Jeremy Corbyn’s union ally Len McCluskey was dragged into the Westminster political sex scandal last night after a senior aide was accused of mocking a female union activist a ‘femme fatale from Walsall’. belittling
A leaked letter reveals allegations of ‘degrading’ sexual harassment against Unite director of education Jim Mowatt, a close ally of Mr McCluskey and a former flatmate of Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.
The claims have been made by Left-wing Unite activist Kate Bradley, 23, and arise from the union’s bitter leadership contest earlier this year between Mr McCluskey and anti-Corbyn candidate Gerard Coyne.
Ms Bradley says that Mr Mowatt ‘belittled’ her and treated her like ‘an airhead’ at the official count in London in April, with these taunts:
‘Does your mother know you’re wearing make-up?’
‘She doesn’t have a boyfriend, I thought not.’
Jeremy Corbyn’s union ally Len McCluskey was dragged into the Westminster political sex scandal last night after a senior aide was accused of mocking a female union activist a ‘femme fatale from Walsall’
‘I’ve heard about you femmes fatales from Walsall.’
According to the leaked letter, seen by The Mail on Sunday, Ms Bradley says Mr Mowatt’s ‘femme fatale’ remark was aimed at ‘not only my make-up but also my attractiveness, which made me feel unsettled and objectified.’
Ms Bradley, who writes for ‘revolutionary socialist’ website RS21, says she was talking to Mr Coyne about their shared West Midlands roots when ‘all of a sudden Mr Mowatt interrupted me and asked, “You’re too young to wear make-up, aren’t you?”
‘I was shocked so I asked, “I’m sorry, what?” He added, “Does your mother know you’re wearing make-up?” I had no idea how to respond, and so I said, “I don’t know what you’re on about, I’m 37.” ’ Ms Bradley said it was an intended ‘arch’ riposte to ‘ageist’ Mr Mowatt.
She adds: ‘He replied, unperturbed, “I’ve heard about you femme fatales from Walsall.” I left the room in discomfort a few minutes afterwards.’
Ms Bradley says her ordeal continued when she returned an hour later. ‘Mr Mowatt inexplicably asked, “Are you going outside to touch up your make-up?” and said from across the room, “Look, she’s always on the phone to her boyfriend.” I looked up and said, “I don’t have a boyfriend,” to which he replied something along the lines of, “Oh, I thought not.” ’ She says she left in fury.
In her complaint Ms Bradley says: ‘Whether or not I was wearing make-up is irrelevant to my role as observer at the Unite count. It certainly has nothing to do with Mr Mowatt. He was paying more attention to my appearance than to what I had to say.’
She adds it was ‘shameful’. for him to butt in on a private conversation with ‘a comment on my appearance, trivialising what I was saying in front of others and making me feel self-conscious for the rest of the day’.
He had no right to refer to my age or make-up
‘He had no right to refer to my age or make-up. As an adult living and working in London, my mother has no say in my cosmetic choices. Implying I was going to “touch up” my make-up seemed to suggest I was concerned with petty things during a momentous, politically significant election. Women should be able to wear make-up without it being used to disparage them.’
She says the comment about phoning her boyfriend was ‘particularly distasteful – it assumed my relationship status and sexuality. He depicted me as an easily distractible, air-headed young woman who struggles to keep her attention on the politics at hand.
‘It is not the first time that I have received sexist comments in Left-wing spaces. There should be no place for sexist and ageist attitudes in our union.’
Ms Bradley says Mr Mowatt later apologised for his ‘disrespectful and sexist comments’ – but called for action from the union to stop him making similar “sexist” comments to other women and get him to attend anti-sexism training lessons.
Last night she said: ‘While sexism pervades society at every level these incidents will continue. But in this case Unite dealt with my complaint professionally and sympathetically.’
A Unite spokesman said last night: ‘In addition to an apology, Ms Bradley also requested that the complaint rests on Mr Mowatt’s file and that he attends equality training. These actions have happened and been carried out by Unite.’