It seems Ivan Lewis is the latest Labour MP to be accused of sexual harassment, following on from Kelvin Hopkins and Clive Lewis (who, it should be obvious, is no relation).
All have denied the claims, although Ivan Lewis has said he understands that some of his behaviour may had made women feel “uncomfortable”:
In a statement to BuzzFeed News issued through his lawyer, the MP for Bury South, who served as a minister in Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s governments before holding several shadow cabinet positions under Ed Miliband, denied he had sexually harassed anyone and said he had “never made non-consensual sexual comments or sexual advances to women”.
Lewis said he had “good professional relationships and enduring friendships with virtually all my female colleagues.
“However,” the statement continued, “I understand that a few women have claimed that my behaviour made them feel uncomfortable. I have on occasion asked women I work with out for drinks or dinner, or developed strong feelings for them, and I am genuinely sorry if this was unwelcome or inappropriate in the circumstances, and caused anyone to feel awkward.”
The statement came after a woman told BuzzFeed News that he repeatedly touched her leg and invited her back to his house when she was a 19-year-old student attending a Labour party event in 2010.
The woman, who asked BuzzFeed News to protect her identity, said she felt unable to attend any further Labour events in Lewis’ constituency after coming into contact with him at the Christmas fundraising event.
She said the incident happened when Lewis sat opposite her at the social function. At the time Lewis was the shadow culture secretary in Ed Miliband’s front bench team.
It is not for This Writer – or anybody else – to spout uninformed opinions on their guilt that may prejudice possible future legal hearings.
But that has not stopped certain strong personalities in the party from making their viewpoints very clear – people like Jess Phillips:
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.
“I think it’s probably more cock-up than conspiracy. I don’t think that it was political expediency. I think that people just didn’t take it as seriously as it needed to be taken.”
But while she has been vocal about Mr Hopkins, who is a left-winger, she has had nothing to say about Ivan Lewis, who belongs to the “moderate” (read: right-wing) cohort of the Labour Party, as does Ms Phillips herself.
And she can’t even say this is because the cases are fantastically different. Ivan Lewis had to apologise for inappropriateness in 2008, after sending intimate text messages to a civil servant, and complaints about Mr Hopkins – that were known to Labour prior to the allegations last week – also involved text messages.
If there is a difference, it is that Mr Lewis has accepted that he has made other people “uncomfortable”; Mr Hopkins has denied the allegations against him.
So let us be clear.
The minority Conservative government is in critical condition. Accusations about ministers, backbenchers, and even former or local government representatives are flying thick and fast. It is only natural to expect attempts to divert attention with accusations against Labour representatives as well.
That does not give other Labour representatives a right to take sides against members of their own party. The only people benefiting from such behaviour will be Theresa May and her Conservatives.
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