A senior Labour MP was yesterday accused of outing her lesbian office manager and calling her a dyke.
Carolyn Harris, who is shadow equalities minister, was also forced to deny that she pulled the hair of Jenny Lee Clarke so hard that clumps came out.
Clarke, 42, is on trial accused of forging Mrs Harris’s signature and fraudulently submitting a form to give herself a £2,000 pay rise and reduce her weekly hours from 40 to 37.5.
Carolyn Harris, who is shadow equalities minister, was also forced to deny that she pulled the hair of Jenny Lee Clarke so hard that clumps came out
The 57-year-old MP has insisted she did not approve the annual pay increase to £39,000 and had no knowledge of an email purportedly from her confirming the change. Mrs Harris, the MP for Swansea East and deputy leader of Welsh Labour, gave evidence at her former aide’s trial at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday.
Stephen Donnelly, representing Clarke, accused the MP of abusing her office manager and outing her to colleagues after she had confided that she was gay. Mrs Harris said there was office banter and both women would criticise each other’s dress sense.
‘Was it office banter when you said “Look at your dyke boots”?’ Mr Donnelly asked.
Mrs Harris replied: ‘I don’t remember saying that but if I did it would have been banter.
‘It’s a term for lesbian. Jenny Clarke is. I’m certainly not homophobic. I’m an ally of the LGBT community and I have always been.’
She said Clarke herself used the term, but told the court it would not be said in a formal capacity.
The court heard that Clarke told Mrs Harris that she was gay in 2011. Mr Donnelly asked the MP: ‘You asked what she and her partner would do intimately?’ Mrs Harris replied: ‘That’s not correct.’
Clarke, 42, (pictured) is on trial accused of forging Mrs Harris’s signature and fraudulently submitting a form to give herself a £2,000 pay rise and reduce her weekly hours from 40 to 37.5
The MP denied claims that Clarke had asked her to stop posing sexual questions, and said she had not needed to out her because ‘it was quite obvious’.
The jury of eight men and four women has heard that Clarke was hired by Mrs Harris the day after her election to the Swansea East seat in May 2015.
Mr Donnelly accused the MP of earlier assaulting Clarke by shaking her violently and pulling her hair so hard that clumps came out in November 2014. Mrs Harris replied: ‘That’s totally untrue.’
Jurors were told that Clarke later reported the alleged incident to police and made a statement about it in January 2016.
The MP rejected suggestions that she had got down on her knees and apologised to Clarke.
The court heard Mrs Harris wrote a letter to Clarke promising her a full-time position if she was elected as an MP, which the defence claimed was to ‘hush her up’. But the MP said: ‘I didn’t need to hush Jenny Clarke up. Nothing had happened.
‘We had a good friendship. I did her a good many favours including giving her a television, a car, holidays in my caravan – it was a mutually beneficial friendship.’
She insisted Clarke’s dismissal was in progress by January 2016, when a colleague forwarded forms highlighting the pay rise and reduction in hours. Clarke is also accused of writing an email to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority from Mrs Harris’s account, confirming the changes.
In police interview, Clarke admitted signing Mrs Harris’s name on the form and sending the email but insisted both were done on the MP’s instruction.
The trial continues.
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