|Birth||15 August 1968, London Borough of Haringey, Greater London, London, United Kingdom|
|Politics||Labour Co-operative, Labour Party|
Ofunne Kate Osamor (/oʊˈsæmɔːr/; born 15 August 1968) is a British Labour Co-operative politician who has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Edmonton since 2015.
She is the daughter of Labour Peer Baroness Osamor. In June 2016, she was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for International Development by Jeremy Corbyn. In December 2018, Osamor resigned from the Shadow Cabinet following events surrounding her son's drugs conviction.
Early life and career
Osamor was born to Nigerian parents in 1968 and grew up in Haringey, north London. One of four children, and whose father died when she was a child, she recalls her mother Martha Osamor, Baroness Osamor (née Oburotha), working "three, sometimes four jobs" to make ends meet. Martha Osamor was a political activist and a member of the Labour Party Black Sections in the 1980s. She became a councillor and deputy Leader of Haringey Council; in 1989 she was nominated by some branches within the Vauxhall Constituency Labour Party in the selection for a candidate at the by-election, but was not shortlisted by the Labour Party National Executive Committee. She was appointed to the House of Lords on the recommendation of Jeremy Corbyn in 2018.
Kate Osamor was educated at Fortismere School in Muswell Hill, Haringey, between 1979 and 1983. In 1989, she had a son, Ishmael Osamor, born Ishmael Ngozi Udi, with Kim Udi, a painter and decorator from New Cross. Between 2003 and 2006, after completing an access course at Hackney College, she read Third World Studies at the University of East London where she was diagnosed with dyslexia, to which she attributed her having struggled at school. After graduating, she worked for The Big Issue, a magazine sold by homeless people but has worked principally in the NHS, as an executive assistant for nine years in a GP out of hours service and then for two years as a GP practice manager. She was also active in the Unite trade union.
In 2014, Osamor was elected a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.
In the 2015 General Election, Osamor stood as the Labour Party candidate for Edmonton on the retirement of its former Member of Parliament (MP) Andy Love. Osamor obtained 25,388 votes, increasing Labour's majority from 9,613 to 15,419. Osamor was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the Labour leadership election of 2015. She was appointed as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Corbyn in September 2015.
On 14 January 2016, Osamor was appointed by Corbyn to the Opposition frontbench as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities. On 27 June 2016, after the resignations of numerous members of Labour's ministerial team due to disquiet over Corbyn's leadership, Osamor was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for International Development. Osamor advocated an increase in aid funding for women's groups, and argued that international aid should be targeted towards schemes which aimed to reduce inequality as well schemes aimed at poverty reduction.
Osamor has served as the chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Nigeria since 2015. On 29 August 2019, she advocated the abolition of the monarchy when Queen Elizabeth II approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to suspend Parliament.
Unpaid internship advert
In January 2016 Osamor was accused of hypocrisy for advertising an unpaid internship which paid expenses only. The job listing to assist Osamor in her constituency required degree-level qualifications and "commitment to the full duration of the role", though was also described as voluntary. Tanya de Grunwald, a campaigner for fair internships, criticised the MP, stating: "You can't claim to care about social mobility and diversity and still rely on unpaid interns, it's as simple as that". Due to an negative reaction to the story, Osamor withdrew the advert, claiming it had been a "misunderstanding".
Osamor was re-elected as MP for Edmonton in the 2017 General Election. She was subsequently accused of plagiarising large sections of her victory address from Barack Obama's 2008 victory address in his home town of Chicago. According to Osamor's explanation she "deliberately invoked a victory speech so famous that she thought it needed no introduction".
Employment of convicted son
In October 2018, it emerged that Osamor continued to employ her son, Ishmael Osamor, as a senior communications officer in her Parliamentary office despite his convictions for three counts of possession of class A controlled drugs with intent to supply and one of possession. He had been arrested for this offence over a year previously after being caught with £2,500 worth of the illegal drugs (cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine and cannabis), at the Bestival music festival in August 2017. After disclosure of his conviction, he resigned his cabinet seat and, after pressure from the opposition, his seat as a councillor for Haringey Council. On 1 November 2018, Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan referred Osamor to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards stating her "failure to uphold" the MPs code of conduct, with regards to her son's continued employment. Osamor denied any wrongdoing and called the referral "politically motivated".
