Defiant Claudia Webbe tells judge she WILL try to cling on as an MP

    20
    0

    Defiant Claudia Webbe tells judge she WILL try to cling on as an MP

    ‘The answer is YES’: Defiant Claudia Webbe tells judge she WILL try to cling on as an MP as he sentences her for threatening to throw ACID at her boyfriend’s female friend – meaning she faces vote to kick her out of the Commons

    • Claudia Webbe – now an independent – made a string of threatening calls to her ‘love rival’ Michelle Merritt 
    • Today judge slammed her for claiming to be victim, saying he found comments she’d made about case ‘odd’
    • Her lawyers were taken aback’ by £17,620 claim for costs and said MP – who is on £81,000 – could not pay
    • Webbe won the Leicester East constituency in 2019 from Keith Vaz, who bought Class A drugs for prostitutes
    • Speculation Mr Vaz could seek to influence the by-election and could even stand as a candidate himself 
    • Labour today said she had been expelled as a member – but rules mean she could stay as an MP for months  

    Advertisement










    So will ‘callous’ MP now be kicked out of the Commons? 

    Webbe is currently sitting as an independent MP for Leicester East after having her Labour whip removed.

    But voters in the Leicester East constituency could soon be able to remove her as their MP under a rule introduced following the 2015 Parliamentary expenses scandal.

    Under parliamentary rules, a recall can be opened for any MP that is – 

    • Convicted of an offence and received a custodial sentence (including a suspended sentence) or ordered to be detained, other than solely under mental health legislation;
    • Barred from the House of Commons for 10 sitting days or 14 calendar days, or;
    • Convicted of providing false or misleading information for allowance claims under the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009. 

    In the case of a conviction, the recall petition will not be opened unless the appeal period expires without the conviction, sentence or order having been overturned or all appeals have been heard and dismissed. Webbe has said she will appeal, so is likely to stay sitting as an MP for months. 

    If a recall petition is opened and 10% of the electorate then vote for Webbe to be recalled, this will trigger a by-election. 

    Two MPs have been removed by recall petitions since their creation, both in 2019. Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was jailed for three months after being convicted of perverting the course of justice for lying over a speeding ticket. 

    Chris Davies, the Tory MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, was kicked out after he pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates court to making false expenses claims. He was ordered to do 50 hours unpaid work and fined £1,500.

    Advertisement

    A disgraced Labour politician who was found guilty of harassing a ‘love rival’ who she threatened to douse with acid defiantly told a judge ‘the answer is yes’ when she was asked if she would remain employed as an MP.

    Claudia Webbe, 56, who is sitting as an independent after having the Labour whip removed, was handed a suspended 10-week jail sentence and 200 hours’ community service for harassing Michelle Merritt after becoming suspicious of the 59-year-old’s relationship with her partner Lester Thomas, a Chelsea FC scout.

    She was today spared jail despite being found guilty of harassment but still faces being thrown out of the Commons as a judge slammed her for claiming she was the real victim.   

    Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring said it was ‘concerning’ a probation officer had to remind her that she was a convicted criminal.

    When the judge asked whether she would remain employed as an MP, Webbe loudly declared from the dock: ‘The answer is yes.’      

    In a message apparently sent to her supporters before the verdict, Webbe described herself as a ‘black woman in a white court’, adding: ‘I am facing a white system and white prosecutors. I have been deliberately targeted because I am vulnerable. I know first-hand the sexism and racism institutions and media use to vilify black women.’             

    Today Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring called abuse she had received online ‘disgusting’ but said he found it ‘odd and concerning’ that a probation service report said Webbe felt like a victim herself. 

    The district judge said she had behaved in a ‘callous and intimidatory’ manner and noted the four occasions when she referred to herself as ‘the victim’ during her testimony from the witness box at the trial. 

    Webbe was kicked out of Labour after her sentencing. Speaking outside court, she said was ‘disappointed’ by Mr Goldspring’ s decision and repeated her claim to be innocent.  ‘I am lodging an appeal and despite today’s sentence I fully expect the appeal to be granted and that, ultimately, it will be successful,’ she said. 

    ‘Throughout this process I have received numerous threats to my life and vile racist abuse. The cowards responsible for these attacks will not deter me from clearing my name.’

    Webbe is currently sitting as an independent MP for Leicester East after having her Labour whip removed. Labour has demanded she resign as an MP today and this afternoon confirmed her expulsion as a party member. 

