Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell Says Labour MP on Trial for Fraud Was a 'Very Good Person'
Apsana Begum was one of 26 new Labour MPs elected at the December 2019 general election. She won her seat in east London, which has a large Bengali community, with a majority of 28,904.
The former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, has given Labour MP Apsana Begum a glowing character reference during her trial for housing fraud.
Mr McDonnell, who was Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand man during his leadership of the opposition Labour Party, said Ms Begum was “a very good person” and “hard-working.”
McDonnell, who stepped down after Labour's heavy election defeat in December 2019, said if he had still been Shadow Chancellor he would have made Ms Begum his parliamentary private secretary.
Last week a jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court heard she was given a studio flat by her local council in under four months, when the waiting time was usually three years.
Ms Begum, 31, denies three counts of fraud.
The MP for Poplar and Limehouse in east London is accused of costing the London Borough of Tower Hamlets £64,000 in benefits.
Last week the court heard she had failed to notify his department of several changes of circumstances.
Her original application, made in 2011, was based on the fact she was living in “overcrowded conditions” in the family home and was sharing a bedroom with her sister.
But prosecutor James Marsland said Ms Begum moved out of the property in Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, when she went to live with her new husband, Ehtashamul Haque, in 2013.
On Monday, 26 July, Ms Begum wept as she gave evidence about why she had fled her family home and claimed she was in fear of her brother.
She said: "He told me he wanted me to see an imam because I wasn't registering their concern about Ehtashamul. He thought I was possessed and said he wanted me to get checked."
“I refused and said I’m not under a spell, this is my choice and I just wanted them to support me. But he started reciting the Koran. He had his hand over my head. I started shouting for my mum but she wasn’t responding. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I thought he might beat me up,” Ms Begum added.
The trial is expected to end later this week.
If convicted Ms Begum would almost certainly be forced to stand down as an MP.