Labour launches investigation into MP Jared O’Mara’s behaviour

25 Oct

Labour has launched an investigation into the comments and behaviour of the MP Jared O’Mara after a woman claimed he verbally abused her in a Sheffield nightclub earlier this year.

O’Mara, who was elected MP for Sheffield Hallam in the general election in June, has vehemently denied the allegation from Sophie Evans, who said he called her “an ugly bitch” in an outburst in March.

It followed O’Mara’s resignation from the women and equalities committee on Monday after sexist and homophobic comments he posted on internet message boards about 15 years ago emerged.

Further online comments from the same period unearthed on Tuesday showed O’Mara making derogatory remarks about Spanish and Danish people.

A Labour spokeswoman said the investigation related to the allegations from March.

The MP, who unseated Nick Clegg, had apologised for the online comments, telling a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party on Monday evening that they were made during “a particularly difficult time” in his life.

But then came new claims fromEvans, who alleges the abuse incident in a Sheffield nightclub was witnessed by her friends.

Evans told BBC2’s Daily Politics show she had first encountered O’Mara on a dating app, and while an initial meeting “didn’t really work out” there were no hard feelings.

She said, however, that O’Mara had abused her before he became an MP after she encountered him while out with friends. Asked what O’Mara said, she replied: “Obviously, some of the things aren’t broadcastable. There were some transphobic slurs in there. He called me an ugly bitch.”

A spokesman for O’Mara said: “He categorically denies the latest allegations.”

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said O’Mara had already issued “a profuse apology” for the earlier comments. He told the Press Association: “Any language like that we know is unacceptable and I’m hoping he will apologise for that.”

Asked whether there should be an investigation, McDonnell said: “That would be the normal process.”

McDonnell’s comments came as further online comments published by the Guido Fawkes website showed O’Mara in a discussion about football referring to Spaniards as “dagos” in 2002 and accusing a Dane of being a “pig shagger”.

Justine Greening, the minister for women and equalities, and Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, called on Jeremy Corbyn to remove the whip from O’Mara. In a letter to the Labour leader, Greening said: “Violent, sexist and homophobic language must have no place in our society, and parliamentarians of all parties have a duty to stamp out this sort of behaviour wherever we encounter it, and condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

“Will you be removing the whip from him while the investigation is carried out?”

Cable said: “If he did make these remarks, Labour needs to withdraw the whip from him immediately.”

Evans’s allegations emerged after various websites uncovered abusive and homophobic online comments O’Mara made in the early 2000s. In one posting from 2002 he wrote: “I find it funny how some homosexuals think they have the monopoly on being subject to abuse” and and in another from 2004 he suggested it would be funny if the jazz star Jamie Cullum were “sodomised with his own piano”.

Evans said she was not surprised to learn about the earlier comments.

“Fair enough for him to have said that about 15 years ago, but he won’t even acknowledge something that happened seven months ago,” she said.

“He’s never apologised to me or my friends that were involved in the situation. He’s called us liars. He’s called us liars in the press. He’s been on radio, called us liars. I just find it very, very hard to believe he’s changed.”

In an interview published earlier on Tuesday, O’Mara said he took full responsibility for his online comments, and that he had been caught up in “lad culture and football and all that” as a young man.

He told Huck magazine he had faced some homophobic bullying despite being heterosexual: “I saw it as an attack, as a slur, and I transferred that erroneously on to people who didn’t deserve it. Weak people like bullies try and hurt other people to feel better about themselves. That’s obviously the mindset I was in.”

O’Mara also suggested that if he had been a Conservative MP having made those comments, it would have been more likely he would have to step down.

“In terms of resigning as an MP, I think there’s a place for me,” he said. “I want to educate people and help people going through those prejudices grow out of them. I’ve gone on that journey and feel I can help.

“If a Conservative MP had made similar comments, I’d say it depends on what journey they had been on since. If they’d honestly changed and believed in equality and egalitarianism then absolutely [they should remain in parliament], but the very culture of Conservatism doesn’t foster that equality.”

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