Members of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party and Labour’s ruling body have expressed anger and concern after it emerged that the suspension of MP Apsana Begum’s ex-husband has been lifted, LabourList can reveal.
Update, September 3rd: A well-placed Labour source has told LabourList that Begum’s ex-husband has been re-suspended by the party. There has been no confirmation from Labour.
Begum, the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, recently told a court – before she was acquitted of three counts of housing fraud – that her Tower Hamlets councillor ex-husband Ehtasham Haque had been “controlling and coercive”.
The Labour MP told Snaresbrook Crown Court in London that her ex-husband had taken control of her finances and that a police warning for harassment had been issued after she reported his behaviour. He denies the allegations.
Sources say Labour has lifted the membership suspension of Haque while keeping his disciplinary case open as it has not yet been resolved – the same move seen in July in the disciplinary case of broadcaster Trevor Phillips.
LabourList understands that party procedures allow for reviews of administrative suspensions and that the lifting of a suspension during an investigation does not preclude the party from reinstating the suspension if required at a later point.
But concerns have been raised in the particular case of lifting Haque’s suspension due to potential implications for safeguarding. If a member is no longer suspended, they are allowed to attend local party meetings and other party spaces.
“This is a classic case of suspension being proportionate to safeguard someone,” one Labour source said. They added that there is widespread support for Begum within the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party as “it’s not a left/right thing”.
LabourList understands that the executive committee of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party today drafted a letter addressed to Labour’s governance and legal unit, which deals with internal party complaints, though it has not been sent.
A Labour frontbencher told LabourList: “The system is completely flawed and it feels like there is no justification for why some people are admitted and others aren’t. Allowing people like this [in the party] is a slap in the face for women.”
Describing the suspension lifting as “disgraceful”, a Labour national executive committee member said: “It is unacceptable for safeguarding reasons of members and the total disregard for a victim of domestic abuse who is a Labour MP.”
The NEC member added: “Can we rule out interference considering the timing of this? The deadline for application to be a Tower Hamlets Labour Party councillor is the 4th of September, and he [Haque] is an ally of the current mayor.”
One source suggested that the party may now be offering to re-suspend Haque following criticisms from women from across the parliamentary party of Labour’s decision to lift his administrative suspension.
Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said: “Apsana has my full support now as she has throughout.”
Ehtasham Haque, a Labour councillor in Tower Hamlets, has said: “I am innocent and the allegations made against me have no basis. I look forward to any investigation or legal process to enable me to clear my name.”
The Labour Party, Apsana Begum and Ehtasham Haque have been contacted for comment.