Bury South MP Ivan Lewis has quit the Labour Party. He was under investigation by the party over allegations of sexual harassment. Buzzfeed last year said it had spoken to five women about their experiences.
Lewis has denied sexual harassment but has previously apologised for behaviour that had made women feel ‘uncomfortable’.
In a letter published on his Twitter feed, Lewis rails against what he considers an ‘anti-Western world view’ and says he was unable to “reconcile my Jewish identity and current Labour politics”, as well as Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Brexit and attacking the independence of Labour’s disciplinary process.
He also states that he was:
never…interviewed about complaints which have been made against me.
But senior sources at the Labour Party dispute this claim. One told the SKWAWKBOX that Lewis’ case had been passed to the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) and was pending agreement of a date between Lewis’ team and the party.
Another told this blog that his case could not have reached the NCC stage without investigators going to speak to Lewis at length about the complaints against him, because they would have needed to do so before passing a file to the NEC Disputes Panel – the group that would decide to send the case to the NCC – for the panel to assess.
However, Lewis’ letter also indicates that he was not cooperating with the investigation – a fact that would probably have prolonged attempts to move the process along:
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Ivan Lewis for comment about the stage his case had reached before he quit the party. A spokesperson told this blog:
After twelve months the Labour Party has never interviewed Mr Lewis about a complaint. Emails they were forced to reveal show they could have moved forward with the process since April.
Following a meeting Mr Lewis held with a senior party person in October when he said he was considering resigning due to anti semitism the party sought to move the process forward. By this time the NCC was controlled by the left slate. A charge was drawn up once again without ever having interviewed Mr Lewis. The party repeatedly failed to reply to Mr Lewis’s lawyers concerns about the unfairness of the process. A number of MPs continuing to occupy senior positions and seen as loyal to the leader have never been suspended from the party despite serious complaints about their conduct including threats of violence and alleged criminal acts.
Asked to clarify whether he had refused to speak with Labour investigators in view of his statement about cooperating with a ‘truly independent’ process, a spokesperson responded:
Mr Lewis has never been interviewed or asked for an interview by any Labour Party representative about these complaints.
Mr Lewis reiterates he is willing to cooperate with a truly independent process.
The SKWAWKBOX had also asked whether Lewis intends to stand as an independent in the next general election given that this would split the anti-Tory vote and risk allowing the Conservatives to win what is a relatively tight seat. The last part of the spokesperson’s response stated:
Mr Lewis will continue to stand up for social justice as the independent MP for Bury South.
Allegations against him remain unresolved. Young Labour issued a remarkable tweet that quoted comments by an alleged victim in Greater Manchester:
Lewis’ spokesperson reiterated that he “strongly refutes the allegation made in this tweet“.
Lewis’ resignation has caused the NCC hearing on the complaints against him to be dropped. Former Labour MP John Woodcock resigned from the party in similar circumstances in July, just before a hearing into allegations of sexual harassment.
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