Birmingham Labour MP Khalid Mahmood tells tribunal his reasons for inquiry into aide

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Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, has been accused of unfairly dismissing his aide and ex-girlfriend Elaina Cohen

An MP accused of unfairly dismissing his aide and ex-girlfriend has denied launching an inquiry into her conduct because he “resented” her making allegations about another of his staff members.

Elaina Cohen, 62, has claimed Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, 60, sacked her after she blew the whistle about the colleague, who she suspected was a “criminal abuser” of women.

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The Birmingham Perry Barr MP has maintained Ms Cohen, with whom he was previously in a relationship, was instead fired after sending “derogatory” and “offensive” emails and breaking protocols of parliamentary office.

At a tribunal in London on Tuesday (May 24), the former shadow cabinet minister claimed the employee, who served as his senior parliamentary adviser, would “continue harassing” until she “gets her way”.

Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood
Khalid Mahmood

What are the allegations at the centre of Ms Cohen’s case against Khalid Mahmood?

At the heart of Ms Cohen’s case are three allegations she claims to have made to Mr Mahmood about a colleague, Saraya Hussain, which she says the MP did not take seriously.

The first related to an incident in which she claims Ms Hussain used Mr Mahmood’s signature on House of Commons stationery to attempt to challenge a DVLA fine she had received.

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Others involve claims that Ms Hussain had allegedly blackmailed vulnerable women in her care and shared “antisemitic” material on Facebook.

Some of the allegations against Ms Hussain were looked into by West Midlands Police after Ms Cohen reported them, and it was concluded at the time that there was no criminal investigation to progress, the tribunal heard.

Mr Mahmood has also said he investigated the allegation about stationery himself and found Ms Hussain was not responsible.

Ms Cohen insists the allegations she is said to have made were “protected disclosures” under whistleblowing regulations in the Employment Rights Act 1996.

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In cross-examination, Martina Murphy, representing Ms Cohen, suggested the MP had acted in “retaliation” for repeated complaints she made in relation to the allegations.

“It’s our case that it’s quite clear that you resented and were unhappy that she made alleged protected disclosures and therefore you launched an inquiry into her conduct,” Ms Murphy said.

Could St John Rigby College soon be getting a mock court room?Could St John Rigby College soon be getting a mock court room?
Could St John Rigby College soon be getting a mock court room?

What has Khalid Mahmood said about the allegations?

“Absolutely not,” Mr Mahmood replied.

The MP said allegations made by Ms Cohen had already been investigated but she had continued to pursue them because she had not received the answer she wanted.

“Until Ms Cohen gets her way on the thing, she’ll carry on doing it and if it doesn’t happen she’ll criticise the individual, whether that’s me (or others),” he told the tribunal.

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Mr Mahmood was also accused of acting unfairly as “sole decision-maker” in an investigation into his own complaints about Ms Cohen, in order to “control the outcome” and ensure she was dismissed.

The tribunal heard this culminated in a disciplinary meeting last January, in which five allegations of breaking parliamentary protocols against Ms Cohen were upheld.

They included an incident in which she allegedly breached the terms of a suspension and others in which she was said to have sent “offensive” emails about Mr Mahmood to people including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

At the meeting, Mr Mahmood was accompanied by an HR representative and a note-taker, it was said.

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Ms Murphy said it seemed wrong that the MP had overseen an investigation into allegations made by himself.

“There’s no way you could be both judge and jury in your own complaint,” she said.

“I did what I thought was appropriate. At all times personnel were there… if I had stepped out of line they would have advised me to the contrary,” the MP said.

Following the final meeting he sent Ms Cohen a letter dismissing her for gross misconduct.

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Has Ms Cohen made any other allegations against Khalid Mahmood MP?

Ms Cohen, who is Jewish, has claimed that the sacking was also linked to religious or racial discrimination.

Mr Mahmood strenuously denied the allegations on Tuesday, pointing to their past personal relationship.

He said during an election campaign in the mid-2000s when they were together, another party had put out press releases about him being “in a relationship with a Jewish lady” but that it did not intimidate him because he respects all religions, races and creeds.

“I take offence. I had a relationship with this individual based fully on the understanding of what her religion was,” he said.

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The hearing before employment judge Timothy Adkin at London Central Employment Tribunal continues.

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