Shadow minister Kate Osamor, who stepped down from her role on Friday, is pictured with Jeremy Corbyn
Kate Osamor spent Friday knocking on doors in her north London constituency speaking to residents about a spate of violent knife crime.
It was, she publicly declared, part of a touchy-feely scheme to ‘build a stronger Edmonton’.
As luck would have it, the Labour frontbencher’s own attitude toward crime and violence would be tested later that very day – when a journalist knocked on her door to ask if she’d told a whopping lie about her own family’s involvement with the criminal justice system.
Miss Osamor’s response to this legitimate inquiry was one for the ages.
First, the fifty-year-old Corbyn loyalist decided to tip a bucket of water over the young reporter’s head before shouting at him to ‘**** off’.
Then she threatened to further physically assault him, saying she ‘should have come down here with a [baseball] bat and smashed your face in’.
Finally, she decided to waste police resources by calling the local constabulary and falsely accusing the hapless newspaperman of ‘stalking’ her.
Even by the Trumpian standards of today’s Labour movement, where journalists seeking to hold public figures to account are routinely subjected to vile abuse, this was all considered a bit much.
So by tea time on Saturday, Miss Osamor had been forced to quit.
She stepped down from her role as shadow international development secretary – becoming the 104th frontbench casualty of Jeremy Corbyn’s three-year reign – in order to ‘concentrate on supporting my family through the difficult time we have been experiencing’.
Labour MP Kate Osamor, pictured right, and her son Ishmael Osamor, who worked for her. It was only thanks to a court application by this and several other newspapers, seeking the release of five letters supporting Ishmael, that her lies became public
Needless to say, her brief resignation announcement did not contain a single word of apology for Friday’s mendacious display.
Neither did it express a scintilla of regret over the disingenuous – actually, demonstrably false – public statements that both she and the Labour Party have repeatedly issued in the month since the Daily Mail revealed her son Ishmael’s drug dealing conviction.
Indeed, it was only thanks to a court application by this and several other newspapers, seeking the release of five letters supporting Ishmael, that her lies became public.
For the Labour Party, this represents a singularly embarrassing episode. Ishmael not only worked as his mother’s political aide while awaiting trial, earning up to £49,793, but was also allowed to take up a second lucrative role as a Labour councillor in the drug-ravaged London borough of Haringey.
Then, when his extraordinary criminal conviction was revealed in late October, both Ishmael and his mother managed to mislead party officials into mounting a wholly dishonest cover-up.
Jeremy Corbyn flanked by Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler (left) and the then Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Kate Osamor
It saw them issue statements falsely claiming that Miss Osamor knew nothing about her son’s impending prosecution – which ought to have prevented him becoming a councillor, and for which he trousered an additional £11,000 – until after his trial, when this newspaper started asking awkward questions.
Yet, as we shall see, that claim was completely untrue. Even now, after their lies were exposed by a court ruling, 29-year-old Ishmael is, scandalously, allowed to remain on his mother’s publicly-funded payroll in a job that has been variously described as her chief of staff and senior communications officer.
What’s more, the House of Commons authorities seem content, for the time being, for this court-certified felon to retain his parliamentary pass, allowing him to come and go from the Palace of Westminster as he sees fit.
It is, all told, a shoddy state of affairs that speaks volumes for the culture of shamelessness, dishonesty and patronage that has been allowed to blossom under Mr Corbyn, a longstanding friend and political bedfellow of the hard-Left MP.
Osamor, pictured, initially chose to remain a paid Labour councillor following his criminal conviction
The scandal dates back to September 8 last year, when Ishmael spent four days attending Bestival, a modish music festival held each year at a castle in Dorset.
Parliament was sitting, having recently enjoyed a summer recess of the best part of two months. Yet Miss Osamor seems to have been happy to give her son the extra time off.
