A former member of Labour’s ruling NEC has revealed that she was raped during a party event – but was discouraged from reporting the assault.
Bex Bailey, a former Parliamentary aide to leadership contender Liz Kendall, told BBC Radio 4 that she was attacked as a 19-year-old by a senior member of the party.
Bailey told the PM programme that the sexual assault took place in 2011, and the perpetrator was not an MP but a party figure.
She called for the creation of a new independent body, free from political ‘bias’, to investigate all such incidents.
Her revelations are the most serious yet to emerge following days of claims of sexual harassment and assault on political aides and others at Westminster.
They came as one Parliamentary worker told ITV that an MP had sexually assaulted her on a trip abroad and the authorities had failed to act on her complaint.
Labour sources told HuffPost UK that party general secretary Iain McNicol will now appoint an independent legal expert to investigate Bailey’s allegations.
Ed Miliband, who was Labour leader at the time of the incident, tweeted his shock at the news.
Labour MP Alison McGovern was one of many Labour MPs to praise Bailey for coming forward.
The young activist, now 25, said she had “tried to pretend” the rape “hadn’t happened” and did not report the attack to the police at the time.
But when she did pluck up the courage to raise it two years later, she was advised by a Labour official not to purse the claim because it could ‘damage’ her.
“I was scared, I felt ashamed, I know that the Labour Party, like any family, loves a good gossip – and I didn’t want people to know and I also was worried that I wouldn’t be believed if I did,” she said.
“It took me a while to sum up the courage to tell anyone in the party.
“But when I did, I told a senior member of staff, who told me… or it was suggested to me that I not report it, I was told that if I did it might damage me – and that might be their genuine view, it might be that that was the case in which case that shows that we have a serious problem in politics with this issue anyway.”
Kendall told HuffPost UK: “Bex has shown incredible bravery in speaking out and and shown huge courage.
“This is an extremely difficult thing to do. We must ensure now that we make the changes she is calling for. We can’t have a situation where party members are afraid to speak out.”
Bailey was the Young Labour representative on the party’s ruling National Executive Committee as recently as 2016.
Part of the ‘centrist’ slate of candidates for the NEC the following year, in 2016/7, she lost out to Momentum-backed rivals. She now works for the Young Women’s Trust.
In her BBC interview, Bailey revealed that when she raised her rape, she was “not signposted to anyone else that could” give her better advice, and there seemed to be no procedure to report the incident.
“I don’t think I was even given a cup of tea at the time,” she said. “It was quite a horrible experience and this is why I’ve been fighting so hard for changes to the way that we do this.”
The young activist called for an independent agency, such as a charity, to be set up to ensure complainants do not feel they will be “penalised”. The new body would provide advice on taking the matter to the police or, anonymously, to the party, she said.
Labour’s process relies on people reporting an attack to someone within the party – who is “inclined to be loyal to the Labour Party”, she said.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “The Labour Party takes these allegations extremely seriously. It takes great courage for victims of rape to come forward – and all support must and will be made available to them.
“We would strongly recommend that the police investigate the allegations of criminal actions that Bex Bailey has made.
“Labour will also launch an independent investigation into claims that a party employee acted improperly over these 2011 allegations.”