Suspended Labour MP questions 'integrity of process' against him

An MP suspended from the Labour Party over sexual harassment claims has questioned the "integrity of the process" which led to the action being taken against him at a "politically charged time".

John Woodcock, a prominent critic of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said he did not accept the  charge brought against him but was committed to a "thorough and fair investigation of the case".

He allegedly sent inappropriate texts and emails to a former female staff member between 2014 and 2016, according to the Sunday Mirror.

Mr Woodcock said he was "very concerned" that "selective" details of the case had been disclosed and that Labour's new general secretary Jennie Formby had cited the publicity as a reason to suspend the whip.

Barrow and Furness MP Mr Woodcock said: "I do not accept the charge being brought against me but have been co-operating fully with the process and remain committed to a thorough and fair investigation of the case."

He said he had been advised to "maintain the confidentiality of the case to ensure the fairness of the process" and to reassure other complainants they could bring forward cases "without being exposed to unwelcome publicity".

"I am therefore very concerned that one of the very few individuals with knowledge of the case chose to place selective details of it in newspapers this weekend," Mr Woodcock said.

"Labour's new general secretary has cited this publicity as a reason to suspend me from the Labour whip.

"The decision at this politically charged time to place details of my case in the press and then suspend me places a serious question mark over the integrity of the process, which serves neither those making complaints nor those facing allegations.

"I want this complaint to be judged in a way that is seen to be fair."

A Labour Party spokeswoman said: "John Woodcock has been suspended from the Labour Party pending due process. It would not be appropriate to comment further on an ongoing case."

Mr Woodcock said the complaint was made against him in November 2017 and the following month he was informed that the complaint had been referred to the party's disciplinary body, the national constitutional committee, for a hearing "early in the new year".

The MP, who was first elected in 2010,  said he would "continue to speak out when I believe it is right to do so" and promised to continue working for his constituents.

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