Indeed, she’d been an extremely generous employer for years. Despite having no obvious experience or particular interest in politics, Ishmael had been added to her payroll shortly after the 2015 election, when she had gained what is effectively a £79,000-a-year job for life as Labour MP for the safe seat of Edmonton.
Yet as we know now, he betrayed her in spectacular fashion.
At around 5pm on that September day, security staff observed the strapping Ishmael behaving suspiciously in an area adjacent to the main stage, where The Pet Shop Boys and Dizzee Rascal were slated to perform, by conducting what looked very much like a surreptitious drug deal.
They duly swooped and detained him. When he was searched, it emerged that he was carrying an astonishing £2,500 worth of drugs.
The gargantuan haul included 30.89g of ecstasy, enough to make around 250 pills, 5.7g of ketamine, which might produce 100 hits, depending on whether it was snorted, swallowed, smoked or injected, 7.5 grams of cocaine (enough for 75-150 lines) and a small amount of cannabis.
Ishmael Osamor, 29, pleaded guilty to having £2,500 of drugs with intent to supply at Bestival in Dorset last year
Fast forward 13 months, and on October 19 this year, this scion of Labour Party royalty – his grandmother is Martha Osamor, a veteran race-relations campaigner and old chum of Mr Corbyn who was recently granted a peerage – found himself at Bournemouth Crown Court. There, he was charged with three counts of ‘possession with intent to supply’ class A and B substances, and one count of possession.
On paper, these are very grave crimes, for which culprits can face anything up to life imprisonment. Their status is designed to reflect the devastating toll on society of the narcotics trade.
Indeed, later during the 2017 Bestival, a 25-year-old woman, Louella Fletcher-Michie, the daughter of Holby City actor John Michie, died after taking ketamine, MDMA, and a drug called 2C-P.
But in today’s justice system not every culprit gets the book thrown at them. And when it came to this particular court case, Ishmael got very lucky indeed.
Having initially pleaded not guilty, the well-connected defendant decided to change his plea to guilty after his high-flying London lawyer – a solicitor who used to work for one of the so-called ‘magic circle’ of law firms – cut a deal with CPS prosecutors.
It saw them accept that he was carrying the vast stash of drugs on behalf of unnamed ‘friends’ and did not intend to sell them for profit.
Strangely, Ishmael was not required to say how many ‘friends’ were in this group, or to name them. Neither was he required to identify the exact source of the enormous haul, though the judge was told that it had been acquired from a dealer plying his or her trade at Bestival.
As luck would have it, this arrangement helped Ishmael avoid going to prison. The judge, Stephen Climie, said a normal sentence would have been three to four years. But he allowed the young man to walk away with a mere 200 hours of community service.
In court that day, it further emerged that Judge Climie reached the (some might argue highly lenient) decision after reading five letters supplied by the defence.
One was a note of apology from Ishmael himself. The others were character references from four (at the time unnamed) acquaintances.
Why did court accept £2,500 festival drugs haul was not for sale?
Ishmael Osamor pleaded guilty to four drugs charges after his barrister Mohsin Zaidi struck a deal with the Crown Prosecution Service at Bournemouth Crown Court
Ishmael Osamor was spared prison after his barrister persuaded prosecutors he was not planning to make a profit from his £2,500 haul of drugs.
Judge Stephen Climie, who has a history of sparing drug users from prison, said the 29-year-old was lucky to avoid a four-year prison term and sentenced him to 200 hours of unpaid work instead.
The judge’s decision was condemned last night by Mary Brett, chair of the anti-drugs group Cannabis Skunk Sense.
Mrs Brett said: ‘Police have become increasingly soft on drugs, especially cannabis, and judges aren’t making an example of users and dealers when they are brought to trial. In this case, Osamor has escaped with nothing more than a slap on the wrist which is quite amazing given the quantity of drugs he had on him. He shouldn’t have a job in the Commons. He should be in prison.’
Osamor pleaded guilty to four drugs charges after his barrister Mohsin Zaidi struck a deal with the Crown Prosecution Service at Bournemouth Crown Court.
