Carolyn Harris
Harris in 2020
Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour
Assumed office
21 April 2018
LeaderCarwyn Jones
Mark Drakeford
Preceded byOffice established
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition
In office
6 April 2020 – 11 May 2021
LeaderKeir Starmer
Preceded byTanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
Succeeded bySharon Hodgson
Shadow Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability
In office
24 September 2016 – 9 April 2020
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byJess Philips (Domestic Violence and Safeguarding)
Member of Parliament
for Swansea East
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded bySiân James
Majority7,970 (23.7%)
Personal details
Born (1960-09-18) 18 September 1960 (age 61)
Swansea, Wales
Political partyLabour
Alma materSwansea University
WebsiteOfficial website

Carolyn Harris (born 18 September 1960)[1] is a Welsh Labour Party politician serving as the Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour since 2018,[2] and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Swansea East since 2015.[3] Harris was the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Labour leader Keir Starmer from 2020 until her resignation in 2021,[4][5] and sat on the Official Opposition frontbench under Jeremy Corbyn as a shadow Home Office minister from 2016 to 2020.

Early life

Harris was born in the constituency of Swansea East which she now represents in Parliament. She attended Swansea University from 1994 to 1998 and studied a joint degree in Social History and Social Policy.

Following university, Harris worked for Swansea-based community projects such as the Guiding Hand Association and then the Joshua Foundation. Before her political career, she worked as the Parliamentary assistant of her predecessor Siân James, who announced her intention to step down in March 2015.[6]

Parliamentary career

Harris was elected to Parliament in 2015. She gave her maiden speech on 8 June 2015, in which she stated that Dylan Thomas was wrong about "this ugly, lovely town."[7]

During her first year in Parliament, she raised issues such as the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, electrification of the South Wales mainline to Swansea, and various consumer issues such as fixed odds betting terminals and faulty electrical goods. She previously worked as a barmaid and a dinner lady which was mentioned as part of her earlier life experience of losing her son.[8]

In September 2016, Harris was appointed by recently re-elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to the role of Shadow Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability.[9] She held the shadow Home Office position until her appointment as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Labour leader Keir Starmer following his election in April 2020.

Deputy leadership of Welsh Labour

Harris was elected the first ever Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour on 21 April 2018.[10] Her key pledges for election included:

  1. Increase party membership across Wales, so everyone can play their part in campaigning.
  2. Reach out to all our communities, by working with our trade unions, affiliates and supporters.
  3. Nurture new talent across our party, by encouraging underrepresented groups to get involved in our movement.
  4. Campaign against Tory austerity, demonstrating the difference Labour values and socialist policies can make to our communities.
  5. Rejuvenate our CLPs, making them the beating heart of our movement and communities.

Harris secured 51.5% of the electoral college vote, which was announced at Welsh Labour conference in Venue Cymru, Llandudno.[11] Her election was controversial as she lost in the members section by a margin of 2 to 1 and she lost overall in the aggregated total of votes by 1,401. In September 2018 Welsh Labour replaced the electoral college system for electing its Leader and Deputy Leader with the one member one vote system.

Campaigns

Harris has led many successful campaigns during her time in Parliament. These have included campaigns on children's funerals, fixed-odds-betting terminals and fires in people's homes caused by electricity.

After losing her son Martin in 1989, Harris was forced to take out a loan and rely on donations from the community to cover the funeral costs. Not wanting other parents to suffer the same hardship, Harris spoke about her grief in an adjournment debate on 28 November 2016 and went on to work with the Fair Funerals Campaign[12] to press the Government to create a Children's Funeral Fund. The fund was announced in Wales at Welsh Labour conference on 25 March 2017,[13] by Theresa May for England on 31 March 2018[14] and Scotland most recently on 30 May 2018.[15]

Following a two-year campaign to reduce the maximum stake on fixed-odds-betting terminals from £100 per spin to £2, on 17 May 2018 the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport announced that they would be reducing the stake in line with Harris's suggestion of £2 a spin.[16]

Harris started a campaign on fires caused by electrical products in people's homes as a result of a death of a constituent, Linda Merron in Penlan, Swansea.[17] Her campaign is to raise awareness of cheap electrical goods being sold online and the potential impact of unsafe goods and she has had several debates in the House of Commons on the issue.[18]

Controversies

In July 2018, Harris came under political pressure after allegations of homophobia were made against her during a trial in Cardiff involving a former colleague, who subsequently became an employee in her office after Harris was elected. The allegations, which dated from before Harris had become an MP alleged that Harris had made homophobic remarks and an alleged assault. Harris stated that she did not remember the incidents but stated if they had occurred they would have been "office banter".[19] Her response caused controversy among LGBT groups and Labour Party colleagues;[20] however, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and LGBT political colleagues supported her.[21]

