A defendant in Cardiff Crown Court has made allegations about Carolyn Harris, the Swansea MP whose candidature for the position of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in Wales was backed by Stephen Doughty (Labour Cardiff South and Penarth).
Doughty’s backing had seemed vindicated when in April MP Carolyn Harris was “elected” Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in Wales. [ Her rival, the experienced AM Julie Morgan, actually received a greater number of ordinary Labour members’ votes than Mrs Harris but the Labour electoral rules gave more weight to the votes of AMs and MPs]
However , in the past few days, jurors in Cardiff Crown Court have been hearing a lot more about the newly-elected Welsh Labour deputy leader, Carolyn Harris, in a case in which the former manager of Mrs Harris’s office – Ms Jenny Lee Clarke – stands accused of forgery and fraud.
Jenny Lee Clarke has alleged in court that Carolyn Harris had once “attacked” her when the two women were then both working for the former Swansea MP Sian James – an allegation which the current MP and Labour Deputy Leader Carolyn Harris denies.
Denying this, Carolyn Harris is quoted as having said in court “We would all have physical contact in terms of touching but not violent contact – not at all”
When incumbent MP Sian James stood down from Westminster, Carolyn Harris was gifted the safe seat of Swansea East seat by the Labour Party and became its MP in her own right – and became Ms Jenny Lee Clarke’s boss. At that point – Ms Clarke alleged – Mrs Harris’s ego “went through the roof” and “everything changed” .
Ms Clarke, initially earned £37,000 a year but is accused of having fraudulently increased this to £39,000 a year – and of reducing her working hours after the 2015 General Election. She said she normally signed claims and documents on behalf of Mrs Harris and had awarded herself the pay rise under the instructions of Mrs Harris. Mrs Harris asserts that a pay rise for Ms Clarke was never discussed.
The court has also heard allegations that Mrs Harris ( who apart from being Welsh Labour Deputy Leader is also Shadow Women’s Equality Minister in the Labour Shadow Cabinet) frequently made comments about Ms Clarke’s clothes and hairstyles and had been asked to refrain from making comments about Ms Clarke’s sexuality . Mrs Harris said the remarks were just “office banter” and denied applying the term “dyke” to Ms Clarke.
Carolyn Harris MP has denied in court that Ms Clarke was “at her beck and call” . Mrs Harris has denied ever asking Ms Clarke to clean her car for her, has denied that she had asked Ms Clarke to mow her late mother’s lawn (using a lawnmower purchased on the constituency office’s account) and has also denied that a “pressure washer” had been bought on the office account to wash the MP’s patio.
Mrs Harris has told the court that she and Ms Clarke had “a mutually beneficial friendship” and that she had done “a good many favours” for Ms Clarke “including giving her a television, a car, holidays in my caravan“.
The case continues.