Women MPs hailed Bristol MP Kerry McCarthy for her “bravery” after she told of her upset at suffering what she described as unwanted attention from MP Kelvin Hopkins spanning 20 years.
The Labour former front bencher and Bristol East MP said Mr Hopkins sent her a series of letters and cards making comments about her appearance, including one in which he described having a dream about her.
Ms McCarthy said she believed Mr Hopkins, who urged her in two of the notes to “dispose” of them, knew his actions were wrong.
But in a statement, Mr Hopkins said the complaint from someone he counted a friend had caused him “immense personal hurt and utter dismay”.
He added: “I cannot understand why a Parliamentarian of such experience and stand- ing, who is also such a long term friend, would not have told me that she was unhappy with any aspect of our friend- ship rather than going straight to the national press.”
Ms McCarthy said she was upset by the unwanted attention and it had made her feel uncomfortable.
“I never responded in any way, I never gave him any encouragement in any way, I tried to keep my distance as much as possible,” she said.
Labour women MPs supported her. Jess Phillips said: “Just finished final meeting of the day and want to say how brave I think KerryMP is.”
Labour whip Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, said it was “not easy taking the decision to go public” and said she was “proud of her bravery and proud to be her friend”.
Ms McCarthy said she decided to speak out after young activist Ava Etemadzadeh complained last week about the behaviour of Mr Hopkins.
Ms McCarthy, 52, first met Mr Hopkins, 76, when she was in her late 20s and they were both involved in Labour politics in her home town of Luton.
In the years that followed he sent several notes, which included references to her “pretty, petite” appearance.
Mr Hopkins said he would “fully cooperate with any investigation” but called for the matter to be “dealt with by proper due process and not by unfair, humiliating one-sided trial by media”.
“I am a 76-year old man and the stress this has caused me and my family is unbearable,” his statement said.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “The Labour Party takes all allegations of sexual harassment extremely seriously. Kelvin Hopkins is currently suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation.”