Sun, 13 June 2021

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The House Live All
By Georgina Bailey, Eleanor Langford and Kate Proctor
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Labour frontbencher spent thousands in taxpayer cash on legal battle with Jewish aide

Labour frontbencher spent thousands in taxpayer cash on legal battle with Jewish aide

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

A Labour frontbencher spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers' cash in a legal row with his Jewish Parliamentary assistant after she accused him of religious discrimination.

Shadow Europe minister Khalid Mahmood was taken to an employment tribunal by his staff member and former lover Elaina Cohen - but the case ended out-of-court with a non-disclosure agreement.

The claim was covered by an insurance funded by the parliamentary expenses system, including separate legal fees and staffing costs to cover for Ms Cohen totalling £37,000, the Daily Telegraph revealed.

The row began in 2016 when Mr Mahmood disciplined Ms Cohen after she accused another Labour MP - Naz Shah - of being an “anti-Zionist” on Twitter amid a separate row over anti-Semitism in the party.

Ms Cohen was exonerated after an internal disciplinary process and returned to work to find she had been effectively replaced.

She launched the religious discrimination claim against Mr Mahmood, which was settled out of court the following year, according to the paper.

The Birmingham Perry Bar MP had his legal costs covered by a £570-a-year insurance policy covered by expenses watchdog Ipsa.

He also claimed a £900 in lawyers' fee and £1,000 in legal costs, plus £37,000 in staffing costs to provide cover for Ms Cohen.

Mr Mahmood told the Telegraph: "There was an agreement that was signed which forbids me to go into any details in relation to [the case]."

Ms Cohen said: "I complained to Ipsa several times on the unfairness of substantial public funds being used. Ipsa should not be funding MPs in actions against their members of staff.

"We're in the middle of an anti-Semitism storm, and I had two years of hell over two tweets trying to bring it to the party's attention."

A spokesman for Ipsa said: “MPs may apply for a contingency payment for costs which are not covered by the [MPs’ expenses] scheme or where they expect to exceed a particular budget.

“Applications are considered by the Contingency Panel who assess whether there are exceptional circumstances warranting extra support.”

Mr Mahmood and Ms Cohen were previously exposed by the Telegraph for claiming luxury hotel stays on the parliamentary expenses system while the pair were lovers.


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