London council leader due to stand as Labour MP pulls out of election race after allegations

A London council leader due to stand as a Labour MP confirmed he had pulled out of the election race on Tuesday following allegations about his conduct.

Darren Rodwell, who was selected to fight the Labour safe seat of Barking, is said to be facing sexual harassment accusations after he allegedly behaved “inappropriately” with a woman at an event last month.

In a statement Mr Rodwell, who is the leader of Barking and Dagenham council, said he “completely refuted” any misconduct claims, but did not want them to “become a distraction” during the election campaign.

He added: “I have decided to take the incredibly difficult decision to withdraw my candidacy.

“The Labour Party has made clear that there is no active investigation into complaints about me.

“But I believe to be in the best interests at this time to step aside from the candidacy.

“This place means the world to me and I will continue to fight for this borough, the community I love and lead the council.”

Enfield council leader, Nesil Caliskan, was almost immediately announced as the new Labour candidate for Barking.

Mr Rodwell met with the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on Tuesday afternoon before releasing his statement announcing he was not standing as MP.

In a complaint to the party, seen by the Independent, a woman alleged that Mr Rodwell asked “personal questions” and touched her “hands and legs in a sexual way” during a meeting.

According to the Independent, the complaint file reads: ”The complainant has received confirmation that an investigator will be contacting her in regards to the allegations.”

Mr Rodwell has vehemently denied the allegation.

“I utterly refute what is being said, specifically: I have not engaged in sexual harassment of any kind,” he said. A Labour spokesman said the complaints process is confidential.

It comes as a clip of the council leader claiming he had asked police not to respond if they were contacted by a resident he was planning to confront at their home emerged.

Speaking about the “immense abuse” he had received online, Mr Rodwell said he tracked down the address of a person who had threatened to “take him out” when officers said they could not do anything about a social media threat.

He told the Propertyshe podcast in 2022: "I found out where the person lived because you know I have the ways and means so, I used them.

“I phoned, or my office phoned, the police up and said ‘the Leader wants to let you know, don’t worry if you get a phone call from this address but it’s only him going up round there asking why they think they could do a Go Fund Me page to have him taken out’.”

He added: “The Tri-borough Commander at the time knew me well enough to know that I would go round there and knock on their door because if you’re willing to say it on a keyboard, if you are willing to say it from afar, then say it to my face because that’s how you do it in the working class communities of Barking & Dagenham and round the country.”

It is unclear if Mr Rodwell did confront the resident.

Mr Rodwell was chosen as the Labour candidate for Barking in 2022, replacing Dame Margaret Hodge who is retiring.

Asked about the situation on Tuesday, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, told the Standard: “I'm not aware of the specific case in Barking, but what I can say with absolute confidence is that when Keir Starmer said he would deliver high standards in public life, he really meant it.

“Ahead of this general election, the Labour Party has had to make some tough decisions about candidates we put forward, because we want to make sure that when people cast their vote, that Labour rose on the ballot paper isn't just a statement of our values, but is a statement of the quality of the candidate.

“When you look at the parliament we've just left and you look at the fact we've got MPs who've found themselves in court, MPs who haven't been able to keep their hands themselves, MPs who've offered to take backhanders to leak documents, MPs who've been looking at tractor porn in the House of Commons, it is absolutely right that we ask of our candidates high standards and where they fall short, action is taken.

“I'd much rather deal with the short term, difficult questions of dropping candidates now, than the failure [on] the other side of the election, if we have MPs letting down not just the Labour Party but letting down the country.”