations will be conducted from political interference,” they wrote.

“We want to see Labour in government, but we need to get our house in order first.”

Labour said it could not comment on the details of the case but that it followed established procedures when it came to grievance and disciplinary matters.

“The Labour Party takes all complaints of sexual harassment extremely seriously,” a spokesman said. “In this no case, no formal complaint was received to investigate.”

Party sources said suspension from membership would only be considered if a formal complaint had been made, and none was lodged in relation to the allegations concerning Mr Prescott.

A former BBC TV senior producer, Mr Prescott joined the Labour leader’s office in 2016, initially as a speechwriter, before becoming a communications manager to the shadow cabinet. He stood as Labour’s candidate in Gainsborough in the 2015 election, coming second to the Conservatives.

‘Truly welcome’

Meanwhile, a former Labour students women’s officer, Lily Madigan, has launched a petition calling for an independent system to be set up to investigate sexual misconduct claims.

Only by tackling sexual violence “without bias”, she said, could “women and survivors feel truly welcome in our movement”.

Labour was criticised recently for appointing a senior member of Jeremy Corbyn’s staff, Laura Murray, to the role of head of complaints but the party has rejected claims the complaints process has become politicised.

Separately, the UK’s equality and human rights watchdog is investigating the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations.

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BBC News – UK Politics

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