In today’s Sunday Times:
A second member of the Labour Party has died after apparently taking his own life amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
The man, understood to be in his early thirties, died suddenly last week after being suspended from the party and his job at Labour headquarters after claims involving pornography.
The revelation plunged Labour into a fresh crisis and resulted last night in calls for an independent inquiry into the party’s handling of recent complaints about sexual harassment and wrongdoing.
The new death came two weeks after the apparent suicide of Carl Sargeant, the cabinet secretary for communities and children in the Welsh government.
Sargeant was removed from his post and suspended from Welsh Labour on November 3 after allegations about his behaviour. He died four days later apparently still unclear about the detailed claims against him.
The man who died last week was a member of Labour’s team at the party’s headquarters in Victoria, central London. One source said he had been caught digitally manipulating the faces of people onto the bodies of porn stars.
Iain McNicol, the general secretary, announced the death to the man’s stunned colleagues on Thursday morning. Staff were told in the strongest terms not to discuss the death with anyone.
A Labour spokesman said: “A member of Labour Party staff has died suddenly and unexpectedly. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and colleagues whose privacy must be respected. We will not be commenting further.”
Labour sources said the new inquiry had just begun and had not found that the dead man was guilty of any wrongdoing. One said: “The person was suspended last week for porn-related allegations. An inquiry was in its early stages. No facts had been found nor was there any finding of guilt.”
It is understood the man’s family has not criticised Labour’s response to the affair, but the case raises serious questions about the way claims of wrongdoing have been handled.
Both main parties have been engulfed by complaints about the behaviour of MPs and staff, forcing the Commons to begin drawing up a new complaints procedure.
Labour has brought in the QC Karon Monaghan to investigate claims by the Labour activist Bex Bailey that a party official warned her against going public when she was raped. Other complaints are being examined by the party’s national executive committee.
Those under investigation include Ivan Lewis, the MP for Bury South, who was suspended from the party last week following accusations of sexual harassment, which he “strongly disputes”.
John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, branded Labour’s efforts to investigate claims as “amateurish” and called for the party to hand over control to an independent body.
“There isn’t a coherent means of dealing with any of this in any of the parties. The party needs to bring in external expertise and stop operating on a wing and a prayer,” he said.
“There has not been enough support for people who are coming forward as victims and there has been no support for people where allegations have been made against them.”
The Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke has been suspended from the party and referred to the police. His wife told The Sunday Times this month that her husband still did not know the accusations against him. Another Tory MP, Christopher Pincher, referred himself to the police after a claim of an unwanted advance.
You can subscribe to The Times here.