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Tory MP apologises in Commons for ‘intimidatory’ behaviour

·3-min read

A Conservative MP has been forced to apologise for “grossly unprofessional” behaviour after he intimidated staff having drunk a “significant” amount of alcohol.

Daniel Kawczynski was found to have ranted at one senior Commons official, called another a “snowflake” and “useless”, and denigrated a third staff member by making untruthful comments about him in a WhatsApp group.

In his statement to the Commons, Kawczynski said: “I did not swear nor raise my voice but my behaviour led to two complaints. I have reflected on my behaviour, I accept it constituted bullying and as such was highly inexcusable. The circumstances were stressful for the staff who were assisting the committee and for me.

“I’ve apologised to them before and I apologise to them again and to the house unreservedly. I will never repeat such behaviour.”

The revelations followed a year-long series of investigations. Kathryn Stone, parliament’s commissioner for standards, launched the initial inquiry when Kawczynski had trouble joining a virtual committee session on 27 April 2020 owing to “technical difficulties”.

A committee staff member started receiving calls from him early in the morning that continued throughout the day, with Kawczynski describing the situation as a farce, a scandal and an outrage, and calling the individual a member of “the snowflake generation”.

Kawczynski also “ranted” to a senior manager in the parliament digital service because he could not get his computer to work, and told him: “When this thing is over, I am going to get you to come to my office because this is just not right.”

He asked the official: “How do you get away with it?” and said if he treated his constituents the same way he was being treated, he “would have been out of a job within a month”.

Kawczynski “consumed a significant amount of alcohol” throughout the day, according to the report released on Monday.

It said he was “rude, aggressive and impatient” with the two people who complained about him and multiple other staff members before, during and after the committee meeting, and that he made “critical and untruthful comments” on a WhatsApp group shared with other committee members.

Stone said Kawczynski showed “a worrying lack of insight and contrition” during two oral interviews, despite having left at least one of the complainants feeling “anxious, upset, harassed and intimidated”.

Kawczynski did send a letter apologising for “any behaviour lacking in traditional patience and good manners towards your teams” the following month, and attended “valuing everyone” training in parliament.

An independent expert panel was set up to judge what punishment Kawczynski should face, and said that because “some concerns remain as to the sincerity of the apologies given to date”, he should make a public apology in the Commons chamber.

Kawczynski tried to appeal against the sanction, but a second panel upheld the recommendation and said he had committed a “serious breach” of parliament’s bullying and harassment policy.

In mitigating evidence submitted to the panel, Kawczynski claimed Brexit and flooding in his Shrewsbury and Atcham constituency had created “serious difficulties” for him – and said that because of his 6ft 9in height he was conspicuous in the street and therefore faced attacks from members of the public.

Sir Stephen Irwin, the chair of the second panel, said while the circumstances of what had happened on 27 April 2020 were difficult, they were “difficult for everyone” given that parliament was grappling with virtual proceedings during the first coronavirus lockdown.

He added: “While we fully grasp that the life of an MP can be highly pressurised, these responsibilities and stresses do not justify a loss of courtesy, an exaggerated sense of importance or entitlement, or bullying.”

Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said it was “entirely right” that Kawczynski be forced to apologise, and added: “There can be no place for bullying or abuse in Westminster.”

A Conservative party spokesperson said the party did not tolerate bullying and Kawczynski had been spoken to by the chief whip before his public apology in the Commons.