A lot of people in the public eye – particularly journalists and politicians – seem to be afraid to say this at the moment for fear it could damage their career or their party.
But I’m not a journalist or a politician so I will.
It would be extremely naive indeed to think there aren’t people cynical enough in politics to use the current appalling sex scandals engulfing Westminster for their own nefarious political ends.
Truth is never black and white. It is always complicated.
And so it is with the Westminster sexual harassment cases coming out at the moment.
Some of the accusations are appalling, particularly the accusations that serious crimes been covered up by both the Tory, Lib Dem and Labour leaderships. I hope in these cases the perpetrators are named and shamed and justice is served:
It was also absolutely right in my view to call out supposedly less serious behaviour by politicians – such as Labour MP Jared O’Mara’s horrible homophobic and misogynist comments.
But it’s becoming increasingly hard to differentiate between the very real and appalling cases being reported – including accusations of serious assault and rape – and cases which are simply attempts to smear political opponents under cover of the scandal.
Which brings me to the case of Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins.
But before I continue, a disclaimer.
I’m not a Corbynite or a Blairite. I’m not even a member of the Labour Party. I’m also an arch-Remainer, and was even before it became fashionable, so I have no axe to grind or political reasons whatsoever to support a Brexit campaigning MP.
But sometimes the truth needs to be told.
So here it is.
There was a lot of genuine head-scratching in and around Westminster when Hopkins – the 76-year old left-wing MP for Luton North – was accused of sexual harassment by a young Labour activist.
Unlike other MPs accused in the current sex scandals – where serial cases of similar behaviour are quite rightly offered as proof of guilt – during Hopkins’ decades-long political career, there have been no other previous suspicions, gossip or accusations of this kind against him.
Quite the opposite in fact. Even some of Hopkins’ opponents have been surprised by the allegations against him:
“As a former Conservative Chairman I was often in the presence of both Kelvin & Margaret Moran. She was hard and hostile to political opponents, whereas he would always say hello, chat, sometimes (at counts) about our respective campaigns, he was always full of cheer and thoroughly decent. I have always liked him and wished he was the Luton South MP as he lives near me, rather than Luton North.
I cannot believe these allegations. They don’t make sense, and things that don’t make sense usually aren’t true. Last time I checked we still have a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in this country, so let’s stop this trial by media. Kelvin has my full support.”
Of course, just because a case of harassment is a one-off complaint and seemingly out of character from previous behaviour, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person accused is not-guilty.
But looking at the evidence, it seems clear to me that Brexit campaigning, pro-Corbyn Hopkins is the victim of a campaign to smear and discredit him by a small faction of hard-line Blairite Remainers, who know full-well it would take a brave person indeed in the current climate to defend him.
The problem is confounded by the fact that the gentlemanly Hopkins refuses to say anything that could be seen as an attempt to smear his accuser. Apart from an official statement released by Hopkins’ solicitors, Hopkins’ only comment so far when questioned about his accuser has been this:
“I have always wished and still do wish, Ava the very best of luck in pursuing the career in politics that she wants to follow. I am happy to fully cooperate with the Labour Party to bring to a swift conclusion the investigation that is now being carried out into my conduct.” – Kelvin Hopkins MP
In my opinion, the only thing Hopkins is guilty of, is being too nice for today’s politics.
Because looking at the details of the case, it’s clear he is the victim of an attempt to cynically use the harassment scandal to smear him as a Corbyn and Brexit supporter, as well as an attempt to smear the Labour leader himself.
That’s my opinion. Here’s a summary of the evidence. Make your own mind up.
There are just two accusations against Hopkins from the same accuser. The first accusation was first made in 2015, soon after Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader. Hopkins was one of the few MPs who nominated Corbyn. The complaint related to a text message Hopkins had sent to his accuser, but contrary to some press reports it did not include the second more serious accusation that in 2014, Hopkins had rubbed himself against her. This more serious accusation only appeared in the last few days in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
What we do know is that Hopkins was reprimanded by the then Labour whip Rosie Winterton (more about her later) for sending this text:
While this message might be considered to be inappropriate, it’s not exactly the crime of the century. But there is something very odd about it. It is clearly in reply to a previous message or conversation. Hopkins’ accuser – through her Daily Telegraph minders – has not responded to requests to reveal what communication the text is in reply to. And as mentioned before, Hopkins refuses to discuss anything connected with his accuser. Without any context, it’s hard to judge just how inappropriate the message is. To me, it looks like he could be letting her down gently for some reason, but who knows?
The second only recently-made accusation – which contrary to press reports was not part of the original complaint that Hopkins was given a reprimand for – is that in 2014 Hopkins ‘ground his groin’ against his accuser while saying goodbye to her after a talk at her university. This allegation is completely refuted by Hopkins:
“I absolutely and categorically deny that I in any way engaged in any such inappropriate conduct. I simply put an arm around her shoulder to give her a brief, slight hug just before getting in to my car. I did not hold her tight. I did not rub any part of my body, let alone my crotch, against Ava. She waved me off as I drove away and did not say anything whatsoever to suggest that anything had occurred that upset her let alone revolted her.”
But the real problem with this new accusation is that when it was alleged to have taken place doesn’t make any sense at all in the timeline of known messages.
On the 12.11.2014 after an Essex University talk, the alleged groin grind was supposed to have taken place.
But later that same evening, after the alleged event, Hopkins’ accuser sent this text to him:
‘Thank you so much Kelvin for coming tonight!! We had a fantastic time. My members loved you! 🙂 You’re a star! x Ava.’
And just a month later, on the 15.12.2014 Hopkins received this message from his accuser:
‘Hi Kelvin, how are you? Could you please send me your post address? I’d like to send you a Christmas card. x Ava.’
