Labour activist ‘felt isolated’ over complaint made against MP

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Media captionAva Etemadzadeh: “It made me feel extremely uncomfortable and it was a revolting act.”

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.

Ms Etemadzadeh claims the Luton North MP made inappropriate physical contact while hugging her, after she had invited him to speak at a university event in 2014, which “made me feel extremely uncomfortable”.

‘Shocked’

“The second incident was in Parliament when I went to have a conversation and he told me that ‘let’s not talk about politics, do you have a boyfriend?’,” she told BBC News.

“And he also said that if nobody was in his office he would’ve taken me there. I was absolutely shocked and I wasn’t really expecting that.”

After refusing to respond to his phone calls, she claimed he sent her a message “saying that I’m an attractive, lovely young woman and a man would be lucky to have me as a lover and if he was young … but he’s not”.

Some months later she raised concerns about Mr Hopkins’ conduct with another Labour MP and her complaint was passed to the party’s then chief whip Dame Rosie Winterton, who responded to it.

Reprimanded

But Ms Etemadzadeh said she was told she would have to waive her anonymity for action to be taken and the prospect of this “scared” her.

It is understood Mr Hopkins was verbally reprimanded about his alleged behaviour.

But he went on to be promoted, albeit briefly, to Labour’s front bench in June 2016 – shortly after leader Jeremy Corbyn faced mass resignations following the EU referendum.

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Image caption

Mr Hopkins has been MP for Luton North since 1997

Ms Etemadzadeh told the BBC she believed that the Labour leader’s office had been contacted about the complaint “and it was ignored”.

“I’m very disillusioned because just a few months later I realised that Jeremy Corbyn promoted Kelvin Hopkins to the shadow cabinet, despite the fact that the leader’s office was aware of this and they refused to act and that made me feel very powerless and isolated and alone.”

‘Robust procedures’

She said she had gone back to the party this week and raised it again but was told she would have to make a complaint through a formal procedure, via its National Executive Committee.

Then she was contacted by a party official and asked to detail her complaints in writing but was warned the procedure would take a few days.

She says that within hours the party contacted to her to say that they were suspending Mr Hopkins, shortly before the Telegraph published her allegations.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn declined to answer questions from reporters about Mr Hopkins’s promotion on Friday morning.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said he understood that Mr Corbyn was aware that a complaint had been made against Mr Hopkins when he promoted him but was not aware of the full details and was told the matter had been closed.

Mr Corbyn’s office has denied claims that Labour whips advised them not to promote Mr Hopkins because of what happened.

In a statement announcing the decision to suspend Mr Hopkins on Thursday, the Labour Party said: “On the basis of allegations received by the Labour Party today, Kelvin Hopkins has been suspended from party membership, and therefore the Labour whip, while an investigation takes place.

“The Labour Party takes all such complaints extremely seriously and has robust procedures in place to deal with them.”

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