Daily Mail Newspaper - January 2014
A whistleblower contacted us regarding the problem of sexual harassment in the Lib Dem party and how they believed the party was taken taking the allegations seriously.
The whistleblower sent us a raft of information and we advised them what could and couldn't be used to help protect their identity.
We then put our source in contact with the Daily Mail newspaper who ran a story about a fresh allegation of sexual harassment after being given a steer by the whistleblower.
**The whistleblower asked not to be paid for the story.
Lembit Opik 'called me Cinderella... then he tried to kiss me': Schoolgirl activist's claims heap more embarrassment on Lib Dems
Leading Lib Dem activist Hannah Thompson claims she was just 17 when the former MP tried to kiss her at a party meeting
Mr Opik, 48, is said to have run off with her shoe then called her Cinderella
The Liberal Democrats were facing fresh embarrassment last night as Lembit Opik was accused of inappropriate behaviour towards a schoolgirl volunteer.
Leading Lib Dem activist Hannah Thompson claims she was just 17 when the former MP tried to kiss her at a party meeting.
Mr Opik – who is famous for his doomed romances with weather girl Sian Lloyd and one half of pop duo the Cheeky Girls – is said to have run off with her shoe, then called her Cinderella and asked for a kiss before returning it.
Miss Thompson, now 21, also claims he urged her to join him in his bedroom – and on another occasion invited her to share a mud bath with him.
Mr Opik, 48, last night denied the claims, saying: ‘I have no idea why she would say these things’. There is no suggestion of any criminal behaviour on his part.
Miss Thompson, who has been pictured with leader Nick Clegg and his former deputy Vince Cable, works for the party in a £20,000-a-year campaigning job and was last year elected vice chairman of Liberal Youth. Despite her dedication to the cause she has joined fellow activists in launching a campaign against a culture of sexism in the party. She even urges other unhappy women to leave. And she has claimed that as well as being ‘harassed’ by Mr Opik she received unwelcome attention from a Welsh Assembly member, about which she says nothing was done.
She also says she resigned her post in the party’s youth wing after being described as ‘eye candy’ and discovering her male colleagues were betting on who would sleep with her.
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The fresh claims heap more embarrassment on the party following two recent scandals. Lord Rennard has been suspended from the party after well-documented claims he pestered young female members and MP Mike Hancock has been accused of badgering a constituent for sex. Both men deny the claims.
The complaints of Miss Thompson, the organiser for the Guildford and Woking Liberal Democrats in Surrey, emerged on a Facebook group entitled Rock the Boat – Lib Dems against sexual harassment, which has some 500 members.
Last week Miss Thompson wrote on the website about the ‘Cinderella’ incident with ‘a Lib Dem MP’, complaining: ‘I was 17 and my local party treated it like a joke.
She went on: ‘I resigned as vice-chair of Liberal Youth because some of the male members were making bets about sleeping with me.’ Miss Thompson expanded on her claims later, telling the Daily Mail that Mr Opik was the MP who demanded a kiss from her.
She said it happened when she was a schoolgirl activist in her then hometown in Wales, and geeky but high-profile Mr Opik – who campaigned against asteroids in Parliament and recently sought to be the party’s London mayoral candidate – came to Aberystwyth in 2010 for the General Election campaign.
Even before he arrived, she said, local activists agreed that if he had to be put up in a member’s home it could not be a woman’s, because of his reputation.
Miss Thompson said that after a day’s campaigning they adjourned to a student bar, continuing: ‘My shoe fell off and Lembit grabbed it and ran off with it round the corner. When I got to him he called me “Cinderella” and said I could not have my shoe back until I kissed him. In the end he didn’t actually kiss me – but he definitely tried.’
She said that others in the local party had dismissed Mr Opik’s behaviour as trivial, saying: ‘People just labelled it banter.’ Miss Thompson claims that at one point one of them even said to him: ‘Lembit – what have we told you? You mustn’t sleep with anyone.
She said she bumped into Mr Opik on several other occasions, with the pair being pictured together in March 2010.
One time, she said, he urged her to join him in his bedroom, and made lewd suggestions. Miss Thompson added: ‘Lembit said; “Do you want to come up to see my stuffed animal of mythic proportions?”’ Another time, she claimed, he invited her and another schoolgirl to his room, saying ‘I want you to come and have a mudbath’. Mr Opik denied all the allegations.
Miss Thompson complained last year that Welsh Assembly member William Powell, 50, plied her and two other young girls with absinthe in 2011, touched her leg and put his hands around their waists.
But she said that despite belatedly complaining through an MP’s assistant she never received a response.