A Labour activist who accused an MP of sexual harassment has told the BBC she feels disillusioned by how the party handled it.
Ava Etemadzadeh, 27, said she was left feeling “very powerless and isolated” after Kelvin Hopkins was promoted the year after she complained about him.
The MP has now been suspended by Labour while it investigates the allegations.
The party says it takes such complaints “extremely seriously”. Mr Hopkins has not commented on the allegations.
Jess Phillips criticises Kelvin Hopkins promotion to Labour shadow cabinet despite sexual harassment claims
Mr Hopkins has been suspended pending an investigation into claims he sent suggestive texts and acted inappropriately
A prominent Labour backbencher has said it was wrong that Kelvin Hopkins was promoted to the shadow cabinet despite allegations raised about his behaviour by a young activist.
Labour MP Jess Phillips said Mr Hopkins, who has been suspended pending an investigation into claims he sent suggestive texts and acted inappropriately, should not have promoted after allegations against him had been made.
Labour ‘did not take sexual misconduct claims seriously’
Jess Phillips says Kelvin Hopkins should not have been given Labour frontbench job following complaint from party activist
The Labour party did not treat allegations of sexual misconduct seriously enough in the case of an MP who was later promoted to its frontbench, a senior party figure has said.
Kelvin Hopkins was appointed shadow culture secretary last year in a reshuffle prompted by a host of frontbench resignations in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party. On Friday, Jess Phillips, the chair of parliament’s women and equalities committee and the women’s parliamentary Labour party, said the complaint from a party activist the previous year should have precluded that.
“I am a bit concerned about the fact that Kelvin was then promoted … that does seem wrong to me”, Phillips told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Kelvin Hopkins ‘absolutely and categorically’ denies allegations of inappropriate conduct
Suspended Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins has “absolutely and categorically” denied allegations of inappropriate conduct.
Mr Hopkins, the former MP for Luton North, was suspended on Thursday after claims of sexual harassment were made by party activist Ava Etemadzadeh.
Allegations emerged that Mr Hopkins sent suggestive texts to the young woman and behaved inappropriately.
Press Statement of Kelvin Hopkins MP in response to press reports concerning allegations by Ava Etemadzadeh (hereafter ‘Ava’):
1. My first recollection of ever meeting Ava was at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester in September 2014. She was one of approximately 10 party activists who had been present at a fringe reception and who accompanied me and my daughter to an evening meal in Manchester for activists and supporters. She introduced herself as the Chair of Labour Students at Essex University and she joined in the general conversation around the dining table. As I usually do, I let her have my contact details.
2. I next came across Ava when I was canvassing in support of the Labour candidate in the Clacton-on Sea by-election on 9 October 2014. She was one of a number of Labour Party activists who joined me in leafleting and door knocking. I had no prior knowledge at all that Ava would be in Clacton for the by-election. I had a general chat with her about the by-election in the company of the other campaigners.
3. On 11 October 2014 Ava sent me a text message:
“Hi Kelvin, how are you? I was wondering if you would like to come to University of Essex to speak in one of our Labour society socials this term? x Ava”.
4. I then arranged, through the secretary of the student Labour society at Essex University, to speak at Essex on 12 November 2014. I arrived at Colchester mid-afternoon as the social event was due to start at 4.15 pm. I gave my speech to the students. It was a well received talk and involved a lively questions and answers debate with those who were there. After the event, Ava walked me to my car in the car park at the university. There were many people in the general area.
5. The allegation has been made and reported in the press that I “hugged her [Ava] inappropriately” (eg Telegraph newspaper 3 November 2017). Ava is reported to have said, “He hugged me to say goodbye, held me too tight and rubbed his crotch on me, which I found revolting”.
6. I absolutely and categorically deny that I in any way engaged in any such inappropriate conduct. I simply put an arm around her shoulder to give her a brief slight hug just before getting in to my car. I did not hold her tight. I did not rub any part of my body, let alone my crotch, against Ava. She waved me off as I drove away and did not say anything whatsoever to suggest that anything had occurred that upset her let alone revolted her. In fact after I left the University, Ava sent me a text message during the same evening of 12 November timed at 9 pm saying:
“Thank you so much Kelvin for coming tonight!! We had a fantastic time. My members loved you! 🙂 You’re a star! x Ava”
7. On 15 December 2014 Ava sent me a text message:
“Hi Kelvin, how are you? Could you please send me your post address? I’d like to send you a Christmas card. x Ava”.
8. I gave her my address as House of Commons, Westminster London SW1A 0AA. Her card arrived on 17 December.
9. When I had visited Essex University I had made an invite to the students to visit the House of Commons. I often take groups and individuals on tours of the Palace of Westminster and often dine with my guests in the House. Arrangements were made for a group of about 8 students to come to Westminster early in 2015. I believe the group trip was cancelled but Ava still wanted to visit and came to Westminster on 2 February 2015. It is reported in the press that at that meeting I asked questions about her personal life and that I made her uncomfortable with a suggestion that I would have liked to take her to my office if it were empty. I have no recollection whatsoever of such conversations. I recall the meeting lasting about 2 hours including dining in the Strangers Dining Room which was buzzing with very many other parliamentarians and their guests also having lunch. Shortly after leaving Westminster Ava sent me the following text message on 2 February at 14:50:
“Thank you, Kelvin for today. It was lovely meeting you! 🙂 xx”
10. On 16 February 2015 I did send a text message to Ava which included the reported words saying Ava was “charming and sweet natured” and that “a nice young man would be lucky to have you as a girlfriend and lover…Were I to be young…but I am not…”. She in fact replied to my text on the same day:
“Oh thank you Kelvin for such kind words. I was ill last week for a couple of days and also I had run for NUS delegate – they announced the results and I got elected with the highest number of votes!! So sorry if I couldn’t speak to you last week x”
11. My only contact with Ava since then was about a year ago when she made contact with me to discuss working in Westminster. She told me that she had applied for a job with a Labour MP and that although she had been shortlisted to the final 2 for the job she nevertheless did not get it. She wanted my advice on how she could possibly have done better. I called her from parliament and advised her that jobs with MPs are difficult to get and I told her for example that my office had no vacancies. I advised her that she should also think about working as a member of staff of the House of Commons and should think about the civil service. I also suggested that as she is bi-lingual (Ava is fluent in Farsi) she could also think about working with the Foreign Office. Our conversation was friendly.
12. I have had no contact with Ava since then and was shocked when I saw the allegations appear online last night and in the papers today. I have always wished and still do wish, Ava the very best of luck in pursuing the career in politics that she wants to follow. I am happy to fully cooperate with the Labour Party to bring to a swift conclusion the investigation that is now being carried out into my conduct.
Martin Howe (Senior Partner) firstname.lastname@example.org