Claudia Webbe: MP made threat to send nudes of woman, court hears

Claudia Webbe

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard Ms Webbe, who is an independent MP for Leicester East after being suspended by the Labour Party, was in a relationship with Lester Thomas at the time.

The threats were made during 16 phone calls between 1 September 2018 and 26 April last year, the court heard.

“The reason for the harassment would appear to be the fact that Michelle Merritt was friends with Lester Thomas and this was an issue for the defendant Claudia Webbe,” prosecutor Susannah Stevens said. She said Ms Webbe made a string of short silent phone calls from a withheld number to Ms Merritt, who told the court she had known Mr Thomas for more than 15 years and was “good friends” with him, having previously dated.

Ms Merritt, giving evidence from behind a screen, said: “There was a pattern that whenever I had even met with Lester Thomas, if we had gone out for a drink or something, there would be a phone call. When you are being called and no-one answers, it’s unnerving, especially as a woman who lives alone.”

Ms Webbe - who entered the Commons in December 2019 and worked as a councillor in Islington between 2010 and 2018 - denies making any such threats.

After becoming a political adviser to Ken Livingstone when he was London mayor, Webbe rose to public prominence following the election of Corbyn, a close political ally, as Labour leader. A community activist in Islington, north London, she was elected to Labour’s national executive committee in 2016 with the backing of the grassroots group Momentum.

In 2018, she was elected chair of Labour’s dispute panel and in the process became the first black woman to sit on the officer group of the national executive committee (NEC). She headed the disputes panel as the party dealt with hundreds of allegations of antisemitism.

Last year, Webbe was chosen by the NEC to stand to become an MP in Leicester East. The sitting MP, veteran Keith Vaz, stood down following a critical parliamentary inquiry which found he had expressed a willingness to buy cocaine for sex workers.

As with most parliamentary selection contests taking place at a late stage, there was no hustings or vote by local party members but the candidate was instead picked by a selection panel including two NEC representatives. Some local activists opposed Webbe as a candidate and accused the party of imposing a Corbyn supporter upon a centrist constituency Labour party (CLP). Webbe said she had family ties with the area. She won the constituency with a majority of just over 6,000, down from the 22,000-plus majority of Vaz.

Born in Leicester in 1965, Webbe studied social sciences at De Montford university before moving on to London to study race and ethnic relations at Birkbeck. She is one of 34 members of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs alongside Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell.

Of course, I should follow the case with an open mind but, after reading Webbe’s résumé, I find that difficult … :wink:

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A case of a woman scorned? Didn’t she also threaten to throw acid in her love-rival’s face?