Labour’s Angela Rayner says lots of voters have homophobic and misogynistic views
Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has defended a colleague with a homophobic past, saying that she has met “many” people with similar homophobic views.
Jared O’Mara, the Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, was forced to resign from the Women and Equalities Committee this week after revelations about over online posts made under his name.
The comments dated from 2002 to 2004, when O’Mara was a local Labour candidate and in his early 20s.
In posts on music forums a user known as ‘gingerjared’ referred to gay people as “fudge packers” and “poofters”, also alluding to anal sex as “driving up the Marmite motorway”.
The Labour Party is not expected to take any action against O’Mara after he made a behind-closed-doors apology to MPs, which is yet to be repeated in public.
But Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, who was previously Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said today that she would be “happy” to sit alongside the MP.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, she claimed that there are “many” people and voters with similar views.
She said: “Yes, I am happy to sit alongside him, because those comments he made 15 years ago.
“I’ve met many people in my life that had had homophobic, misogynistic and even racist views, quite frankly, I’ve knocked on doors where that’s been the case.
“Jared has said he held those views 15 years ago, but he changed his views because he recognised those views were absolutely abohorrent and wrong. He changed those views, and he is not the Jared who made those comments 15 years ago.
“I think it’s important for listeners as well, because people do change those views at times.
“It’s important that they recognise that, they apologise, and they correct that behaviour.”
Mr O’Mara is understood to have made a ‘full and frank’ apology behind closed doors to the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting last night – though the same apology has not yet been made to the public.
Sources close to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it is likely no action would be taken against Mr O’Mara over his comments.
A source close to Mr Corbyn told The Times: “Jared apologised to the parliamentary Labour Party this evening and owned up to having previously been sexist and homophobic.
“His honesty, openness and commitment to tackling these issues was well received by colleagues.”
His apology speech to the PLP has not been made public.
The most recent public statement from Mr O’Mara was released before the homophobic comments broke, but after right-wing website Guido Fawkes published evidence of misogynistic and sexist remarks.
In that statement, O’Mara said: “I am deeply ashamed of the comments I made online, which have emerged today.
“I was wrong to make them; I understand why they are offensive and sincerely 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.
“Misogyny is a deep problem in our society. Since making those comments 15 years ago, I have learned about inequalities of power and how violent language perpetuates them.
“I continue to strive to be a better man and work where I can to confront misogyny, which is why I’m so proud to sit on the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
“I will continue to engage with, and crucially learn from, feminist and other equalities groups so as an MP I can do whatever I can to tackle misogyny.”
But the politician is still yet to issue a public statement apologising for the homophobic comments.
Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is also yet to make any public statement about the row.
The silence and lack of action from Mr Corbyn has angered opponents who have called for him to speak out on the issue.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven had called on Mr Corbyn to suspend Mr O’Mara immediately.
He told PinkNews: “It is becoming clear now that the Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam has very deeply held sexist and homophobic views that have no place in modern progressive politics.
“He should have the Labour whip withdrawn by Jeremy Corbyn pending an investigation.
“I know people in Sheffield Hallam will be mortified that they are represented by such a misogynist and homophobic dinosaur.”
Speaking to Huck Magazine, O’Mara said he did not plan to resign.
He said: “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.
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“I’ve gone on that journey and feel I can help. If a Conservative MP had made similar comments I’d say it depends on what journey they had been on since.
“If they’d honestly changed and believes in equality and egalitarianism then absolutely [they have a place in Parliament], but the very culture of Conservatism doesn’t foster that equality.”
He added: “It’s important to take ownership of the things you’ve done wrong.
“That’s why I’m not hiding, I’m not going back to my hotel and switching my phone off. I’m dealing with this head on.
“There’s no room for the views I had as a young man in 2017 society, there was not room for those views back then either.”