In 2016, Hopkins’ accuser also contacted the MP to enquire about getting a job in Westminster. After a ‘friendly’ conversation, Hopkins told her he had no vacancies.
It was only after all of this that the groin grind complaint was made to the Daily Telegraph.
When looked at closely, the allegations look very odd and weak indeed.
But why would anyone bother to accuse Hopkins in the first place? This is where it gets very interesting.
Understanding this means we have to go into the very complex – and extremely boring – machinations relating to the bitter fight for control of the Labour Party National Executive Committee between a Corbynite faction and a Blairite faction at the top of the party. The NEC is very important because it can decide everything – from who can stand as leader to how party policy is made.
Fortunately, we know the identity of many of the core members of the two opposing groups because in March 2016, a document was leaked to the press showing which Labour MPs belong to which faction:
According to the leaked list, Hopkins is one of just 18 MPs belonging to the ‘core group’ of Corbyn supporters.
And in the much longer list of MPs belonging to the opposing anti-Corbyn Blairite faction are Michael Dugher, Gareth Thomas and Rosie Winterton – none other than the very same Labour whip who reprimanded Hopkins.
In recent days, it seems attempts have been made to hide connections between Hopkins’ accuser and leading members of the Blairite faction.
Here are screen shots of her Linked in page, which showed she has worked as an intern for Blairite faction leader Michael Dugher:
And the Linked in page also showed she worked on Blairite faction MP Gareth Thomas’ re-election campaign:
Amazingly, Hopkins’ accuser was also directly involved in one of the dirtiest battles between Hopkins’ faction and the Blairites over seats on the NEC – the disputed dirty tricks election of Blairite Jasmine Beckett to the NEC in June 2016:
For some strange reason, her Twitter handle has also been changed from @avablair0890 to one which no longer includes the word ‘blair’.
You don’t have to be a detective to understand why it would serve the case against Hopkins much better if these connections were kept hidden.
It seems I’m not the only person to have serious doubts about the Hopkins accusations. Some of the MP’s constituents have started a Facebook group campaigning for his innocence.
Real sexual abuse – even rape – has been taking place in Westminster and in my opinion, these weak accusations being used for point scoring against political rivals only serve to devalue genuine abuse.
Sadly, I’m told Hopkins is “totally broken” over the accusations.
What do you think? As I said above, the truth is never black and white and is always complicated. Please feel free to comment below.
Here’s a timeline of relevant events:
July 2013 – Aug 2013 Hopkins’ accuser had internship with Gavin Shuker MP (Luton south)…. Progress
June 2014 – Aug 2014 Hopkins’ accuser had internship with Michael Dugher MP … Labour First
Sept. 2014 meets Hopkins at supper with Gavin Shuker and others … Manchester LP conference
Oct 2014 Canvassing in Clacton
12.11.2014 Essex University talk and alleged groin grind
15.12.2014 Hopkins’ accuser asks for Hopkins’ address for a christmas card
2.02.2015 Hopkins’ accuser had lunch with Hopkins at HoC
16.02.2015 Hopkins sent the text.
08.05.2015 Cameron won majority and Ed Miliband resigned.
June 2015 Jeremy Corbyn was nominated by Hopkins and co
Sept. 2015 Jeremy Corbyn elected
Dec. 2015 Syria vote and 67 PLP rebelled … Michael Dugher being a prominent and outspoken critic of Corbyn
Dec 2015 Hopkins’ accuser made a complaint about the text to Labour Whips office. Hopkins given a warning from Blairite Rosie Winterton
05.01.2016 Michael Dugher sacked from shadow cabinet by Corbyn.
20.02.2016 Cameron announces EU referendum. Hopkins begins campaigning for leaving.
29.02.2016 Jasmine Beckett elected to NEC as youth delegate in disputed contest …. narrow win of 1 vote + anti-semitism smears against Left wing candidate. Hopkins’ accuser boasts of success in getting Jasmine elected.
28.04.2016 Naz Shah suspended for anti-semitism. John Mann et al on BBC attacking Ken Livingstone and saying that he shouldn’t be on NEC. Livingstone removed from NEC.
22.06.2016 nominations for NEC constituency delegates excluding Ken Livingstone. Attempt by Jim Murphy to prevent Rhea Wolfson from standing.
23.06.2016 EU Referendum. Hopkins supports Brexit campaign.
25.06.2016 Hilary Benn sacked, start of PLP coup and second leadership campaign.
End of June, Hopkins appointed to Corbyn’s shadow cabinet
Attempt to stop Corbyn standing … narrowly voted against by NEC after court cases. Purge, suspensions and exclusion of LP members during second leadership contest with Owen Smith.
End of September, Corbyn re-elected. Hopkins steps down from shadow cabinet because he wanted to be free to vote as a backbencher.
Sometime in Autumn 2016, Hopkins’ accuser contacts Hopkins for advice and help finding a job in parliament.
May 2017 – June 2017 Hopkins’ accuser works on Blairite MP Gareth Thomas’ re-election campaign
08.06.2017 May loses majority in HoC. To dismay of LPHQ and right wing Labour MPs Corbyn wins biggest % vote for Labour since 1945. Michael Dugher steps down from Parliament.
29.06.2017 50+ Labour MPs rebel and vote for UK to stay in single market.
From then to date, increasing campaign for second referendum and overturning Brexit from prominent right wingers. Hopkins’ accuser is ardent remainer.
01.11.2017 Announcement that NEC is to take control of Young Labour Youth Rep elections and introduce OMOV. Thus removing Blairite faction’s control, making re-election of Jasmine Beckett unlikely and increasing likelihood of another Corbyn supporter on NEC.
02.11.2017 Hopkins’ accuser gives interview to Telegraph making new allegations of groin grinding previously not mentioned. ..