Labour MP signed off sick after ‘campaign of misogynistic abuse’

A Labour MP has announced that she is taking time away from work because of the strain caused by what she said was “misogynistic abuse and harassment” linked to efforts to make her seek formal reselection for her seat.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Apsana Begum, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse in east London since 2019, said she had been obliged to go to hospital on 12 June, and had since been signed off sick by a GP.

She said her office staff would continue with constituency work, adding: “I will see you all once I am better.”

She wrote: “For the duration of my time as a member of parliament I have been subjected to a sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse and harassment.” This had been “particularly painful and difficult” since she is a survivor of domestic abuse, Begum added.

“This abusive campaign has had a significant effect on my mental and physical health,” she said.

It meant she could no longer take part in a trigger ballot process – a Labour procedure in which local parties and affiliated groups decide if a sitting MP should contest the next general election by default, or if the constituency should have a full re-selection process.

The push for a trigger ballot in Poplar and Limehouse has reportedly seen local members complain to the party’s headquarters about how it has been conducted, with complaints of disruption and intimidation and harassment towards women.

In her statement, Begum made it clear she felt the party could have done more to assist her: “I am very concerned by the wider circumstances surrounding the trigger ballot process.

“This has included complaints of alleged rule-breaking and alleged misogynistic intimidation. It is vital that the party investigates these complaints properly and takes appropriate action.

“If the Labour party is to be the party of equality, it must do all it can to ensure that such behaviour is never tolerated.”

Begum’s prior experience of domestic abuse emerged when she was acquitted last year of fraud for having allegedly withheld information about her circumstances to obtain social housing.

Tower Hamlets council said Begum had not notified her when she moved in with her partner. The MP said she had notified the council for council tax purposes, that she was in a difficult personal period due to family reasons, and that her “controlling and coercive” partner Ehtashamul Haque had taken over her affairs.

In a statement after her acquittal, Begum said the case had caused her great distress.