Carolyn Harris MP homophobic slur ‘not appropriate’

Carolyn Harris MP homophobic slur 'not appropriate'

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Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris is the UK Labour’s shadow equalities minister

A Welsh Government minister says she is “disappointed and saddened” by accusations the Welsh Labour’s deputy leader used homophobic language.

Hannah Blythyn said Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris’s alleged comments against her former aide Jenny Clarke were “not appropriate”.

Ms Clarke was on trial for fraud in July – and later cleared – when it was alleged Mrs Harris called her a “dyke”.

Mrs Harris said: “I honestly do not remember making such a comment”.

Mrs Harris, Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow minister for women and equalities, had told the trial if she had it would have been “just office banter”.

A jury at Cardiff Crown Court heard during the trial that the alleged incidents occurred while they worked for previous Swansea East MP Sian James.

Ms Clarke, who had been Mrs Harris’ office manager, was accused of forging Mrs Harris’ signature after she was elected, to give herself a £2,000-a-year pay rise and lower her working hours.

She was cleared after the trial heard Mrs Harris frequently made comments about Ms Clarke’s choice of clothes and hairstyles.

Mrs Harris said in a statement on Friday said this was “clumsy language”.

She added: “I understand that banter was an entirely inappropriate – indeed offensive – word to use.”

Environment minister Ms Blythyn, who is one of three LGBT politicians elected to the assembly in 2016, said on Twitter: “It’s never banter – it’s homophobic language.”

Economy secretary Ken Skates and Energy Secretary Lesley Griffiths retweeted Miss Blythyn’s tweet.

Three other Welsh Labour politicians, Mid and West Wales AM Joyce Watson, Caerphilly AM Hefin David and Welsh councils leader Debbie Wilcox have all tweeted their support of Ms Blythyn.

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Wales News Service

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Jenny Lee Clarke was cleared of fraud and forgery in the trial in July

Mrs Harris’ statement added: “I honestly do not remember making such a comment and hearing it alleged in court struck me to the core.

“In looking to answer – honestly – I said that in the context of our time working together that ‘if I did it would have been banter’.

“I was trying to express that I would not want anyone to feel as if I were targeting them because of their sexuality, something I would never do.

“But I failed, with clumsy language that only served to make it appear as if I was trying to minimise the issue.

“It is a word that many LGBT people have heard used to justify homophobic abuse for too long. And I apologise – unreservedly and unequivocally – for my use of it.

“I try to be a good ally and use my platform to highlight the experiences of LGBT people.

“If I have fallen short, in my understanding or in my words, I can only hope that my actions to support the LGBT community in recent years as an MP and in the future will help heal any hurt.”

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