Tax­payer cash used in MP’s set­tle­ment with ex-girl­friend

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Jonathan Walker Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

BIRM­ING­HAM MP Khalid Mah­mood used pub­lic money to set­tle a le­gal dis­pute with his Par­lia­men­tary as­sis- tant.

The MP for Perry Barr was taken to court by Elaina Co­hen, his former girl­friend, who had ac­cused him of re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion.

But on the day that an em­ploy­ment tri­bunal was due to hear her com­plaint, the case was set­tled.

Ms Co­hen signed a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment as a con­di­tion of an out-of­court set­tle­ment, which pre­vents her from dis­cussing the case pub­licly.

Such agree­ments are com­mon when an em­ploy­ment case is set­tled out of court.

It has emerged that Mr Mah­mood’s costs were cov­ered by in­surance which is made avail­able to all MPs and funded by the Par­lia­men­tary ex­penses sys­tem – in other words, by tax­pay­ers.

The Birm­ing­ham Post re­ported last year that Mr Mah­mood, Labour’s Shadow Min­is­ter for Europe, was be­ing taken to court by Ms Co­hen.

Ms Co­hen was due to set out her griev­ances against the MP at an em­ploy­ment tri­bunal hear­ing, in Lon­don.

How­ever, the hear­ing was can­celled on the morn­ing it was due to take place, when the pair reached an agree­ment.

Ms Co­hen is Mr Mah­mood’s former girl­friend. The MP was crit­i­cised af­ter it was re­vealed the pair spent nine nights at The Bent­ley ho­tel in Kens­ing­ton, Lon­don, at tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense in 2004.

The bills were ap­proved by the Com­mons au­thor­i­ties – on the grounds that it would have cost the same whether she was there or not – but Mr Mah­mood re­paid the £175-a-night cost, say­ing he un­der­stood why some con­stituents were un­happy.

They are no longer a cou­ple but con­tinue to work to­gether. To col­leagues who know them, it is no se­cret that they have a dys­func­tional re­la­tion­ship and fre­quently ar­gue.

Ms Co­hen is said to have ac­cused Mr Mah­mood of at­tempt­ing to freeze her out, and of em­ploy­ing other staff to do her job.

Some news­pa­per re­ports have high­lighted the fact that Ms Co­hen is Jewish, and linked the sit­u­a­tion to Labour’s on­go­ing prob­lems with an­tisemitism.

Ms Co­hen was warn­ing pri­vately that Labour has a prob­lem with anti-Semitism long be­fore re­cent me­dia cov­er­age high­lighted the is­sue.

Dis­agree­ments be­tween her and Mr Mah­mood came to a head af­ter Ms Co­hen ac­cused Labour MP Naz Shah of be­ing “anti-Zion­ist”. Ms Shah later ad­mit­ted she had made an­tisemitic state­ments and apol­o­gised.

How­ever, nei­ther Ms Co­hen nor anyone else has sug­gested that her dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with Mr Mah­mood has any­thing to do with an­tisemitism. Nei­ther Mr Mah­mood nor Ms Co­hen were avail­able for com­ment.

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