'He abused his power': Women's Equality Party candidate tears into Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins during campaign launch

Serena Laidler campaigns in Luton North; (inset) MP Kelvin Hopkins
Serena Laidler campaigns in Luton North; (inset) MP Kelvin Hopkins

A parliamentary hopeful from the Women's Equality Party (WEP) made a scathing attack on Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins while launching her campaign to take his seat.

WEP's candidate in Luton North is Serena Laidley, a secondary school teacher and a survivor of sexual violence and domestic abuse.

Ms Laidley says she is standing to hold Kelvin Hopkins and the Labour Party to account. Kelvin Hopkins is currently suspended by his party and is still under investigation after 23 months.

She said: “Kelvin Hopkins can vote on legislation in parliament that affects women’s lives.

“Women in Luton North deserve better than to be represented by a man who abused his power.

"Everyone in Luton North deserves better.

"They deserve more from the Labour Party, which has strung this out in the hopes that Hopkins will resign from the Party so it is no longer their problem.

"Just as they did in Bury South with Ivan Lewis. Just as they did in Sheffield Hallam with Jared O’Mara.”

It is nearly two years since Kelvin Hopkins was suspended by the Labour Party in November 2017 after sexual harassment claims made by Labour activist Ava Etamadzadeh were published in the Telegraph.

Mr Hopkins maintains his innocence and has previously vowed to clear his name, but the internal Labour Party investigation is still ongoing.

Following his suspension, fellow Labour MP Kerry McCarthy unearthed correspondence from over 20 years ago from Mr Hopkins, which she described as “upsetting” and “unwanted attention”.

Ms Laidley is a newcomer to Luton and has reached out to Luton All Women's Centre as well as the Luton branch of Women's Aid to help support victims of domestic abuse.

WEP says it is campaigning for seven core goals, including shared care and equal pay as well as for a People’s Vote with the option to remain in the EU.

Five WEP candidates for the next General Election are survivors of abuse and they are being fielded against five MPs facing unresolved allegations including Mr Hopkins.

Ms Laidley says a key priority in Luton North will be tackling child poverty through investment in universal free childcare and other infrastructure.

Asked if Ms Laidley was judging Mr Hopkins guilty ahead of the inquiry's verdict, a WEP spokeswoman backed her comments and added: "A letter that Kelvin Hopkins sent to Labour MP, Kerry McCarthy, has been published in the Guardian along with a text message he sent to a young activist in which he says, 'a nice young man would be lucky to have you as a girlfriend and a lover'.

"Whether or not the current investigation finds him guilty of harassment, this is a clear abuse of his power as an MP and we are calling for an independent investigation because the Labour Party still has not reached a verdict after two years.

"Parties shouldn’t be able to mark their own homework."