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Labour MP Vaz bullied me when I worked for him, says Northern Ireland woman

By Jack Hardy

A Northern Ireland woman has alleged that she was bullied by Labour MP Keith Vaz while she worked as a House of Common clerk.

Jenny McCullough, who is from Bangor, Co Down, accused the Leicester MP of making disparaging remarks about her because of her Northern Irish background while he was the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

She also claims he told her she was incompetent because she was "not a mother".

The allegations - which Mr Vaz denies - emerged last night after BBC Newsnight published a string of accusations from staff about mistreatment at the hands of the MP, who was forced to step down from the role in 2016 following allegations he paid for prostitutes.

Ms McCullough, who worked as a clerk between 2002 and 2011, told the programme that Mr Vaz had made jokes about her coming from Northern Ireland, by saying that she was a "security threat".

She also recalled one alleged episode when she joined the MP on a trip to Russia and Ukraine in 2008, during which she claims he launched a "tirade" at her in a hotel lobby when she raised her concerns on the trip.

She said: "He told me that I wasn't capable of serving the committee because I wasn't a mother.

"All I knew was it wasn't normal to be harangued about my fertility status in the reception of a hotel room, at public expense in front of my colleague on the team," she told Newsnight.

Ms McCullough also claimed the MP failed to follow House of Commons rules on hospitality, which either have to be arranged by the committee or appropriately declared.

She explained that they were taken to an "opulent" dinner thrown in his honour at which it was "unclear" who paid for the meal, she claimed, and fell outside of the itinerary which had to be signed off before they left.

Other anonymous clerks also made allegations about Mr Vaz's behaviour on six trips, including sudden changes of plans and mystery over who was footing the bill for certain events.

However, Mr Vaz refutes the accusations, according to the BBC, including that he breached any rules of the House or bullied staff.

Ms McCullough claimed her boss also sought to undermine her position and although she had alerted Commons' authorities to her concerns about his behaviour while he still held the role, no action was taken.

"It was as though there was something wrong with me, that I was too sensitive, that this was normal," she said.

In response, a representative for Mr Vaz said he denied berating Ms McCullough - who he described as having been an "effective" clerk - and did not "at any time insult her maternal status", stressing the MP believed they had enjoyed a "good working relationship".

"No complaint or allegation of this nature has ever been brought to his attention," he added.

"Our client had considered that he and Ms McCullough had previously had a good working relationship, and had always considered her to be very effective as a clerk."

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