On 13 February 2021, The Times reported that Harris had invited Nicole Elkabbas to speak at a parliamentary event on anti-gambling. This event took place two months after Elkabbas was found guilty of eliciting over £45,000 in donations by pretending to have ovarian cancer.[22][23] Harris gave Elkabbas a character reference at her sentencing, on which the judge commented "I am astonished to read from Mrs Carolyn Harris MP that she considers you were ‘honest about the crimes you had committed’."[22][24]

On 11 May 2021, The Times reported that Harris had resigned as PPS to Starmer after allegedly spreading false rumours about the private life of Angela Rayner. The Times reported a shadow cabinet minister said Harris had been "a total wrecking ball". Harris blocked the Times reporter on WhatsApp when he asked if the allegations were true.[4][25] The Guardian reported that a formal complaint had been made the previous week by a Labour MP about Harris's conduct and comments about the private lives of shadow cabinet ministers.[26] Harris issued a statement, giving the reasons for her resignation as:

Stepping back from this role is the right thing at this moment, coming as it does after some trying personal times and an ever-increasing workload as the deputy leader of Welsh Labour. I have enjoyed every minute, and look forward to supporting Keir the best way I can in the months ahead.[27]

References

  1. ^ "Carolyn Harris MP". myparliament.info. MyParliament. Archived from the original on 11 August 2017. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Harris elected Welsh Labour deputy leader". BBC News. BBC. 21 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Election 2015: Swansea East parliamentary constituency". BBC News. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b Zeffman, Henry; Maguire, Patrick; Courea, Eleni; Wright, Oliver (11 May 2021). "Keir Starmer's aide Carolyn Harris resigns amid accusations of spreading rumours about Angela Rayner". The Times. London. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  5. ^ Harris MP, Carolyn (6 April 2020). "Over the moon to be appointed as @Keir_Starmer's Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) at such a crucial time for our country. Looking forward to working with him and his fantastic new Shadow Cabinet as we address the pressing challenges ahead". @carolynharris24. Retrieved 6 April 2020.[non-primary source needed]
  6. ^ "Swansea East MP Sian James to stand down at next election". BBC News. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  7. ^ Cornock, David (9 June 2015). "MP: Dylan Thomas wrong about his 'ugly, lovely town'". BBC News. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  8. ^ Nelson, Nigel (29 October 2016). "MP was forced to borrow money and take out loan just so she could afford to bury tragic son". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Jeremy Corbyn welcomes 10 returning MPs to shadow team". ITV News. 9 October 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Carolyn4Deputy". Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Carolyn Harris elected Welsh Labour deputy leader". LabourList. 2 April 2018. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Fair Funerals". fairfuneralscampaign.org.uk. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Welsh Government | Child burial fees will no longer apply in Wales". gov.wales. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Children's Funeral Fund for England". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Child burial and cremation fees to end". Scottish Government News. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Government to cut Fixed Odds Betting Terminals maximum stake from £100 to £2". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Air purifier caused fatal fire, MP warns". BBC News. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Faulty Electrical Imports". theyworkforyou.com. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  19. ^ Williamson, David (3 August 2018). "Carolyn Harris under pressure to quit over homophobic allegation". Wales Online.
  20. ^ "Labour MP facing calls to stand down over her handling of alleged homophobic comments". ITV News. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  21. ^ "Carolyn Harris: Corbyn backs under fire MP in gay slur row". BBC News. 3 August 2018. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  22. ^ a b Dathan, Matt (13 February 2021). "Starmer aide invited swindler to address MPs". The Times. London. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  23. ^ "Woman guilty of fake cancer GoFundMe fundraising fraud". BBC News. 20 November 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  24. ^ Sharp, Jess (10 February 2021). "Judge criticises MP's remarks about woman jailed after £45,000 scam and faking cancer". Sky News. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  25. ^ Mosalski, Ruth (11 May 2021). "Carolyn Harris resigns as aide for Labour leader Keir Starmer amid allegations of spreading rumours". Wales Online. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  26. ^ Elgot, Jessica (11 May 2021). "Keir Starmer aide Carolyn Harris resigns". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  27. ^ Yorke, Harry (11 May 2021). "Sir Keir Starmer's closest parliamentary aide quits after claims she spread rumours about Angela Rayner". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded bySiân James Member of Parliamentfor Swansea East 2015–present Incumbent Preceded byTanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition 2020 Incumbent