‘They are trying to silence us’: Labour staffers who alleged sexual harassment at party HQ refuse to sign agreements

Group of women sign letter demanding end to gagging clauses

Friday, 8th April — By Richard Osley

Georgie Robertson

Labour councillor Georgie Robertson is leaving the Town Hall next month

THE Labour Party has been urged to stick with a promise to ban the liberal use of gagging orders after two of its own former staffers refused to stay silent over their
sexual harassment claims.

Georgie Robertson – who is in the last few weeks of her time as a Labour councillor in Camden – and Laura Murray, who both say they made a complaint about the way they were treated at work, refused to sign the Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) requested by the party.

They allege that one of their former colleagues acted inappropriately towards them but that their complaints were not properly handled – the man involved was told their identities against their wishes, it is claimed, when they raised their allegations.

Cllr Robertson, who worked for Labour as a press officer, told the New Journal: “It all caused me a lot of distress and took a toll on my mental and physical health.”

Now, a group of women in Camden have written an open letter asking the Labour Party and its leader Sir Keir Starmer for a reaffirmation of promises to end the use of gagging clauses.

The Labour Party, nationally, said this week that it would not use NDAs to conceal sexual harassment and that it took all complaints seriously.
The official involved was suspended but strenuously denied all the allegations.

Ms Murray left her work at the party and is now training to be a teacher. Cllr Robertson is also no longer an employee, and is stepping down as a councillor in King’s Cross at next month’s council elections.

Among their claims, the women said they were sent unwanted and obsessive messages and endured comments about how attractive they were. They also felt unhappy when the man they had made complaints about returned to work, as reported by the BBC on Saturday.

The pair were among five staffers who were later accused of leaking a private report – an accusation they have denied in full. The party is facing a possible lawsuit over the unauthorised release of private information under data rules.

Ms Robertson told the New Journal: “I felt proud to be a Labour member when it was announced that in government we would legislate to ban such NDAs which have been used against women in many sectors.

“I assume this is still Labour’s policy because I’m not aware of Keir [Starmer] saying anything to the contrary, and I’m sure he would support that policy.”

Laura Murray

She added: “That’s why I was so shocked when party officials presented us with these clauses on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis and refused to make any changes when our lawyer Mark Stephens told them these clauses amounted to an NDA on sexual harassment which also prohibited us from bringing legal claims against the party or claims against our harasser.”

Cllr Robertson, whose mother, the writer Kathy Lette, is among the signatories to the open letter, below, said: “We want a commitment from the party that they will never again attempt to use NDAs to cover up sexual harassment or prevent women from bringing legal claims in relation to sexual harassment.”

In a statement released this week, Labour HQ said it “takes any complaints of sexual harassment extremely seriously, which are fully investigated and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken in line with the party’s rules and procedures”.

‘NDAs are designed to silence’

Open letter received by the CNJ this week

• WE write as women, and men, from, living and/or working in, Camden.

We read the news about sexual harassment in the Labour Party and the resulting pressure on young women to sign NDAs with horror.
Violence against Women and Girls is endemic. It is used to oppress, silence and undermine women and girls.

Violence often escalates and survives on a culture of impunity. We know this well in Camden, following the tragic murders of women in our borough.
We should live in a world where women and girls are free. To be safe to walk down the street. To be safe in school.
To be safe at home. To be safe in public spaces.

And to be safe in the workplace. Being free from violence is a fundamental human right.

We would have expected, and hoped, the Labour Party would have not only upheld this fundamental human right, but also sought justice for the survivors by holding the perpetrators accountable.

NDAs themselves are designed to silence. They often give power to those who have committed abuse of all kinds.
The Labour Party itself has a policy to ban NDAs.

We expect the Party to uphold its own policies, and to protect victims and survivors.

Given the extent of VAWG, we hope that the Labour Party in Camden, and nationally, will stand with the young women in this case, and women and girls across the country.

SIGNED, Cllr Nayra Bello O’Shanahan, Cllr Gail McAnena Wood, Cllr Sue Vincent, Lucie Bond, Olivia Bond, Kathy Lette, Amanda Craig, Arabella Weir, Katie Louise Hardie, Jasime Jay, Jenny Harris, Ellie Harries, Michelle Knowles, ­Grace Germain, Annabelle Germain, Anh Chung, Hannah Bond, Rosa Walden, Yasmine Lahreche, Patricia Fernee, Sophie Blakemore-Hirsch Gregoriou, Mairi MacRae, Rebecca Mary Oliver, Sonia Sinclair, Coral Cole, Reem Khatib, Clio Kennedy, Joanne Orbell, Natalie Ball,Erisa Bucinca, Sarah Ftouhi, Kamilia Ftouhi, Katy Dent, Susie Penny, Jillian Newman, Bee Rowlatt, Eva Rowlatt, Zola Rowlatt, Elsa Rowlatt, Elaine Donnellon, Leyla Williams, Mandy Berger, Karla Santacara, Pauline Harries, Maud Goodheart, Michelle Cullum, Una Doyle, Helena Morris, Heather Bower, Shezzan Renny, Elodie Berland, Mags O’Reilly, Skye Mulholland, Linda Lefevre, Diane Pearson, Poppy Elizabeth Sebire, Natalie Schimmelschmidt, Professor Susan Michie, Sarah Friday, Jessica Murray, Jillian Edelstein

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