The former Labour councillor had been caught with 30g of ecstasy – a class A drug blamed for a string of deaths at music festivals – as well 7.5g of cocaine, 5.7g of ketamine and a trace of cannabis at least year’s Bestival festival in Dorset.
Incredibly, he was let off prison as the drugs were for his personal use and for his friends. The court was not told how many friends were with him.
The letters had what Judge Climie described as a ‘significant’ impact. They convinced him that the defendant was a privileged young man who had enjoyed many opportunities in life and who had come to ‘appreciate the gravity of his situation’.
And there things would have ended, were it not for the presence in court of a reporter from a local news agency. She took notes of proceedings, and passed them on to the Mail, which blew the lid on the scandal in our news pages on October 27.
So began the aforementioned cover-up. At its heart lay a simple fact: for Miss Osamor, our coverage of Ishmael’s conviction immediately created a very serious PR problem.
Not only did his conviction cast significant doubts on her personal judgement – in the event of a Labour election victory, she was, after all, seeking to take control of a £16billion a year government department – but it also raised questions about when she’d first heard of Ishmael’s impending trial.
Many wondered, for example, if Miss Osamor had known about the dark secret in late 2017, when she not only nominated him to stand as a Labour councillor in Haringey, but also turned up at selection meetings to lobby activists to support him.
If so, she would have been party to a serious breach of Labour Party rules: they require all serving elected representatives, including councillors, to declare anything that might potentially harm the party’s reputation.
A would-be councillor’s impending trial on charges of drug dealing would certainly fit that bill.
With this perhaps in mind, it was decided that Ishmael would immediately stand down from his £11,000 a year role at Haringey Council, issuing a statement formally claiming that he’d kept everyone (including his mother) in the dark.
‘I sincerely regret, and apologise for, not informing my family and colleagues of the pending court case,’ it read.
Similar claims were then made by both the Labour Party, and by Miss Osamor herself, in a string of statements and briefings in which they attempted to justify keeping the convicted drug dealer on her payroll.
The scandal dates back to September 8 last year, when Ishmael spent four days attending Bestival, a modish music festival held each year at a castle in Dorset [File photo]
However this blizzard of denial raised an obvious follow-up question: if Miss Osamor was unaware of the trial of her son, with whom she shares a £700,000 housing association property in north London (despite their joint earnings of around £130,000), then who exactly were the people who had written to Judge Climbie pleading for leniency?
With this in mind, on November 8 I submitted a written question to the Labour Party. It formally asked whether Miss Osamor had written ‘one of the letters that were submitted to court’.
I received a reply via email with an unequivocal denial: ‘No. Ishmael has apologised on the record for not informing his family about the case.’
Since it’s almost unheard of for a political party or its press office to issue a written statement that contains an outright lie, I took them at their word when writing an extended article about the scandal for that weekend’s paper.
However, the Mail then also decided to apply to Bournemouth Crown Court (in a joint application with three other newspapers) asking for the names of the letter writers to be revealed.
Our request was vigorously opposed by Ishmael’s lawyers. However on Friday afternoon, Judge Climie ruled that the identities of three of the five should indeed to be made public, in the interests of open justice.
He named one of the three as Miss Osamor. The other two were Ishmael and his unnamed ‘partner’. The two whose identities were not revealed were described by the judge as old friends with no link to public life.
All of which, of course, proved that Miss Osamor must have indeed known about her son’s trial in advance, since she could not otherwise have written the letter.
It followed that the various public statements that both she and Labour Party had made were untrue.
In particular, the email they sent to me on November 8. In Labour’s defence, the party seems to have had no idea that its written statement in response to my request contained such a falsehood since it appears that party officials were being lied to by Miss Osamor and her son.
Quite how the MP is allowed to retain the Labour whip in these circumstances is anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile, a convicted drug dealer remains in gainful employment in the House of Commons, thanks to the patronage of his mother. And you and I are footing the bill.