Updated: Tuesday 24 & Wednesday 25 October 2017
He was elected to the Commons in June at the General Election, defeating the former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the Sheffield Hallam constituency. Today, while remaining an MP, he has stood down from the Commons Women and Equality Commission after homophobic, misogynistic and fat-shaming comments he made came to light.
The comments he made were back in 2004 but had managed to avoid the light of day since. Among the vile remarks he said that Michelle McManus only won Pop Idol “because she was fat” and suggested it would be funny if jazz star Jamie Cullum was “sodomised with his own piano.” He also joked about having an orgy with the group Girls Aloud. These comments were made on the Drowned in Sound website and were revealed by the political blogger Guido Fawkes (Alex Wickham) on his website.
It has also emerged that he made other homophobic remarks in 2002 on an internet forum. Mr O’Mara addressed a meeting of his colleagues in the Labour Party and made a “full and very personal apology” and said he was “deeply ashamed” of his remarks. He said he was “wrong to make the comments,” and added: “I understand whey they are offensive and deeply apologise for my use of such unacceptable language. I made the comments as a young man, at a particularly difficult time in my life, but that is no excuse.” That’s two excuses straight away, right before saying that there is no excuse.
Condemnation of Mr O’Mara’s comments was swift. Lord Scriven, the Lib Dem peer and former leader of Sheffield Council, said: “It seems like a nasty pattern of sexist language and misogyny is developing from the Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam. He clearly isn’t fit to sit on the Women and Equalities Committee. He must stand down from that committee immediately and if he doesn’t, Jeremy Corbyn must take action to remove him.”
LGBT Labour group issued a statement in which they said:
“LGBT Labour are deeply concerned following the historical homophobic comments made by Jared O’Mara. These types of comments have no place within Labour or any other political party.
“Whilst we recognise that these comments were made some time ago that doesn’t excuse such ignorance and bigotry. We expect a full and public apology from Mr O’Mara and ask that he meets with members of the LGBT Labour committee in order to understand the inequality many LGBT people face.”
The leadership of the Labour Party itself called the remarks “horrendous” and “vile” but said that Mr O’Mara will not be suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party. One Labour MP, Wes Sweeting (Ilford North) came to Mr O’Mara’s defence after he made his apology:
“He offered what seemed to be a heartfelt and genuine apology and admitted that these are views he once held, which took guts.
“The battle for equality is a battle for hearts and minds and that must surely mean that people are allowed to change their views and therefore must also be offered a second chance.
“I hope I don’t end up eating my words and that he demonstrates his commitment to equality as a new MP. I think we owe him that chance.”
Writing in The Guardian, Owen Jones – a political activist, columnist, author and commentator – suggested that if Mr O’Mara had made his comments today and not over a decade ago he would have had to resign as a MP. So far, he has only stood down from his role on the Women and Equality Committee at the House of Commons. Mr Jones also believes that Jared O’Mara’s political future now “depends on showing he’s a man transformed.”
Owen Jones recommends that Mr O’Mara (pictured) take a leaf from the Labour MP Naz Shah, who after being caught out making antisemitic went on a personal mission to educate herself in her errors by meeting with the Jewish community. Ms Shah then made a public apology and explained her ignorance and what she had learned from meeting the Jewish community. Mr Jones suggests that Mr O’Mara now needs to go on a similar course in order to demonstrate that he has indeed changed from the man who made the vile comments reported on this week.
Labour MP Angela Raynor came to Jared O’Mara’s defence, saying that she believed he has genuinely changed his views from those he expressed in the past. She told Sky News that his apology was “a very passionate, emotional speech,” and added:
“I think it’s important to recognise in a social media age that young people do put views and jokes and things that are absolutely distasteful and disgusting online and that they are there for ever. […] It was a very difficult speech for him. I suspect it was more difficult than his maiden speech but it was a heartfelt speech. […] He said he was homophobic, he was misogynistic, but those views he had 15 years ago were completely unacceptable and he changed his views from then. I think that’s courageous of him to do that.”
Following calls for Mr O’Mara to be suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party for his comments, Ms Raynor again came to his support, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
“Yes, I am happy to sit alongside him. […] I’ve met many people in my life who have had homophobic, misogynistic and even racist views; I’ve knocked on doors where that has been the case. Jared changed his views, that’s what’s important, he recognised they were abhorrent and wrong and he changed. Fifteen years on, he is not the Jared that made those comments.”
Later on Tuesday more allegations surfaced that far from being long in his past, Jared O’Mara was making racist and sexist comments only months ago. The latest allegations by a constituent of Mr O’Mara, Sophie Evans (pictured) who met him via a dating app. She said that they were at a nightclub together when he called her an “ugly bitch.” She said that they “didn’t really work out,” but that there were no hard feelings. She continued: “Obviously, some of the things aren’t broadcastable. There were some transphobic slurs in there.” These comments are alleged to have taken just seven months ago, not the 15 years ago that Mr O’Mara says were the last time he made such comments.
