Labour peer Lord Lea suspended after being found guilty of harassing two women working in Parliament
A Labour peer has been suspended after being found guilty of harassment following accusations of “stalkerish” behaviour by a young woman working in Parliament.
She was one of two women to make an official complaint to the independent Commissioner for Standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, about Lord Lea of Crondall.
In her report she discovered the 82-year-old former trade unionist had been the subject of almost 20 previous complaints over the past decade, including shouting at staff, being aggressive, and making a racially offensive remark.
But they had not been fully investigated as they did not fall under the scope of the previous Parliamentary reporting mechanism.
However after it was updated in April last year one of the women, known as AB, re-submitted her complaint and triggered the inquiry into Lord Lea’s behaviour.
She said she had accompanied him on an official visit with other parliamentarians several years ago where she alleged he had behaved “inappropriately”, and invited her to his hotel room to drink champagne.
The woman said in 2018 a package arrived at her workplace from him with a photo of the two of them together from the trip in a silver frame, adding he has a copy of it “on his piano at home”.
He also called on her to come visit him at his home for a cup of tea, or “to finish that bottle of champagne”.
The woman said the idea of him keeping a photo of her from when she was in her twenties for almost a decade was “disturbing” and “slightly stalkerish”.
The peer, a former assistant general secretary of the TUC before being ennobled by Tony Blair’s government, apologised for what he now understood was “an unwelcome intrusion”.
But Ms Scott-Moncrieff said when asked if he understood why his letter, some nine years after the official visit, had agitated AB, he said “not quite, unless she had some feelings of affection for me which she thought I had torn up or something.”
She wrote: “He completely failed to understand why AB should be disturbed by his action in writing to her, enclosing a photo of her and letting her know he had a copy of the photo on his piano at home.
“His suggestion that she might have had feelings for him and somehow experienced the letter and photo as rejection is not only very far from the truth, but also a remarkably unlikely explanation.”
'IT WAS ALL A BIT BIZARRE'
A second complainant, known as TU, said he promised to “write her a poem referencing a sexually suggestive rhyme on her name he had created” as part of a pattern of “unwanted and unwelcome” interaction with her in her office in Parliament.
She said: “It was all a bit bizarre, he said he was going to write a letter to the Observer and I would know it was from him. I never looked in the Observer.”
The woman said Lord Lea’s behaviour had “left her feeling uncomfortable and singled out”, saying: “I just want to be able to come to work, do my job and be a work person rather than a woman at work.
In response the peer was apologetic about how his behaviour had caused her upset, and said of the rhyme: “It was a very stupid thing to say. I acknowledge that, and I apologise very deeply.”
Ms Scott-Moncrieff said Lord Lea’s conduct in both cases “amounted to harassment related to both age and sex”.
She said however they did not amount to sexual misconduct, and ordered him to “take part in a series of bespoke training and behaviour change coaching sessions”.
“It seems to me that Lord Lea is unlikely to change his behaviour without specialist input to address it,” the watchdog added.
A Labour Lords spokesperson: “The Chief Whip has informed Lord Lea that he is suspended from the Labour Peers Group until further notice.
“We appreciate that David has already begun the recommended training and further discussions will be had once that course has been completed to the satisfaction of the Commissioner.”