Bim Afolami: 'Attempted harassment' row with Hitchin and Harpenden Labour deepens
PUBLISHED: 10:26 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:41 01 November 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2017
Hitchin and Harpenden’s Labour chairman has categorically denied any party members sought to harass MP Bim Afolami’s family – but Mr Afolami has today firmly stood by his claim.
Constituency Labour chairman John Hayes yesterday told this paper that the Conservative MP’s allegation that some Labour members in Hitchin and Harpenden sought to identify where his two sons go to school – though they are too young to attend – was completely baseless, and that Mr Afolami’s behaviour was “disgraceful”.
But Mr Afolami, who says his source is a concerned Labour member, today stood by his claim – saying he had been told that one of the minutes of October 12’s constituency Labour meeting was “to find out where you live and where the boys are at school”.
Mr Afolami claims the Labour member said this was “absolutely too much for me and crosses too many lines”, and described similar comments from Labour activists in a now-deleted thread in a private Facebook group “for close members”.
The MP told us: “Clearly, the allegations that discussions about my family and me had ‘crossed lines’ were made by a Labour member. So those who want me to prove harm was intended are looking in the wrong direction.
“I understandably viewed them as serious because the Labour member took the extraordinary step of contacting me so I was aware and could take action.”
In a forthright conversation with this paper yesterday, Mr Hayes acknowledged there had been questions at the last constituency Labour Party meeting about whether the MP actually lived in his rented St Ippolyts home, and whether he would use the area’s schools or educate his children privately.
“That was it,” Mr Hayes said – adding that if someone at the meeting took that as “some scientific campaign to find out about that, then that’s an absolute nonsense”.
After Mr Afolami revealed his concerns through social media on Sunday morning, Mr Hayes pledged action against any harassment, saying it had “no place in any political party”.
He was angered when, after he exchanged emails with Mr Afolami, the 31-year-old MP said Mr Hayes had confirmed internal Labour discussions about “getting the detail (for political purposes) as to my address and where my children go to school”.
Mr Hayes called this a gross misrepresentation of what he had told Mr Afolami. He also took strong exception to the MP’s statement on Monday that some Hitchin Labour members ”seem to believe that personal information about my very young children is fair game for political purposes”.
Mr Hayes said he was unaware of any members who thought that way, and that he wanted to “have the last word” with Mr Afolami on this matter.
He said: “I only want to talk to him about politics, not scurrilous rumour. I’m not interested in that – it’s pathetic.
“Nobody in Hitchin Labour Party believes information about his children is fair game in any way, shape or form. I have told him it’s a totally inaccurate thing to allege.”
Mr Afolami says he has made parliamentary authorities aware of the situation and contacted police, albeit without making a formal complaint.