A Labour MP faces expulsion after an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct was tonight referred to the party’s highest authority.
Kelvin Hopkins was last year accused of sending inappropriate text messages to Ava Etemadzadeh, a young party activist, and of making inappropriate physical contact with her.
She said Mr Hopkins had “hugged me to say goodbye, held me too tight and rubbed his crotch on me, which I found revolting”.
He has admitted to sending her text messages saying she was a “lovely young woman – attractive, intelligent, charming and sweet natured.”
The message went on: “A nice young man would be lucky to have you as a girlfriend and lover. I am sure one such is soon to be found. Were I to be young … but I am not.”
But Mr Hopkins denied his behaviour was inappropriate, claiming Ms Etemadzadeh had replied to the message the same way and in a friendly manner.
Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) tonight decided to refer the case up to the National Constitutional Committee (NCC), the body which could take the final step of expelling Hopkins from the party.
A Labour Party spokesperson, said: “After consideration of statements provided by the complainant and the respondent, the NEC’s Sexual Harassment panel has agreed that on the balance of the evidence the matter should be referred to a full hearing of the National Constitutional Committee.
“The Labour Party will not be commenting further on this case until the conclusion of that hearing.”
It also emerged tonight that the decision was taken shortly before Christmas to refer another MP, Ivan Lewis, to the NCC after a woman alleged the Bury South MP had touched her leg and invited her to his house when she was 19 at a Labour Party event in 2010.
A statement issued through his lawyers at the time said Mr Lewis had “never made non-consensual sexual comments or sexual advances to women”.
On Thursday, Labour announced that it had appointed the charity Rape Crisis to provide independent support for people affected by sexual harassment within the party.
The charity will provide a specialist support line staffed by trained staff for reporting sexual harassment, operated independently from the party.
They will also audit Labour’s internal procedures from the point of view of someone who is making a complaint to ensure the procedures are suitable and effective.
Responding to the NEC’s decision, Ava Etemadzadeh said: “After two long years of my complaint about Kelvin Hopkins being ignored by Jeremy Corbyn, I cautiously welcome the fact that my case is finally being heard. I’m grateful to the NEC panel for recognising that there is a case to answer here and the matter should be referred to the National Constitutional Committee for consideration of disciplinary action.
“But this doesn’t hide that the facts of my case haven’t changed since I made my original complaint in December 2015. The only reason this case is being heard by the Labour party is because I went public and the resulting media backlash meant that what had been covered up before, would now be examined. And while I had been fobbed off without any action, Kelvin Hopkins found himself rewarded by Jeremy Corbyn with a shadow cabinet spot.
“I know the NCC will take its responsibilities seriously, act with integrity and I look forward to finally having my say. But the only way victims of harassment in politics can see justice is through the establishment of an independent politically neutral body. Without such a body, there will always be the risk of the sort of political meddling we have seen in cases like mine, and women in the Labour party will not be safe.”