Indian-Origin British MP Accused of Bullying Female Staff Member
British parliamentarian Keith Vaz has been accused of bullying by a former member of the staff at the House of Commons.
British parliamentarian Keith Vaz has been accused of bullying by a former member of the staff at the House of Commons. Jenny McCullough, who worked as a clerk from 2002 to 2011, has said that Vaz made harsh comments about her motherhood and questioned her ability when she tried to uphold parliamentary rules and standards.
She was repeatedly undermined and bullied by Vaz, who told her that she was bad at her job because she was not a mother, McCullough said in an interview to the BBC. He also made jokes about whether she was a security threat, due to her Northern Irish background and accent, she added.
Vaz, 61, the Labour Party MP from Leicester East, has denied the charges of breaching any parliamentary rules or bullying.
McCullough served as a clerk at the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2007 and 2008. Vaz was then the chairman of the select committee, and quit the post in 2016 after he was caught in a controversy over hiring prostitutes.
McCullough told BBC NewsNight that her relationship with Vaz regressed during an official trip to Ukraine and Russia, where she raised concerns about whether the norms and protocols of the House were being followed. She questioned an “opulent” dinner arranged during the trip, since it was unclear who paid for it.
McCullough recalled that after she raised these questions, she met Vaz in a hotel lobby where he “launched into a tirade” against her, saying that she did not know how the committee worked, and that she had an attitude problem. He went further to comment that she was bad at her job because she was not a mother. Upon their return, McCullough’s colleagues recall Vaz’s criticism of her being unrelenting and personal, the report added.
She was also asked not to appear in team meetings as his reaction towards her presence was disruptive and stalled proceedings. She was later shifted to another job in the House, but chose to leave the committee since she did not feel safe.
“I didn’t feel able to complain about Keith Vaz because I was afraid of him. When I was on the Home Affairs Committee I saw that he had friends in the police and friends in the law,” she told the BBC.
When asked about the charges, a representative of Vaz told Newsnight: “Our client had considered that he and Ms McCullough had previously had a good working relationship, and had always considered her to be very effective as a clerk.”
The House of Commons said: “We are aware that in the past the House has not had a robust process in place to deal with instances of bullying and harassment.
“We are confident that our new Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy will mean that allegations can be dealt with effectively and sensitively.”
Vaz, who was born to Goan parents in Aden, Yemen, served the longest time as the Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee from 2007 to 2016. He resigned in 2016 after he was accused of taking services from two male prostitutes. He later publicly issued an apology to his wife, and the investigation was suspended due to his medical condition in 2017. The probe was reopened by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in March this year.