Labour has dismissed a complaint made by a Labour Party member against Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal, which led to his suspension from the party last year on the eve of a meeting which Athwal had hoped would result in his selection as Labour candidate for Ilford South in the general election.
Furious Athwal supporters alleged that the timing of the suspension was designed to wreck Athwal’s hopes of becoming an MP for a safe Labour seat and to improve the chances of his chief rival, Jeremy Corbyn loyalist Sam Tarry, who went on to secure the nomination and win the Commons seat.
At the time of the suspension Labour officials briefed journalists that the allegation was for sexual harassment. On London reported at the time that the complainant was a man who has a history of involvement in Labour politics in Redbridge and has made complaints against other fellow Labour members in the past. When the furore over Athwal’s suspension broke, the complainant deleted his Twitter account.
At the time of the suspension an unnamed Labour source told Labour List that “anyone claiming this is a stitch-up is dismissing extremely serious allegations against this individual”. It was reportedly claimed that the timing of the suspension, which came months after the complaint was submitted, was entirely coincidental.
In a statement following the rejection of the complaint by Labour’s national constitutional committee yesterday, Athwal, who is married to a woman and has four children, said he and his family “have been through hell as this case has been dragged out” and that “I am in no doubt that this malicious complaint was deliberately manipulated for no other reason than to exclude me from the [parliamentary] selection”.
Athwal called on Labour to “undertake a thorough investigation into the handling of my case by party officers and members of the National Executive Committee and introduce a complaints system that is independent and free from political manipulation and corruption to give genuine victims the confidence to know that they can come forward. Those responsible, some of whom have left the employment of the Labour Party and some of whom continue to hold positions of influence within the Labour Party, must be held to account”.
He added: “There must never be a repeat of this kind of corruption. I have every confidence that Keir Starmer’s leadership will restore principles of fairness, decency and justice to the Labour Party.”
Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, a strong supporter of Athwal throughout the controversy, has echoed the request to Starmer for an investigation.
Streeting said: “I remain shocked and sickened by the depths to which people were prepared to sink in order to manipulate a parliamentary selection and exclude our popular local council leader from the process. It was a stitch-up. This kind of grubby political corruption cannot go without serious consequences. Now that the Labour Party is under new management, there must be a thorough investigation into the handling of this case and lessons learned.”
Responding to the committee’s decision and Athwal’s statement, Sam Tarry described allegations of a “stitch-up” to as “farcical” and warned of a risk of “undermining confidence” in the party’s process for investigating complaints similar to the one dismissed.
OnLondon.co.uk exists to provide fair and thorough coverage of the UK capital’s politics, development and culture. It depends greatly on donations from readers. Give £5 a month or £50 a year and you will receive the On London Extra Thursday email, which rounds up London news, views and information from a wide range of sources. Click here to donate directly or contact email@example.com for bank account details. Thanks.