The Labour Party claimed that Osamor, who lives and works with her son, knew nothing about his case until his sentencing on 26 October, but it later emerged that she had known about it earlier and had written to the trial judge asking for leniency before his sentencing on 19 October. In response, Conservative MP Priti Patel stated: "Serious questions must be asked about whether she has misled the public in her account so far of what she knew and when she knew it." Patel also called for an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, both regarding allegedly misleading the public and the continued employment of Osamor's son.
Upon being questioned on her doorstep by The Times reporter Will Humphries about whether she had misled the public over the extent of her knowledge of her son's court case, Osamor threw a bucket of water at Humphries and shouted "Fuck off!" and "I should have come down here with a bat and smashed your face in." She then called the police emergency service to report him for stalking her, calling the police emergency service again the following night in relation to the presence of another reporter. Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said: "Journalists, like any other workers, need to be able to go about their work without fear of threats or assault. It’s completely unacceptable to respond to legitimate press queries, however unwelcome they may be, with physical or verbal abuse."
On 1 December 2018, Osamor resigned from the Shadow Cabinet, stating she needed "to concentrate on supporting my family through the difficult time we have been experiencing". Ten days later, she tweeted that she was "deeply sorry for (her) emotional outbursts and ... working to better manage (her) feelings". In January 2019, she faced further criticism when it was revealed that she used official parliamentary stationery and referenced her shadow cabinet position in writing to the judge to appeal for clemency in the sentencing of her son.
On 19 March 2020, an inquiry into the matter by the House of Commons' commissioner for standards found Osamor guilty of two breaches of Parliamentary rules in relation to the matters. The first breach was Osamor's use of official House of Commons paper for the reference she wrote for her son, the second breach concerned her abuse and assault of the Times journalist at her home. In her defence, the MP claimed that she felt "the target of a witch-hunt, and that race and class were factors". She was ordered to write a written apology for her actions.
In October 2019, it was announced that Osamor was to face re-selection as the Labour Party candidate at the next General Election. Some local Labour party members are said to have been dissatisfied with her selection as candidate in 2015. This, along with other reselection processes, was cancelled after Labour decided to support a general election.
In March 2020, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards published a report on their investigation into Osamor, focusing on her misuse of House of Commons stationery to provide a character reference for her son Ishmael Osamor, during his trial for a criminal matter. Subsequently, the commissioner has also investigated a separate incident surrounding her use of threatening language to a journalist.
In a letter dated 8 October 2018, Osamor wrote to the Courts of Justice, Bournemouth, to provide a character reference for her son. The letter was hand-delivered at the court and was written on House of Commons stationery bearing the crowned portcullis, the royal badge used as an emblem by the House of Commons. In the letter Osamor referred to herself as the "Member of Parliament for Edmonton and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development".
The Commissioner noted that “the use of House of Commons paper wrongly suggested that her plea carried the authority of the House”. She comments that the tone of any character reference for a constituent would be different from that which Ms Osamor used to plead her son's cause. The Commissioner concludes that “writing, in the terms that she did, on stationery bearing the royal badge was, in my view, highly inappropriate”. She therefore finds that in writing to the judge on House-provided stationery, Ms Osamor broke the rules on the use of such stationery, in breach of paragraph 16 of the Code of Conduct. Osamor has accepted that she broke the rules on the use of House-provided stationery, and has apologised to the Commissioner.
On the second matter: on 30 November 2018, police officers had attended Osamor's home after a call from Osamor stating "a man claiming to be a journalist was banging on the door intimidating her and her family". Osamor conceded to the Commissioner she had been at home alone at the time.
Based on body worn video evidence provided by the police, the Commissioner established that Osamor had said “Don’t knock my fucking door. I should have come down here with a fucking bat and smashed your face open” to the journalist in the presence of the attending police officers. The Commissioner concluded that such behaviour was unacceptable.
The Commissioner's overall finding was that Osamor's actions in writing to the court using House-provided stationery, in speaking as she did to the journalist, and in failing to respond to correspondence from the Commissioner, taken separately and together, were found to be a breach of paragraph 17 of the Code of Conduct.