The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has rejected claims that an aide to Jeremy Corbyn “broke into” a Labour MP’s parliamentary office.
Bercow told Labour MP Seema Malhotra that claims of unauthorised entry do not amount to a breach of Commons rules after she wrote to him demanding an investigation, and alleging that her own researchers had suffered from “harassment”.
Malhotra was shadow chief secretary to the Treasury under John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, before quitting the frontbench as part of a coup to bring down the Labour leader. Bercow said:
“Having taken advice, I am satisfied that there is nothing in your letter or in the information subsequently elicited by the deputy Serjeant at Arms which would justify regarding these events as a possible breach.”
He notes that those who entered “believed your office was empty” as boxes were outside ahead of re-locating.
But he stressed the “behaviour of party staff to one another is not a matter for the Speaker’s intervention”, suggesting the fall-out was not completely within his remit, and that “nobody should enter a Member’s office or the office of their staff, locked or not, without their permission”.
But the MP hit back.
In a response seen by The Daily Mirror, she says the acknowledgement “vindicated my view” and that a number of questions remained “unanswered”.
“Members of Parliament should always have knowledge of who has access to their office. This series of events has shown that not to be the case.
“I am sure you will agree that the shock of discovering firstly that access had been granted to someone without our knowledge and secondly that our office had been entered without our knowledge - whether or not in good faith - was deeply upsetting for my staff.”
A spokesman for Corbyn played down the incident, which also allegedly involved McDonnell’s staff, at the time and said that claims of intimidation were “untrue”.
In her original letter to Bercow, Malhotra named Corbyn’s office manager, Karie Murphy, as one of the aides involved, and accused her of being “aggressive and intimidating” towards the staff involved.
The claim prompted McDonnell to deliver an extraordinary appeal for Labour unity in a direct-to-camera message on The Andrew Marr Show this Sunday.
McDonnell asked which camera he was on before addressing party members directly.
“Let me just say this to Labour Party supporters, Labour members, members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, we’ve got to stop this now.
“There is a small group out there that are willing to destroy our party just to remove Jeremy Corbyn, we’ve got to stop them. We’ve got to unite.
“If you want to come for me and Jeremy Corbyn that’s up to you. But don’t pick on staff who can’t defend themselves.”