Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
3 November 2017updated 06 Nov 2017 2:24pm

Do the accusations against Kelvin Hopkins spell trouble for Jeremy Corbyn?

Questions are now being asked about what the Labour leader knew and when. 

By Stephen Bush

The accusations against Kelvin Hopkins, the 76-year-old MP for Luton North, have taken another turn. The Evening Standard has revealed that Rosie Winterton, the then-Labour chief whip, flagged the accusations against Hopkins with the Labour leader’s office before Jeremy Corbyn went on to appoint Hopkins to the post of shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport.

Hopkins denies sexually harassing the activist Ava Etemadzadeh in 2013 and has now been suspended by the party pending an investigation.

Hopkins’ appointment came at a time that relations between Corbyn’s office and his then-chief whip were at an all-time-low. Winterton had been instrumental in putting together Corbyn’s first shadow cabinet, which then resigned almost en bloc following the European referendum defeat. It may be that Winterton’s remarks never made their way to Corbyn himself. In any case, expect the fraught relationship between the two to be used by some of the leadership’s outriders to explain away the lack of action.

The blunt truth, however, is that the story may end up serving as the supreme example of Westminster’s sexual harassment problem. There are always reasons not to believe the testimony of women and there are always reasons why it is convenient not to – at the time, Corbyn’s difficulties filling the cabinet were such that Paul Flynn, then aged 81, ended up serving in two posts – that of shadow leader of the house and shadow Wales secretary – at once.  

The story will be a blow to Labour’s women’s groups, who hoped that Corbyn’s inability to exert control over most of the party’s institutions until his general election performance transformed his opposition meant he was, as I put it on our podcast this week, a pair of “clean hands”: he had never been involved in turning a blind eye to bad behaviour because his writ had never run into the party’s headquarters.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

They hoped that meant the usual reasons that genuine reform never happens wouldn’t apply. (Some of his allies also believed that it put them in the perfect position: untainted by the blind eye of previous leaderships, able to do the right thing and use it to consolidate their control over Labour Party headquarters and candidate selection.) Now the fear will be that, as far as turning a blind eye goes, Corbyn is just as implicated as any other senior Labour politician would be. 

Should it turn out that Corbyn did know earlier than advertised about the accusations against Hopkins, it is unlikely to change his internal position – almost everyone in the party in a senior position is either compromised, or for one reason or another unable to make a credible challenge to him. But it means that the big political dividend that some of his allies hoped for will remain uncollected.