A Labour MP Has Accused Another MP Of "Unacceptable" Behaviour Towards Her Over A Period Of 20 Years
Kerry McCarthy is the first MP to come forward with specific claims against a parliamentary colleague since sexual harassment allegations surfaced recently in Westminster.
Labour MP Kerry McCarthy has come forward to say she has suffered unwanted attention from fellow MP Kelvin Hopkins spanning a period of 20 years.
McCarthy has released five letters and cards that she was sent by Hopkins over the years, the most recent of which was sent in the last three years, and also says she has given evidence to the party's chief whip, Nick Brown.
Hopkins has already been suspended from the party following allegations of sexual harassment from Labour activist Ava Etemadzadeh.
In one of the letters, Hopkins described having a dream about McCarthy; in another he commented on her appearance, calling her a "very pretty woman". On some of the notes, he wrote that McCarthy should dispose of them.
A Labour spokesperson told BuzzFeed News the party took all allegations of sexual harassment "extremely seriously".
McCarthy said she was motivated to speak out after Etemadzadeh's "bravery" in coming forward. The young activist has faced a backlash from supporters of Hopkins, who was in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet in 2016.
“She is me – or an even younger version,” McCarthy told the Guardian. “I don’t believe that I am the only one.”
She added: “None of it is very tangible. If I had told anyone, it would have just been like gossip, instead of a complaint – you’ve seen what it is. But it is really inappropriate."
The Bristol East MP also told the Press Association: "I never responded in any way, I never gave him any encouragement in any way, I tried to keep my distance as much as possible. I absolutely believe he knew this behaviour was unacceptable. It made me feel uncomfortable in his presence and was quite upsetting."
In a statement released to pro-Corbyn website Skwawkbox before McCarthy had made the letters public, Hopkins said he had known McCarthy "personally and professionally" since about 1993, and that she was chair of his constituency Labour party.
"She is a person of substantial standing on the national stage and I counted her as a friend," he said.
"If it is true that my Parliamentary colleague and long time friend has made a complaint about me via the press, then I am deeply saddened by this. I cannot understand why a Parliamentarian of such experience and standing, who is also such a long term friend, would not have told me that she was unhappy with any aspect of our friendship rather than going straight to the national press.
"At a minimum I would have expected a Parliamentary colleague to raise any complaint through normal channels, allowing me due process and a fair chance to defend myself, if necessary."
Hopkins continued: "If Kerry McCarthy MP raises a complaint with the Labour Party in the normal and fair way, I will of course fully cooperate with any investigation. 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.
"I am a 76-year-old man and the stress this has caused me and my family is unbearable. All I ask for is proper due process and not to be convicted and vilified by the press before the details of the allegations are even investigated and put to me properly if they need to be."
A Labour party spokesperson said: “The Labour party takes all allegations of sexual harassment extremely seriously. Kelvin Hopkins is currently suspended from the Labour party pending an investigation.”
Fellow Bristol Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire tweeted in support of McCarthy, saying: "It is not easy taking the decision to go public on harassment by a colleague. Respect to @KerryMP for deciding she needed to, after Ava took flak."
The allegations are the latest in a series of harassment claims made against MPs. Charlie Elphicke has had the Conservative party whip withdrawn, and former defence secretary Michael Fallon resigned his government position after admitting that his behaviour had sometimes “fallen short” of expectations.
Women have also come forward with claims of inappropriate behaviour by Labour MPs Clive Lewis and Ivan Lewis. Both deny the allegations, but Ivan Lewis admitted his behaviour had made some female colleagues uncomfortable.