Press play to listen to this article
A Conservative MP convicted of sexual assault this week had a history of “bullying behavior” toward staff and “should never have been selected to stand for parliament,” according to multiple former members of staff and party colleagues who claim to have had long-standing concerns about Imran Ahmad Khan’s behavior.
The case puts further pressure on the Conservative Party over its vetting process for MPs and how it handles complaints by staff, following recent reports about another Tory MP in the Sunday Times.
On Monday, Khan was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old in 2008, a verdict he has said he will appeal. He initially vowed to remain an MP while he fights the conviction, but resigned Thursday after being contacted regarding bullying allegations.
Two former staff members said that Khan would frequently scream and shout at his employees, leaving them distressed. A recording of one rant in which he berated his team for almost two hours was shared with POLITICO.
One assistant was signed off sick after bullying, according to colleagues, and left politics as a result. Another member of staff said their treatment resulted in panic attacks and the use of anti-anxiety medication.
Khan employed several young men who had recently graduated and whom he could “intimidate,” two ex-staffers and a party official said, while he was “misogynistic” in his behavior towards women. Parliamentary records show he had a high turnover of staff, with workers rarely lasting more than a few months.
After Khan was charged with sexual assault, he discussed details of the case with his office. A recording of that conversation was shared with POLITICO. Khan dismissed the victim as politically motivated and members of the justice system as “biased.” He suggested inviting a documentary crew to follow him round in order to release a film when he had cleared his name.
Ex-colleagues also spoke of inappropriate office management. Khan rented a large three-bedroom house in Wakefield as his constituency office, paying extra on top of the taxpayer-funded allowance, and used it to store personal belongings including beds and other furniture while aides were “crammed” together in one room unable to socially distance. He attempted to rent out rooms in the Wakefield property, offering them to his staff.
The local party was aware of his behavior but was itself paralyzed by infighting, members said. Khan was selected to fight the seat of Wakefield in Yorkshire at the last minute after the previous candidate was deselected because of offensive social media posts. He was elected to parliament in 2019.
A party member who worked with Khan raised concerns about his conduct to her employer after he repeatedly shouted at her, and the employer complained to the Conservative Party headquarters in March 2021, according to two people familiar with the case. The complainant said they received assurances the matter had been dealt with internally.
A party official said they had no record of the complaint, and stressed that vetting processes had been reviewed since 2019.
Staff who say they were bullied by Khan called for an inquiry into how he was selected in the first place and his behavior not picked up, as well as safeguards to prevent anything similar happening again. Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters declined to comment.
“It’s hard not to conclude there’s something seriously wrong with the vetting process,” said one former staffer. “He should never have been selected.”
Khan had the Conservative whip withdrawn after he was charged, meaning he was kicked out of the party in Westminster and could only stay in the House of Commons as an independent MP, and was fully expelled from the party after being found guilty. He declined to comment on any of the allegations his former colleagues raised with POLITICO.