Begum: Labour “failed in its duty of care in relation to my health and wellbeing”

Credit: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News

Apsana Begum has said that the Labour Party “failed in its duty of care in relation to my health and wellbeing” after she faced a “relentless and sustained campaign of abuse and harassment”.

In a statement shared on social media this morning, the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse in east London announced that she is today beginning a “phased return” to work “after being signed off sick since June 12th”.

“Whilst I am feeling better than I was, it saddens me to say that the Labour Party has failed in its duty of care in relation to my health and wellbeing. I have faced a relentless and sustained campaign of abuse and harassment, which has even included vexatious litigation seeking to send me to jail,” she wrote.

“I am still awaiting the outcome of the investigation of the conduct and behaviour of my ex-husband and others. I would like to place on the record the stress and harm that this process has caused me and that I believe that the recent trigger process was used to further the domestic abuse and harassment that I have already endured.”

A local party process determines who will contest seats for Labour. LabourList revealed earlier this year a first tranche of 14, followed later by an additional 21, CLPs allowed to start a full selection process.

Where there is already an incumbent Labour MP, an electoral college of local party branches and organisations (branches of affiliated trade unions and socialist societies) affiliated to the CLP first vote on whether the MP will automatically remain as the Labour candidate or whether they hold a full selection process.

Local members voted for a full selection process in July amid allegations of a “sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse and harassment” against the incumbent Labour MP. The party had been urged to halt the ‘trigger ballot’ process in light of allegations of intimidation and harassment.

Complaints sent to the regional party headquarters from local members, seen by LabourList at the time, raised concerns over the way some members have behaved at meetings where voted had been held.

One complaint alleged that a group of group of members had disrupted the vote in Lansbury and Poplar branch and attempted to stop the distribution of the chief whip’s report on the MP and a statement from Begum. Another raised concerns of intimidation and harassment towards women throughout the process.

The Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse is a survivor of domestic abuse. She told a court last year – before she was acquitted of three counts of housing fraud – that her ex-husband had been “controlling and coercive”.

Begum wrote today: “The Labour Party has shown a lack of understanding regarding tackling domestic abuse, including post-separation harassment. I feel a duty to all survivors of abuse to challenge what has happened…

“I do not accept the legitimacy of the trigger ballot, mired by rule breaking, intimidation and harassment and which was, at the very least, conducted by those who are close to my ex-husband whilst I was certified sick.”

Begum added that she has raised her concerns in writing with David Evans, Labour’s general secretary, and confirmed notice served on July 19th that she is “seeking advice and considering taking legal action”.

She argued: “My ordeal was also due to my being elected on a socialist anti-austerity and anti-imperialist green platform – and that I have stood firmly by these principles and local people regardless of the consequences.”

Domestic violence charity Women’s Aid said earlier this year: “Solidarity with [Begum]. All parties need to ensure that survivors of domestic abuse are not exposed to further harrassment in their roles, and understand the impact that ongoing abuse can have. Violence against women must always be taken seriously.”

A member of the local party executive told LabourList in June that “all procedures have been followed in accordance with the [national executive committee] procedural guidelines” with “the close supervision of the regional party”.

They said that the executive takes allegations of wrongdoing “seriously” and stated that no branch meeting had “any concerns of wrongdoing raised at the time with the executive committee member nominated to oversee the proceedings”.

Below is the full text of the statement from Begum.

Today I begin a phased return after being signed off sick since 12th June. Whilst I am feeling better than I was, it saddens me to say that I believe that the Labour Party has failed in its duty of care in relation to my health and well-being. I have faced a relentless and sustained campaign of abuse and harassment, which has even included vexatious litigation seeking to send me to jail.

I am still awaiting the outcome of the investigation of the conduct and behaviour of my ex-husband and others. I would like to place on record the stress and harm that this process has caused me and that I believe that the recent trigger process was used to further the domestic abuse and harassment that I have already endured.

I want to make it very clear: I will not be silenced.

As the Chair of the APPG on Domestic Abuse and Violence, I believe that the Labour Party has shown a lack of understanding regarding tackling domestic abuse, including post separation harassment. I feel a duty to all survivors of abuse to challenge what has happened. I have been contacted by women from all over the UK and locally, concerned about the treatment I have received.

I do not accept the legitimacy of a trigger ballot, mired by rule breaking, intimidation and harassment and which was, at the very least, conducted by those who are close to my ex-husband whilst I was certified sick. I have written to the General Secretary David Evans setting out my views and have confirmed the notice already served (19th July) to the Labour Party that I am seeking advice and considering taking legal action.

I am very conscious that the undemocratic trauma that has been inflicted in recent months is very damaging to the party and local people. It has always been clear to me that my ordeal was also due to my being elected on a socialist anti-austerity and anti-imperialist green platform – and that I have stood firmly by these principles and local people regardless of the consequences.

Labour Party members deserve genuine democratic accountability and empowerment. I have been made aware that there are approximately fifty complaints submitted to the party regarding the trigger ballot. Until the party addresses the issues at hand, particularly the treatment of local women, a fair, just, safe, or democratic process cannot take place.

I want to once again thank everyone, everywhere, for all the solidarity that you have shown. I am particularly grateful to my staff and my office for continuing to support constituents in my absence. I know that many in our communities and across the country are struggling due to the cost-of-living crisis – with rising bills, the Government’s real-terms cuts to public pensions and benefits, and the “worst real wage squeeze in the G7”.

Remain assured, I will be prioritising representing and standing up for the people of Poplar and Limehouse during this difficult time – whether that is in parliament, on picket lines or campaigning in our communities.

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