Woman claims MP Jared O’Mara verbally abused her this year

24 Oct

The Labour MP Jared O’Mara faces a potential internal party investigation over allegations he verbally abused a woman in a nightclub, two Labour frontbenchers have said.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, and Dawn Butler, the shadow minister for women and equalities, both said they expected O’Mara to face investigation by Labour over his comments.

O’Mara, who denies the new claims, resigned from the women and equalities committee on Monday after sexist and homophobic comments he posted on internet message boards around 15 years ago emerged.

The Sheffield Hallam MP, who unseated Nick Clegg at the general election in June, apologised for the web 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 since then, new claims were made by Sophie Evans, who alleges the abuse incident in a Sheffield nightclub was witnessed by her friends.

Evans told BBC2’s Daily Politics 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 in March before he became an MP after encountering 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.”

McDonnell 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 if 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”.

The minister for women and equalities, Justine Greening, and the Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, called on Jeremy Corbyn to remove the whip from O’Mara. In a letter to Corbyn, 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.”

Butler told Daily Politics: “It’s not acceptable and it’s completely offensive language. I’m pleased that Jared has gone on a journey. I think he has probably got further to go on his journey.”

She added: “I’m sure it will be investigated by the party; it’s unacceptable language.”

Evans’s allegations emerged after various websites uncovered abusive and homophobic online comments O’Mara made 15 years ago. In one posting he wrote: “I find it funny how some homosexuals think they have the monopoly on being subject to abuse” and and in another he suggested it would be funny if the jazz star Jamie Cullum were “sodomised with his own piano”.

Evans said she had not been 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.”

Chris Leslie, a senior Labour backbencher, told Daily Politics there would have to be consequences for O’Mara if the allegations were verified. The former shadow chancellor said it was difficult for him to respond to the specific allegations without hearing O’Mara’s response.

“I’m of the view that if allegations are made, and they are proven or accepted, then in any institution … there have to be consequences for those individuals,” Leslie said. “We can’t just be in a position where people make excuses or apologise and everything is glossed over.”

It was “not enough to simple make excuses and move on”, he said, doing so would prevent other people from coming forward.

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 Tory 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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