    At her sentencing this afternoon, the MP’s lawyer Paul Hynes said the defence team were ‘taken aback’ by an application for costs totalling £17,620.82. He said his client, who told the court she had a salary of £81,000, ‘does not have that sort of money available’. 

    Under parliamentary rules, any jail sentence that is not overturned – suspended or not – will lead to a recall petition. If 10% of the electorate then vote for her to be recalled, there will be a by-election. 

    However, this process can only start after appeals have been exhausted, and given Webbe has said she will appeal she could still stay in the Commons for months. 

    Webbe won the Leicester East constituency in 2019 after its previous MP, Keith Vaz, stepped down in 2019 after offering to buy cocaine for male prostitutes. She won on a slimmed down majority of 6,000 compared to Mr Vaz’s 22,000 as the Tories gained ground.

    Local Labour figures now fear Mr Vaz could seek to influence the by-election and could even stand as a candidate himself, in what would represent an extraordinary political comeback. However, a source close to Mr Vaz described the speculation as ‘tittle tattle’, according to the Huff Post. 

    Meanwhile, in court today Webbe’s victim, Ms Merritt, sobbed as she recounted the MP’s campaign of harassment.  

    Speaking from behind a screen, she said: ‘She (Webbe) has made me feel very vulnerable, in public, in my own home. I was scared to go to my door. I had many sleepless nights. I would like to feel safe again. Due to Ms Webbe’s position in government (sic), I don’t know what she is capable of.’

    Ms Merritt’s voice broke with emotion as she said she worried Webbe would ‘seriously harm’ her.

    She added: ‘My self confidence has plummeted, I have anxiety attacks, I have almost become a hermit. I have fallen into huge debt, I desperately wanted to move away from the area Ms Webbe said she knew I lived in.’

    She added: ‘I am so very proud I have had the strength to continue because no woman should be threatened or harassed the way she has to me over the years, least of all a politician.’    

    Claudia Webbe, 56, made a string of threatening calls to 59-year-old Michelle Merritt. She is seen with hand in hand outside court today with her partner, Lester Thomas

    Claudia Webbe, 56, made a string of threatening calls to 59-year-old Michelle Merritt. She is seen with hand in hand outside court today with her partner, Lester Thomas

    The return of Keith Vaz? Locals fear disgraced former Labour MP wants to replace Webbe two years after quitting the Commons over a drugs and rent boys scandal

    David Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent for MailOnline

    Claudia Webbe’s conviction for threatening to throw acid at a love rival could open the way for shamed ex-Labour MP Keith Vaz to attempt a return to national politics, locals fear.

    Mr Vaz, 64, quit Parliament at the 2019 election, having been handed a six-month suspension from the Commons after he was caught offering to buy Class A drugs for male sex workers. 

    The former Europe minister was replaced as MP at the election that year by Ms Webbe, but remains chairman of the local constituency Labour Party (CLP).

    Mr Vaz, 64, quit Parliament at the 2019 election, having been handed a six-month suspension from the Commons after he was caught offering to buy Class A drugs for male sex workers.

    Mr Vaz, 64, quit Parliament at the 2019 election, having been handed a six-month suspension from the Commons after he was caught offering to buy Class A drugs for male sex workers.

    His successor is facing the possibility of a recall petition and by-election after today being handed a suspended 10-week jail sentence and 200 hours’ community service for harassing Michelle Merritt, in a row involving the 59-year-old’s relationship with her partner Lester Thomas, a Chelsea FC scout. 

    She has been stripped of the Labour whip and kicked out of the party. Locals in Leicester say Mr Vaz has been ‘acting just like a parliamentary candidate’ recently by campaigning visibly on issues including boundary changes that could affect a Labour majority.

    One told HuffPost UK: ‘The tricky question for Labour is if they don’t give Vaz some of what he wants, does he stand as an independent? He could cause quite a bit of damage in the seat.’

    Ms Webbe held the seat with a majority of 6,000 in 2019, down from more than 22,000 enjoyed by Mr Vaz just two years previously.

    Any independent run by Mr Vaz could split the vote and allow the Tories to take it.  

    Advertisement

    At her conviction the judge described Webbe as ‘vague, incoherent, illogical and untruthful’ and said she had ‘made up evidence on the spot’. 

    Yet former leader Jeremy Corbyn leapt to her defence, describing her as a ‘warm-hearted person’ who is particularly ‘dedicated’ to issues of social justice.

