UK Conservative MP charged with sexual assault

Imran Ahmad Khan is alleged to have groped a teenager.

UK Conservative MP charged with sexual assault

LONDON — A U.K. Conservative MP will face trial accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008.

Imran Ahmad Khan, 47, the MP for Wakefield, West Yorkshire, is alleged to have groped the teenager in Staffordshire.

Ahmad Khan, who was elected at the 2019 general election, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday by video-link and entered a plea of not guilty.

He can be named after reporting restrictions were lifted on Friday.

Ahmad Khan faces a single count of sexual assault against the teenager in 2008. The case has been referred to the Old Bailey after it was deemed not suitable for trial in the magistrates’ court.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Ahmad Khan said: “It is true that an accusation has been made against me. May I make it clear from the outset that the allegation, which is from over 13 years ago, is denied in the strongest terms.”

“This matter is deeply distressing to me and I of course, take it extremely seriously. To be accused of doing something I did not do is shocking, destabilising, and traumatic. I am innocent.”

“Those, like me, who are falsely accused of such actions are in the difficult position of having to endure damaging and painful speculation until the case is concluded. I ask for privacy as I work to clear my name.”

A spokesperson for the Whips Office said the Tory whip had been suspended from Ahmad Khan. A party official added that the MP has not been on parliamentary estate since the charge was brought and will not return while the case is ongoing.

He won the traditional Labour seat of Wakefield in 2019, and before that worked for the United Nations as a special assistant for political affairs in Mogadishu.

Source : Politico EU More   

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UK union left-wingers wrangle over ballot deal

Race to elect leader of powerful union gets complicated.

UK union left-wingers wrangle over ballot deal

LONDON — The race to elect a new leader of the U.K.’s powerful Unite union has taken a few twists and turns. Perhaps the strangest was when one of the candidates, Howard Beckett, proposed drawing names out of a hat to decide who should fight for the top post. There was stunned silence at that one.

It was the most surreal moment during days of horse-trading in the race to find a new general secretary of Unite. The union is the biggest financial backer to the opposition Labour Party, wielding huge influence over the direction of the movement under its leader Keir Starmer. The left is skeptical of Starmer, to put it mildly.

Beckett, alongside Steve Turner and Sharon Graham, fellow left-wingers who won the right to be on the ballot, ended up locked in talks about who should stand down to avoid splitting the vote and handing the job to Gerard Coyne, the pro-Starmer candidate.

For days it looked as though there would be no deal between the three professional union negotiators. But on Friday morning white smoke emerged from talks between Beckett and Turner.

“Howard Beckett has decided he will support Steve Turner as Unite’s next general secretary,” a joint statement from the two said. “Both recognise the vision and strengths of their respective campaigns and Steve Turner recognizes the key manifesto commitments and energy generated by Howard’s campaign.”

Taking on some of Beckett’s pledges was a crucial element in brokering the deal, a Unite official told POLITICO. One of the most controversial, to set up a trade union television channel, remains on the table.

It was made clear to Beckett that he had the fewest branch nominations in the race to make the ballot and that those who did support him might not translate into enough votes to beat Coyne in the final contest, because some of the branches have low membership numbers.

But it was agreed that Beckett could not quit the race without getting something in return. He has a big social media following of loyal supporters who could be easily triggered, including the hardcore Skwawkbox blog that was set up to fight for the Labour far left. Turner and current left-wing Unite boss Len McCluskey argued Beckett’s online supporters would not translate into votes, and eventually managed to buy Beckett off.

“He wanted to save quite a bit of his program and Steve hasn’t really got a problem with that,” the official said. The joint statement said the pair will “work to implement a blended manifesto, taking the best ideas from both candidates, when Steve Turner becomes general secretary.”

Graham, meanwhile, had ditched the talks while the other two fought it out between themselves. A proposal was made to absorb some of her ideas into the Turner campaign too, but she refused to quit and will still stand.

“The announcement of the Turner/Beckett ticket, along with the Gerard Coyne candidacy, now completes the Westminster brigade,” Graham said in a statement Friday morning. “I am the workplace candidate and will be standing to ensure the voice of Unite members is heard.”

Her allies were briefing during the negotiations that it was a disappointment, despite the left talking the talk about equalities and diversity, that two men were pushing for the only woman in the contest to stand down.

As for Coyne, he argued Beckett standing down made no difference, painting his two remaining opponents as tools of the hard left. “We now have a Communist Party candidate, a Socialist Worker Party candidate and myself in the Unite election,” he said in a statement. “I’m happy to be the mainstream candidate for the members.”

The left now has a clearer path to beat Coyne. But there are still fears about whether the mainstream candidate can be beaten. Having two left-wingers on the ballot will still split the vote, and every shred of support matters after Coyne came close to beating McCluskey in 2017.

Both sides are hoping for big turnouts of their factions when the contest comes to a close in August.

Source : Politico EU More   

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