Full Solidarity With Apsana Begum

Apsana Begum has been subjected to an escalating campaign of harassment, abuse, and intimidation. We stand in solidarity with her, and with all victims of abuse.

3 min read

We are writing to express our solidarity with Apsana Begum MP, and with all victims of abuse and intimate partner violence. We call on the Labour Party to fully investigate the trigger ballot process in Poplar and Limehouse, and to take immediate action both in regards to the persecution Ms Begum has already suffered, and the many complaints made by local Party members—particularly women—who are concerned about what they see as an escalating campaign of harassment and intimidation.

Last year, Ms Begum was taken to court by Tower Hamlets Borough Council—where her ex-husband was (until recently) a Labour councillor—over an alleged housing fraud. After a lengthy and traumatic legal process, Ms Begum was cleared of all wrongdoing. In a Guardian interview last year, she stated that two complaints had led the Council to investigate: one from her ex-husband’s brother-in-law, and another from a local Tory councillor. She received so much online abuse throughout the process that the judge, concerned for her safety, ruled that her home address be struck from the record. It is not difficult to see why she described the trial as not only “political persecution”, but also “an extension of the abuse” she has spoken about suffering at the hands of her ex-husband.

Now, she is being subjected to a similar attack, this time through the Labour Party. It has been reported that the trigger ballot proceedings—a process that every Labour MP will go through—have breached the Party rules and code of conduct at every stage. Local women have raised concerns over groups of men standing outside branch meetings, intimidating and harassing attendees. Many of these meetings seem to be overseen by associates of Ms Begum’s ex-husband, and large groups of unfamiliar people have been turning up to vote en bloc for deselecting Ms Begum. Many of these people are thought to have voted for other parties in May’s local elections, and would therefore be ineligible for Labour membership, meaning that they ought to be excluded from participating in this process.

Even worse, we are aware of complaints submitted to the Party regarding a local Labour councillor, who is allegedly presenting herself as an alternative candidate, and misusing her access to members’ data in order to unofficially canvass. Despite repeated complaints being made, the Labour Party has so far done nothing to investigate. With no General Election on the immediate horizon, what excuse do the Regional Office and the NEC have for allowing this rotten process to continue?

It is, sadly, all too common for abusers to wield the state as a weapon against their victims—particularly when those victims have been able to escape. Vexatious complaints to state agencies, from social services to the police, are used as tools of intimidation, control, and punishment. Whether or not the complaints are upheld is secondary: the point is to traumatise, to exhaust, to destabilise. In this light, we were distressed to learn that these attacks have made Ms Begum so unwell that she was admitted to A&E last weekend, and has been signed off work by her doctor. She now cannot even participate in the trigger ballot process to defend herself.

In these circumstances, is it right that the Labour Party should allow the trigger ballot process to continue? Should a major political party permit itself to be used as a weapon of abuse? Are any methods permissible, if it means getting rid of an outspoken Muslim socialist MP? Women and abuse survivors across Britain will be keen to hear the answers to these questions.

For now, however, we call for immediate intervention from the Labour Party NEC to put a stop to this process, until the MP is able to participate, and until such a time as they can assure a free and fair vote.

We call for an investigation, at the highest level, to determine who is responsible for these attacks on a democratically-elected MP.

And we stand firmly, in solidarity and with love, with Apsana Begum.