Exclusive: Lord Strasburger says conduct rules need to be strengthened after no action taken against peer following complaint
The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Strasburger has called for the House of Lords’ conduct rules to be strengthened after no action was taken on a complaint that the Conservative peer Michelle Mone allegedly sent a racist message to a man of Indian heritage.
Strasburger has also said Mone should resign from the Lords due to the complaint, which alleges that she told the man, Richard Lynton-Jones, he was “a waste of a man’s white skin”. Mone is accused of sending the messages, screenshots of which have been seen by the Guardian, during a disagreement following a fatal yacht crash off Monaco in May 2019.
In the weeks after the crash, in which a crew member was killed, Mone accused Lynton-Jones and his partner of partying soon after the accident and showing disrespect. Mone cast doubt on whether Lynton-Jones’s partner had really suffered serious trauma due to the accident, and described her as “a mental loony”.
Lynton-Jones messaged Mone saying his partner had been seriously traumatised, and wrote: “I would prefer you back the fuck off.” According to the complaint and the screenshots of the WhatsApp messages, Mone then responded:
“You & your mental loony of a girlfriend have been parting [sic] like mad! … Your [sic] a low life, a waste of a mans [sic] white skin so don’t give us your lies. Your [sic] a total disgrace.”
She added: “Now you deal with the police enquiries including your nut case bird.”
Lynton-Jones sent an immediate reply in which he said: “A waste of a white mans skin? Did not know you were racist, Michelle.”
He told the Guardian that Mone’s WhatsApp message had caused him severe distress, motivating him to make the complaint to the House of Lords commissioner for standards, Martin Jelley. Lynton-Jones said that for personal reasons he did not want to be named in any reporting, but after the Guardian’s publication on Thursday, on Saturday the Daily Mail named him as the complainant.
As a result Lynton-Jones, a career banker and financial consultant based in Monaco, decided he was now prepared to speak publicly and have his photograph published.
He says he is appalled that Jelley decided in August not to investigate Mone, because, the commissioner said, the messages were not sent in the course of her parliamentary duties, so are not covered by the code of conduct for peers.
“I find it appalling that the House of Lords can be put on notice and sent a complaint, with evidence of a racist message by a member, yet do nothing at all, and leave her in position as a lawmaker of the country, without even an investigation,” Lynton-Jones said. “It feels like it has just been brushed under the carpet.”
Contacted by the Guardian this week, a representative of the Tory peer initially said: “Baroness Mone is 100% not a racist. Baroness Mone and her husband have built over 15 schools in Africa in the past three years.”
Her lawyers later provided further statements in which they denied that Mone is racist, sexist or “has a lack of respect for those persons genuinely suffering with mental health difficulties.” They said their client believed at the time that Lynton-Jones had “no trace whatsoever of non-white colouring or any features” that would suggest he was not “100% white and British”.
The lawyers also made a series of allegations against Lynton-Jones, raising suspicion about his motives. They also questioned the authenticity of the messages, saying Mone had “no access” and no “detailed memory” of them, and they did not appear to be in the language of “a well-educated and articulate Baroness”.
The lawyers said: “She is not prepared to comment on the messages unless and until their authenticity has been confirmed.”
However in an Instagram post on Friday, after the Guardian reported on Lynton-Jones’s complaint, Mone did not question the authenticity of the quoted message but appeared to state a new justification for sending it, claiming that Lynton-Jones had displayed “white privilege”.
“Since when did calling out a man on his actions after a manslaughter and his entitled white privilege constitute racism?” she posted.
The Guardian understands that after official investigations, the skipper of the yacht that crashed into the boat belonging to Mone’s husband, the businessman Douglas Barrowman, was held to be at fault, but no finding of manslaughter has been made.
Strasburger said: “There is something seriously wrong with the Lords code of conduct if it prevents the commissioner for standards from investigating alleged bad behaviour by a peer outside their parliamentary duties. On that basis a lord could prove themselves to be a completely unfit person to make the laws of the land but suffer no consequences because their misbehaviour was outside parliament. That can’t be right and needs to be fixed.
“Baroness Mone says her comments were not racist but I’d like to know what other interpretation she can come up with for referring to the colour of Mr Lynton-Jones’s skin during an argument.
“This has been a very ugly and unseemly sequence of events. Baroness Mone could do well to consider her position and perhaps bow out with as much grace as she can muster.”
Labour last week called for Mone to refer herself to the commissioner over her involvement in the award of £203m-worth of government PPE contracts to a company, PPE Medpro, that was processed through the “VIP lane” for politically connected firms.
Mone repeatedly denied last year any association with the company. However, it emerged earlier this month that she had referred PPE Medpro to the government as a potential supplier. Her lawyers have maintained that all her statements in relation to PPE Medpro were true, and she is not understood to have referred herself to the commissioner.