Meanwhile, the Guido Fawkes website has published more comments Mr O’Mara is claimed to have made back in 2002, including racists comments against Spaniards (“dagos”), and Danes (“pig shaggers”). In response to these new allegations, both the Lib Dem leader Vince Cable and the minister for women and equalities, Justine Greening have called for the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to remove the whip from the MP. Ms Greening said: “Violent, sexist and homophobic language must have no place in our society, and parliamentarians of all parties have a duty to stamp out this sort of behaviour wherever we encounter it, and condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Will you be removing the whip from him while the investigation is carried out?” Vince cable, meanwhile, said: “If he did make these remarks, Labour needs to withdraw the whip from him immediately.”
Other comments to emerge from Mr O’Mara’s past include the homophobic: “I find it funny how homosexuals think they have the monopoly on being subject to abuse.” Sophie Evans said that she was not surprised to hear the latest comments he is alleged to have made. She said: “Fair enough for him to have said that about 15 years ago, but he won’t even acknowledge something that happened seven months ago.”
This point by Ms Evans is important. Mr O’Mara is claiming he has been on a “journey” since the comments of 2004 and before, and that he no longer thinks like that. The claims from Ms Evans suggests otherwise. Ms Evans continued: “He’s never apologised to me or my friends that were involved in the situation. He’s called us liars. He’s called us liars in the press. He’s been on radio, called us liars. I just find it very, very hard to believe he’s changed.”
Despite in his apology saying that there were no excuses, he continues to make them. In an interview with Huck magazine he blamed homophobic bullying in his past, despite the fact that he claims to be heterosexual: “I saw it as an attack, as a slur, and I transferred that erroneously on to people who didn’t deserve it. Weak people like bullies try and hurt other people to feel better about themselves. That’s obviously the mindset I was in.” He also made a remark trying to justify him remaining an MP: “In terms of resigning as an MP, I think there’s a place for me. I want to educate people and help people going through those prejudices grow out of them. I’ve gone on that journey and feel I can help.”
Before he can “educate” others he needs to be honest and come clean on comments he is alleged to have made recently, long after he suggests his “journey” in self-awareness is supposed to have begun. I don’t get the impression that he has made this journey and has far from grown out of these reprehensible views as he claims. In the meantime, the Labour Party has begun an investigation into the latest allegations against the Sheffield Hallam Labour MP. His time as an MP may yet be numbered.
While I agree that Mr O’Mara deserves a second chance, as I say above I don’t think he has given up his homophobic, transphobic, racist and sexist views. I also don’t believe it took guts to admit his mistakes. His apology only came after Guido Fawkes revealed the comments. Mr O’Mara had no intention it seems to ever reveal his vile and bigoted views before Guido Fawkes did it for him. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that Mr O’Mara has changed his views of fat people, his misogynistic view of women and his homophobic attitude to gay people – he has simply kept them to himself for the last few years.
Wednesday 25 October 2017 update:
This morning the Labour party has suspended Mr O’Mara from the party, and therefore automatically the whip has been withdrawn from him. This has been done following new allegations emerging against Mr O’Mara and he will be suspended while the party investigates the allegations.
One Labour MP, Lucy Powell, was certain he should have been suspended on the basis that he did not bring up his past comments when he was being vetted and selected as a candidate. She said:
“One of the key questions you’re asked when you become a candidate for the Labour party, and you have to sign a contract to say this, is there anything in your past that would bring the party into disrepute? And I don’t understand, in all honesty, how Jared could have signed that paper. That’s why I think he should be suspended while that investigation is taking place.”
There is clearly an issue with the vetting of candidates for the Labour party. Before the snap election this year there was a rush to get candidates vetted, and one source told The Guardian:
”There was a real problem in vetting all of those candidates so quickly after a snap election was called, it’s impossible to check almost 3,000 people in a week, apart from their party records, their criminal records and social media. These comments go back on fansites and sports sites from more than a decade ago.”
Sources & Further Reading:
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-41724540 – BBC – Monday 23 October 2017
- Labour MP quits equality committee over homophobic posts – The Guardian – Monday 23 October 2017 – by Jessica Elgot, political reporter
- Labour suspends Jared O’Mara over offensive online comments – The Guardian – Wednesday 25 October 2017 – by Heather Stewart & Jessica Elgot
- Eddie Izzard champions diversity in bid to join Labour NEC – The Guardian – Monday 23 October 2017 – by Rowena Mason
- Jared O’Mara’s comments were vile. Now he has to show he’s changed – The Guardian – Tuesday 24 October 2017 – by Owen Jones
- Labour MP who posted offensive comments ‘merits second chance’ – The Guardian – Tuesday 24 October 2017 – by Jessica Elgot, Political reporter
- Labour launches investigation into MP Jared O’Mara’s behaviour – The Guardian – Tuesday 24 October 2017 – by Peter Walker, Political Correspondent