UK Labour party in-fighting continues with allegations of intimidation and break-ins

Seema Malhotra's office was accessed without her knowledge

UK Labour party in-fighting continues with allegations of intimidation and break-ins

Anthony Devlin / PA Wire/Press Association Images

As the leadership battle for the Labour party begins to heat up, Jeremy Corbyn is embroiled in a row over an alleged "breach of privacy" after an aide entered a former shadow cabinet minister's office without permission.

Seema Malhotra has written to the Speaker to complain of a "breach of parliamentary privilege" along with "aggressive and intimidating" behaviour from Mr Corbyn's office manager Karie Murphy.

It appears that Ms Murphy tried to use a key card to gain access to the room on 15th July, while Ms Malhotra was in her constituency.

This attempt failed, but it seems that later on the same day a member of shadow chancellor John McDonnell's staff was able to access the room with a different key card.

Ms Malhotra, former shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "The reason why we're so concerned is because this was done without our knowledge, without our permission.

"We have no idea who went into the office, we have no idea why they went into the office. Those are questions that are quite fundamental and it matters also not just for privacy and parliamentary privilege but for the security and safety of our staff."

Since the police search of MP Damian Green's office in 2008, it has been accepted that only a search warrant can justify an entry of a parliamentary office without the wishes of an MP.

Ms Malhotra investigated whether people had been accessing her office after a member of Mr McDonnell's staff, accompanied by someone else, walked in on one of her staff members one evening a few days earlier, apparently believing the room to be empty. She left after suggesting she was "just being nosey".

Mr McDonnell defended the member of staff from his office, saying there had been a simple misunderstanding.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, he said: "My office manager...who has a key to all our rooms, went along, saw boxes outside her (Ms Malhotra's) office, thought she'd moved, knocked on the door, never heard anything, went in.

"Then (she) went back the next morning, did the same thing. Members of Seema's staff were there, she apologised and that was it. I've got a member of staff...she's now worried she's going to lose her job and face prosecution because it's been described as a break-in. That's just so distressing - it's unacceptable." 

Having resigned from her post the day after the EU referendum result, she applied immediately to be moved.

Office staff also allege that Ms Murphy was "aggressive and intimidating" and would "walk in without knocking".
She is also alleged to have referred to the female staff in a "patronising" manner as "girls", telling them "you really shouldn't be here."

A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn said: "The accusation that Karie intimidated anyone is untrue. As an office manager on the Leader of the Opposition's floor, Karie has a key to open all offices. She accessed the office in question to confirm when it would be vacated.

Ms Malhotra's staff say that Mr Corbyn's team knew that they were still waiting to be relocated by the whips' office and had offered to swap offices with the new shadow minister, but this had been turned down.

 

Another parliamentary staff member told Sky News: "No individual employed by an MP has the right to enter another MP's office without authorisation.

"They are in breach of house rules. While a certain office may equate to certain roles, an MP retains their office until house authorities facilitate a move elsewhere."

A spokesperson for the Speaker said he would consider and respond to Ms Malhotra's letter.