    He wrote: ‘Claudia is a person who is very committed to ensuring justice is done, and is prepared to state uncomfortable truths when it matters.

    ‘I have the outmost respect and confidence in her, and as someone who has known her well for many years, I have no hesitation in recommending her as a person of good character, that makes an important contribution to our world.’

    Meanwhile former shadow chancellor John McDonnell wrote: ‘I know her to be an honest, responsible and extremely caring person.

    ‘In all that she does, Claudia shows her empathy and emotional understanding. Claudia will always go the extra mile to help someone.

    ‘She has demonstrated, both as a trade unionist representing her members and as a member of parliament representing her constituents that she has that human quality that enables her to relate to others, understanding their concerns and gaining their trust.

    ‘She is meticulous in her behaviour, always polite and respectful and mature in her judgement. In the most challenging situations I have witnessed her respond with sincerity and calm.’ 

    Last month Ms Merritt told the court the MP’s calls made her feel ‘worried and unnerved’.

    She said: ‘When you’re being called and there’s no one answering it unnerves you, especially as a woman who lives alone.

    ‘We’ve all seen the films. You don’t know who is calling you, who is watching you.’  

    When Ms Merritt received a call on Mother’s Day 2019, in which Ms Webbe identified herself, she decided to call the police.

    Ms Merritt told the call handler: ‘I was with my daughter celebrating Mother’s Day at the time but now that’s gone and the reality has just hit me.

    ‘She works for the Labour Party, she is in the public arena and she’s accusing me of, in her words, ‘slagging around with her boyfriend’, which I’m not.

    ‘She’s threatened to throw acid over me, she knows where I live, she’s going to send pictures of me and him to my daughters.’ 

    Police officers spoke to Webbe and Ms Merritt hoping that would be the end of it, the court heard.

    But on April 25 last year, Ms Merritt received two calls, both eight seconds long and both from the same number.

    Ms Merritt told the court: ‘I just hung up very quickly. I didn’t want to speak to her.

    ‘[Having received those two calls] I had to somehow prove that she was calling me because until that date all the calls had been no caller ID and the first threat call wasn’t recorded…so I called back the number that was on my phone.’

    In the recording, played to the court, Webbe answers the phone and immediately begins shouting at Ms Merritt.

    Webbe says: ‘Why are you still butting in and getting with Lester? Why, why?

    ‘He’s not your friend, he’s with me and I don’t want you to be in touch with me, I don’t want you to be in touch with him.’

    Loyal Corbynite and former aide to Red Ken who told court, ‘I’m not mad, I’m an MP’ 

    Born in Leicester, Webbe studied social sciences at De Montfort University, before moving on to London to study race and ethnic relations at Birkbeck.

    She first achieved some measure of notoriety as an aide to the mayor at the time, Ken Livingstone. In 2006, he was suspended from office for four weeks after he compared a Jewish journalist to a Nazi guard.

    Webbe wrote to The Guardian to say that his suspension ‘smacks in the face of true democracy’ and that his ‘history of work in the anti-racist movement is unquestionable’. A decade later Mr Livingstone would be suspended from Labour over comments about Hitler and Zionism.

    In 2010, Webbe was elected a councillor in the London Borough of Islington where she came into the orbit of local MP Jeremy Corbyn, moving up through the Labour Party’s ranks after he became leader.

    In 2016, with the backing of hard-Left grassroots organisation Momentum, she was elected to Labour’s national executive committee (NEC).

    Two years later she was made chairman of Labour’s dispute panel – a role that saw her tasked with deciding whether to refer complaints, including allegations of anti-Jewish behaviour, to the committee that has the power to expel members.

    Given her earlier defence of Livingstone, it was an appointment that did not go uncommented upon.

    Then, in 2019, Webbe was chosen by the NEC to stand to become an MP in Leicester East. The sitting MP, veteran Keith Vaz, quit Parliament at the election, having been handed a six-month suspension after being caught offering to buy Class A drugs for male sex workers.

    Webbe’s selection was not without controversy. John Thomas, chairman of the Leicester East constituency party, described her selection as a ‘fix and a disgrace’ and promptly resigned from Labour.

    Sundip Meghani, who lost out to Webbe in the race for the seat, also did not pull any punches, criticising the ‘dodgy practices and nepotism involved in this process’.

