Momentum chief demands shadow equalities minister is sacked over “dyke” slur

Labour’s equalities spokesperson and deputy leader in Wales is coming under increasing pressure to stand down from both roles.

Jon Lansman has spoken for the first time since Labour’s antisemitism row erupted – to demand that Jeremy Corbyn sacks his shadow equalities minister.

In the latest apparent sign of divergence from the Labour leadership, the Momentum boss said Carolyn Harris should be removed from her shadow cabinet post.

Harris is deputy leader of Welsh Labour and a popular member of of the PLP, but Lansman backed another candidate for the deputy post and is a vocal critic of the voting system used to elect Harris.

Harris, who represents Swansea East, is at the centre of a political storm following the verdict on Monday in a trial she brought against a former employee for forgery. Jenny Clarke, who was cleared of the charge, alleged in court that Mrs Harris had assaulted her and called her a “dyke”.

Although the MP denied the accusation of assault, pressure has been increasing overnight on her to apologise and stand down from her roles as both Deputy Labour Leader in Wales and Jeremy Corbyn’s equalities spokesperson.

Harris defended her use of the term “dyke” as “office banter” during the trial.

Labour has vigorously defended Harris and Corbyn restated his support for her today. A party spokesman previously said: “Carolyn vigorously denies this allegation. It is town hall politics from a little place in South Wales. It’s a nest of vipers.”

Hannah Blythyn, the first openly lesbian Assembly Member, commented publicly at the conclusion of the trail, tweeting that “It’s never banter – it’s homophobic language. It’s not appropriate. It’s not ok. Disappointed and saddened by this.”

Other openly gay Labour Assembly Members and Members of Parliament have so far failed to criticise Harris, and neither has LGBT Labour in Wales.

Blythyn has, however, been supported by Assembly Labour colleagues including Cardiff Central’s Jenny Rathbone, who has called on Harris to stand down, and Welsh Government Cabinet Ministers Ken Skates and Lesley Griffiths. They have been joined by Debbie Wilcox, the Labour leader of the Welsh Local Government Association.

Lansman, the powerful Momentum founder and key Corby ally, has now added his voice to a growing chorus of criticism.

In Wales, this is much more than a summer story in an otherwise quiet month for news. Harris has become an increasingly prominent Labour frontbencher since being elected in 2015 and won plaudits for her performance in Parliament.

She was narrowly elected in April as the first Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour in a contest which polarised the Welsh Labour Party.

Lansman has previously attacked her election to that role, citing the fact the overwhelming number of ordinary Labour members voted for Assembly Member and former Member of Parliament Julie Morgan.

His criticism has called into question the operation of the electoral college to elect leaders and deputy leaders in Wales.

A special conference will be held on September 15th to review the process and decide on the system which will be used to elect a successor to Carwyn Jones, the current Welsh First Minister.

Jones has been dogged by controversy since he removed former Cabinet minister Carl Sargeant last November amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

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