Tories accuse ‘priestly’ Sir Keir Starmer of hypocrisy over claims Labour tried to cover up sexual harassment allegations
- Labour has faced claims that ex-staffers were asked to sign NDAs after claims
- Embarrassingly, the accusation came after Keir vowed ‘honesty and integrity’
- Rees-Mogg:’ It’s hypocrisy for Sir Keir to play this priestly holier-than-thou figure’
- Labour denied the claims and insisted no NDAs proposed in Starmer leadership
Sir Keir Starmer was accused of rank hypocrisy last night over claims Labour tried to cover up sexual harassment allegations by ‘gagging’ the women involved.
He faced claims that lawyers asked ex-party staffers Laura Murray and Georgie Robertson to sign confidentiality agreements that would have stopped them speaking out about the alleged ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.
Embarrassingly for Sir Keir, the cover-up accusation came days after the Labour leader boasted of how he believed ‘honesty and integrity’ mattered. It also comes after he gloated last week over Boris Johnson’s resignation, branding him unfit to be Prime Minister for promoting ‘sexual predator’ Tory MP Chris Pincher.
Tories seized on the gagging claims, with Cabinet Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg saying it is ‘rank hypocrisy for Sir Keir to play this priestly holier-than-thou figure in public but for his party to seek to use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to cover up sexual harassment in this way’.
Ex-Labour staffer Laura Murray, pictured outside the High Court in May 2021, was reputedly asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) by the Labour party after making a claim
Labour denied the claims yesterday and insisted that no NDAs ‘have been proposed to any member of staff alleging sexual harassment since Starmer took over as leader’. The party added that it took sexual harassment claims ‘extremely seriously’.
Starmer allies also hit back by pointing out both women had been accused of being involved in leaking an internal report about Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism complaints – claims they have both denied.
The row centres on sexual harassment claims made against a senior male official by Ms Murray, Labour’s former head of complaints, and ex-press officer Ms Robertson. Earlier this year, it emerged that shortly before Sir Keir succeeded Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in April 2020, the two women reported the official for ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.
Geoffrey Robertson poses with daughter Georgie, who also filed a complaint against one man
The man, who has not been named, was temporarily suspended but is understood to have strongly denied the allegations. However, Ms Murray – daughter of trusted Corbyn aide Andrew Murray – told the BBC that his ‘overbearing and possessive’ behaviour included pressuring her to go for drinks with him. She said he had been ‘constantly messaging at all hours of the night’ and made inappropriate comments about her love life.
Ms Robertson claimed the official had also pressured her to go for drinks. She said that after rebuffing his advances, ‘he then spread false rumours that I was sleeping with a married man at work’.
The women submitted formal grievances but claimed the complaints were ‘never dealt with seriously’. And they say that when they came to negotiate their severance terms in November 2020, party lawyers asked them to sign a settlement agreement with a broad confidentiality clause.
It came days after Sir Keir Starmer pledged ‘honesty and integrity’ after he was cleared of Beergate claims by Durham Constabulary
Both refused and left without payouts on the basis it would have stopped them speaking out and bringing any claim against the party or the official. Ms Robertson told the BBC: ‘I refuse to be silenced. It could encourage the party to use those agreements with other women.’
The two women’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, was quoted in April as saying the proposed contract violated Labour’s own policy on NDAs. At the time, 12 women serving on either Labour’s National Women’s Committee or the party’s National Executive Committee issued a statement saying that ‘trying to persuade women to sign NDAs to cover up abuse is a gross betrayal of Labour’s values’.
Ms Murray and Ms Robertson declined to comment. But a friend of the women said: ‘Georgie and Laura were asked to sign agreements containing clauses amounting to NDAs and preventing them from taking legal action against their harasser. Labour should apologise for trying to cover up what happened to them.’