    He added: ‘This type of conduct, where a well connected favourite is nodded through, is no better than the Etonian old boys network that Labour seeks to condemn.’

    While Webbe went on to win the seat, she did so with a much-reduced majority – cutting Vaz’s 22,000 to one of just over 6,000. 

    In Parliament she sits on the Environmental Audit Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Committee of Arms Export Control. 

    In February 2021, Webbe apologised after an investigation by the found that she had broken the Code of Conduct for MPs by her multiple late registrations of remunerations received for her role as a councillor in Islington. She was found guilty of harassing 59-year-old Michelle Merritt on October 13. 

    Earlier in the case, the court was played a row in which Webbe’s partner, Lester Thomas, could be heard asking her ‘are you mad?’ Prosecutor Susannah Stevens suggested to the MP the comment was made ‘because you had gone mad’. Webbe said: ‘I’m not mad. I’m a member of Parliament.’ 

    Additional reporting: Tom Rawstorne for the Daily Mail.

    Advertisement

    In the background Mr Thomas, Webbe’s partner, can be heard shouting: ‘Don’t listen to her, send me a message whenever you like. 

    ‘Michelle, come off the phone and call the police.’

    Webbe screams: ‘Lester why don’t you go and live with her? Take everything and go and live with her!’ 

    Ms Merritt asks why Webbe keeps calling her but Webbe screams: ‘Can you stop. Can you get out of my relationship, get out of my relationship! Get out of my relationship!’   

    ‘I’ve seen all of your posts, I’ve seen all of your naked pictures, I’ve seen all of your relationship with Lester. Get out of my relationship!

    ‘Otherwise I will tell all of your family and I will show them all of your pictures.’ 

    Giving evidence last month Webbe admitted she rang Ms Merritt on April 25 because her and Mr Thomas had ‘repeatedly breached lockdown’ rules by meeting.

    She said she was arguing with Mr Lester when Ms Merritt called her back.

    Asked whether she had ever made withheld calls to Ms Merritt, threatened to throw acid on her, called her a slag and threatened to send naked pictures of her to her family, Webbe told the court: ‘I’ve spent my lifetime campaigning for the rights of women, challenging this kind of behaviour.

    ‘This is not something that’s in my character and it’s not something I would ever do. Those terms, those words, are not my words.

    ‘I would never use such expletives, such derogatory terms about another person let alone another woman.’

    She said: ‘Lester said he had met up with Michelle and I had said ‘you can’t really do that, we’re in a national lockdown’.

    ‘Lester doesn’t really believe in cover and I felt I needed to tell Michelle that she shouldn’t be breaking it.

    ‘He believes it’s a hoax, he doesn’t want to get vaccinated. He doesn’t believe it.

    ‘I couldn’t understand why she would breach lockdown with Lester and I couldn’t understand why Lester would.

    ‘He felt that he was an essential worker and he could continue with his everyday life. He saw nothing wrong with it and therefore meeting up with Michele was something that he did.

    ‘I said ‘well you actually can’t do that’ but he was not wanting to listen so I asked Michelle could she not breach lockdown with Lester.’ 

    Webbe said: ‘On April 25, 2020 I confronted [Lester] as to why he went out.

    ‘He told me Michelle needed him and so he had no choice.

    ‘The conversation between Lester and I became hated.

    ‘I attempted to call Michelle twice on this day to understand why she had repeatedly breached lockdown with Lester. Michelle then called me back in the middle of this.

    ‘During the call I was having two conversations at once and I repeatedly told Michelle to get out of my relationship and by this I meant that she should not be relying upon Lester for support as they were not in a relationship.

    ‘I did not threaten to disclose photos of her – this was a comment directed at Lester because he had been physically violent and I was trying to get him off me.

    ‘Eventually he smashed my phone… I was so angry with Lester, he was not wanting to listen to me, he did not want to respect my role as an MP, he did not want to understand how serious Covid was.

    ‘People were dying in my constituency. I lost constituents to Covid, I lost a good friend to Covid, I just could not understand why Lester could not understand how serious this pandemic was and how important it was to abide by the rules.’  

