New blow for Keir Starmer as shadow minister resigns from Labour frontbench over intimidation claim

·2 min read
 (UK Parliament)
(UK Parliament)

A shadow minister has resigned from Sir Keir Starmer’s frontbench after being accused of trying to intimidate a colleague seeking to assist a parliamentary worker who raised allegations of sexual harassment against a former MP.

The party confirmed Kate Hollern had left her post as a shadow minister for local government after claims were made during an ongoing employment tribunal against Mike Hill, who until recently represented Hartlepool at Westminster, but declined to comment further.

The parliamentary worker has accused Mr Hill of carrying out a campaign of sexual harassment and bullying against her over a 16-month period. The former MP, who was suspended from the Labour whip in 2019, has denied the allegations.

Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, told the central London employment tribunal on Wednesday that the Labour frontbencher made “malicious” remarks designed to “scare” him away from helping the woman.

Mr Bridgen told the tribunal that the woman – known only as Ms A – had confided in him that she was allegedly being “sexually harassed and sexually assaulted”.

In a written statement, he said he was approached by Ms Hollern in the House of Commons’ terrace, who asked him for a private word away from other MPs.

He wrote that Ms Hollern told him: “Everyone is saying in the Labour Party that you are having an affair with (Ms A) and if I were you I would keep away from her, because you have a wife and baby and you would not want to lose them if it got in the papers.”

He said he responded that “this is rubbish” and he said he regarded the remarks as “malicious and designed to scare me away from offering Ms A any help or support”.

Speaking to The Guardian, Ms Hollern said: “I am absolutely clear that any complaint of sexual harassment should be treated extremely seriously. It was never my intention to undermine the support the complainant was receiving, which I was unaware of at the time. If that is what Mr Bridgen was led to believe, I apologise for my error in judgement in having the conversion.”

Mr Hill denies the allegations against him and the tribunal, due to last a week and a half, continues. Labour also declined to comment on the resignation of Ms Hollern when approached by The Independent.

It comes after the Labour leader suffered a separate resignation from his top team on Wednesday, as Carolyn Harris, a close parliamentary aide, resigned from her role after Sir Keir carried out a strained reshuffle over the weekend amid disappointing results at the local elections last week.

Among hundreds of councillors, the party lost the Hartlepool by-election – triggered after Mr Hill’s resignation from the Commons earlier this year – to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives amid poor results for Labour at the local elections. The party had held the seat since the 1960s.

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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