Apsana Begum ‘triggered’ amid “campaign of misogynistic abuse”

Katie Neame
Credit: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News

Poplar and Limehouse Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has voted for a full selection process amid allegations of a “sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse and harassment” against incumbent Labour MP Apsana Begum.

Procedural secretary Asra Anjum confirmed in a letter on Monday evening that the “local Labour Party branches and the affiliates to our CLP have voted for a full selection” to determine who will contest the seat for Labour.

The Labour Party had been urged to halt the trigger ballot process for Begum in light of the allegations of intimidation and harassment. Sources close to the MP say more than 40 complaints have been submitted to the party about the process.

Begum announced in a statement last month that she had been signed off sick from her work as an MP following a hospital visit. She said throughout her time in parliament she had been “subjected to a sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse and harassment”.

The statement continued: “As a survivor of domestic abuse, it has been particularly painful and difficult. This abusive campaign has had a significant effect on my mental and physical health.”

The Labour backbencher added: “As I am unwell, I have not been able to participate in the Labour Party’s internal trigger ballot process for a while. However, I would like to extend my thanks for the support shown by so many members who have attended meetings over recent weeks.

“I am very concerned by the wider circumstances surrounding the trigger ballot process. This has included complaints of alleged rule-breaking and alleged misogynistic intimidation. It is vital that the party investigates these complaints properly and takes appropriate action.”

Three complaints sent by CLP members to the regional party headquarters, seen by LabourList, raised concerns over the way some members had behaved at meetings in which voting was held.

Responding to the news that Begum would face a trigger vote, Labour backbencher John McDonnell tweeted: “Where is the duty of care to Apsana?

“How can we ever tell people that Labour takes allegations of abuse seriously unless firm action is taken to halt this process [and] independently investigate alleged rule breaking, intimidation, bullying [and] harassment?”

A group of local Muslim female members sent a letter to Labour’s ruling national executive committee and the London regional Labour Party, which said: “We, the Labour Party, lost the mayoralty and the majority on the council in the recent local elections in Tower Hamlets.

“Apsana has failed to come out and campaign for our candidates. In essence, she has been absent and nowhere to be seen on the campaign trail.

“To date, she has failed to win a single ward. This is because she has not been an effective MP in the constituency and has been a failure in her role.

“Members are unhappy with her, and she has not bothered connecting with them to understand the reasons for their unhappiness and seeing how she can improve her communication channels with the membership and constituents.”

A joint statement was issued last week by 24 Labour activists and union representatives calling for an immediate halt to the trigger ballot process.

Signatories included former MP Laura Pidcock, NEC members Gemma Bolton, Yasmine Dar and Mish Rahman, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan and TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes.

They declare: “We have watched in disbelief as the party leadership, nationally and regionally, has failed to intervene to pause this process whilst the MP recovers, even after repeated communication explaining the seriousness of the situation.”

“How can someone that is certified unfit to work fairly and freely take part in this process? By not intervening, the Labour Party is complicit in preventing Apsana Begum’s recovery. It beggars belief that we are having to ask for such a basic, humane request from the Labour Party,” the statement added.

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