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Judge, jury, executioner – and complainant, witness and prosecution: Mahmood’s ‘process’ vs Cohen exposed

Documents submitted in tribunal reveal the reality of right-wing Labour MP’s ‘disciplinary process’ against troublesome whistleblower – and Mahmood’s fury at her making him look bad by copying complaints to Keir Starmer

Khalid Mahmood and the role he is accused of taking to hound a whistleblower out of her job

Right-wing Labour MP Khalid Mahmood acted as judge, jury, executioner, complainant, witness and prosecution in his campaign to get rid of troublesome whistleblower Elaina Cohen, a tribunal heard today.

Elaina Cohen, Mahmood’s former employee, has accused him of sacking her for blowing the whistle on alleged serious criminal abuse by another of his staff and raising horrific safeguarding issues faced by domestic violence victims as a result of the woman’s alleged conduct.

After initially denying that an investigation – launched by Mahmood after Cohen raised her concerns and would not let the issues go and which Mahmood today said he paid for personally – had targeted Cohen herself rather than the subject of the whistleblowing allegations, with whom Mahmood was said to in a relationship, the MP was forced today by Cohen’s barrister Martina Murphy to admit that yes, the investigation’s focus was Cohen.

Mahmood justified this by claiming that she – the employee – had ‘bullied and harassed’ him, her employer, over a period of years.

Ms Murphy, acting for Cohen, identified emails and letters among documents – only disclosed by Mahmood’s camp last Friday – that showed that the ‘gross misconduct’ disciplinary process Mahmood launched against Cohen to end her employment centred on his complaint against her and that he would both control the entire process and be the sole arbiter of her ‘guilt’ and punishment.

Despite accepting the testimony of a victim into evidence unchallenged rather than allow her to take the stand in the tribunal, Mahmood continued to blame others for his actions, repeatedly claiming that he was only following the process recommended to him by parliamentary ‘HR’ – yet he pursued his course of action even though his own parliamentary investigator recommended by the same HR department, Linda Rollason, had told him that if he took any action against Cohen it would not be appropriate for her to adjudicate because she had investigated:

I will not be able to hear the case myself as I will have conducted the investigation.

Making him look bad

Mahmood was also forced to agree that a key driver of his anger toward Cohen was that she was making him look bad – ‘bringing my name into disrepute’ – by copying party leader Keir Starmer in on the correspondence about his lack of action on her ‘protected disclosures’. Mahmood told Murphy that it was his place to tell Starmer about any of the issues and not hers.

Ironically, he needn’t have worried – Starmer never took any action against him and left him on the Labour front bench despite the serious issues raised, until Mahmood himself chose to resign months later over reported political differences.

Murphy’s questioning also caught Mahmood out on a number of other contradictions and inconsistencies, as well as his initial claim that his investigator was not focusing on Mrs Cohen: Mahmood had claimed he had not asked for clinical reports on Cohen’s then-husband when his heart problems kept her from attending meetings, yet emails showed him asking her to obtain medical reports on her husband John’s condition from the hospital where John was being treated and his claim the disciplinary against Cohen had started much later than it actually did, for example.

Mahmood also said that Cohen had never raised her ‘protected disclosures’ about the vulnerable women during the disciplinary process, presumably implying that this meant she didn’t think she was being sacked because of them – yet a witness said that Cohen had repeatedly tried to do so but that Mahmood had refused to allow it, Ms Murphy said.

And one of the main reasons – or excuses – for her dismissal was also brought into question. Mahmood had claimed that Cohen had ‘broken protocol’ by approaching the Bahraini embassy to arrange a meeting for him without him asking her to do it – but emails about the issue were shown to be at worst ambiguous on whether Cohen had initiated any contact and in fact appeared to suggest that the embassy had contacted her to make the arrangements. Yet by blocking her access to her parliamentary emails, Mahmood had prevented Cohen from obtaining communications in readiness for his kangaroo court that might have helped her case.

And the day rounded off with Mahmood’s claim that ‘antisemitic’ messages posted by the staffer he is accused of protecting were found by the party not to be antisemitic, despite Keir Starmer sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey from the front bench for sharing the same article.

A sprinkling of humour

Despite the repetitive nature of Mahmood’s attempted self-justification, the day did have the odd moment of humour, for example when Mahmood took umbrage at Ms Murphy’s line of questioning and her suggestions that Cohen’s whistleblowing was the reason for him dismissing her. Mahmood turned to the leading judge to complain – who promptly told him that Murphy’s line of questioning was not up to Mahmood and that, as the complainant’s case is based on the premise that she was sacked for whistleblowing, he would – in not quite as many words – have to suck it up and get on with it.

And at the end of the day, Mahmood’s own barrister raised his opinion – presumably in order to try to amend or withdraw it – that Mahmood had admitted on one occasion that his disciplinary pursuit of Cohen was ‘retaliation’ for her refusing to abandon the issues she had raised. The interjection caused some delay while the judge and Cohen’s barrister checked their notes.

Mahmood has denied ‘all allegations of impropriety’. Keir Starmer has not responded to requests for comment about his inaction over the allegations, which extend beyond those raised in the courtroom into accusations that Mahmood stole from a charity and accepted cash from a foreign embassy.

The case continues tomorrow afternoon with submissions from the two legal teams. Whatever its outcome, the case raises serious questions about Keir Starmer’s conduct as party leader in ignoring serious allegations against a front-bench MP and his staff – an aspect seemingly entirely ignored by the ‘mainstream’ media’s coverage of the case.

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