    A judge described Webbe (seen today) as 'vague, incoherent, illogical and untruthful' and said she had 'made up evidence on the spot'

    A judge described Webbe (seen today) as ‘vague, incoherent, illogical and untruthful’ and said she had ‘made up evidence on the spot’ 

    Ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described Webbe (both pictured above) as a 'warm-hearted person' who is particularly 'dedicated' to issues of social justice

    Ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described Webbe (both pictured above) as a ‘warm-hearted person’ who is particularly ‘dedicated’ to issues of social justice  

    Her voice breaking, Webbe continued: ‘He was constantly rebuking me, ridiculing me, goading me, as though this is not something that is as serious as people make out and that he can do what he wants.

    How recording caught Webbe ‘threatening to send naked photos of woman to her family’

    In a recording played to Westminster Magistrates’ Court, MP Claudia Webbe answers the phone and immediately begins shouting at Michelle Merritt.

    Webbe says: ‘Why are you still butting in and getting with Lester? Why, why?

    ‘He’s not your friend, he’s with me and I don’t want you to be in touch with me, 

    ‘I don’t want you to be in touch with him.’

    In the background Lester Thomas, Webbe’s partner, can be heard shouting: ‘Don’t listen to her, send me a message whenever you like. 

    ‘Michelle, come off the phone and call the police.’ 

    Webbe screams: ‘Lester why don’t you go and live with her? TAKE EVERYTHING AND GO AND LIVE WITH HER!’ 

    Ms Merritt asks why Webbe keeps calling her but Webbe screams: ‘Can you stop. Can you GET OUT OF MY RELATIONSHIP, GET OUT OF MY RELATIONSHIP. 

    ‘GET OUT OF MY RELATIONSHIP! 

    ‘I’ve seen all of your posts, I’ve seen all of your naked pictures, I’ve seen all of your relationship with Lester. 

    ‘GET OUT OF MY RELATIONSHIP! 

    ‘Otherwise I will tell all of your family and I will show them all of your pictures.’ 

    Ms Merritt then informs Webbe that she is recording the calls and will ‘leak it to the press’ before hanging up.  

    Advertisement

    ‘It was just a terrible situation and I wanted Michelle to understand and just try and help me. I just wanted her to stop engaging with him for the sake of the pandemic… I was just so angry with Lester.’ 

    On the ‘naked photographs’, Webbe said they were a reference to an argument over how her still current partner Mr Thomas had gone to St Lucia for a trip that would have included their engagement.

    She told the court: ‘When I was running to be an MP for Leicester East, we were due to go to St Lucia.

    ‘I couldn’t go, and Lester carried on and went ahead to St Lucia and he had a picture of himself when I would say he was naked from the waist up. He or his family had taken that picture and therefore I wanted to know who had taken the picture. 

    ‘He wasn’t forthcoming with who he had taken the picture. He was naked from the waist up.’

    She added: ‘My partner was goading and gaslighting me. He knew that we were in a domestic. He knew what he was doing. He knew that he was grabbing my arm. He knew I was telling him to stop. 

    ‘This is about denial and goading and gaslighting and coercive control.’ 

    Webbe continued: ‘I was angry with Lester. My anger was directed at Lester. She [Ms Merritt] called me in the middle of this argument that I was having with Lester.

    ‘She called me and I was asking her to get out of my relationship as I was continuing an argument with Lester that had got out of control and is probably one of the worst arguments that I’ve had.

    ‘I’ve never had a neighbour call in regards to a domestic abuse where I’m left screaming and my phone is broken at the end of it.’

    She added: ‘I felt no anger toward Michelle and I’m sorry for what that tape portrays because it’s not my finest moment but it wasn’t intended to cause Michelle any harm and it just is to me very embarrassing.

    ‘It’s not something I ever want to repeat…I just would hope that we would never ever go there again.’

    Webbe entered the House of Commons in December 2019, winning the seat formerly held by Keith Vaz, the Labour veteran who retired from Parliament in the wake of a scandal.

    She was a councillor in Islington between 2010 and 2018 and was a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.

    Earlier in her career, she was a political adviser to then-London mayor Ken Livingstone.   

    Webbe (pictured with Mr Thomas) is currently sitting as an independent MP for Leicester East after being suspended by the Labour Party

    Webbe (pictured with Mr Thomas) is currently sitting as an independent MP for Leicester East after being suspended by the Labour Party  

    Advertisement

    Published at Thu, 04 Nov 2021 22:31:11 +0000

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10165685/Labour-MP-Claudia-Webbe-AVOIDS-jail-despite-guilty.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490

    Previous articleSacred Culture versus Social Credit
    Next articleBiden’s Soviet-born Pick for Comptroller of the Currency | Beyond the Cover