Former Labour frontbencher Chris Matheson has resigned as the MP for Chester. Matheson was initially suspended from the Commons for four weeks after a parliamentary watchdog upheld two claims of 'serious sexual misconduct'. He would have faced a recall petition and potentially lose his seat, but he chose to resign after the decision became public.
The allegations revolved around a young female member of staff. At a work event Matheson was alleged to have linked arms with her and made personal comments about her appearance, while 'looking at her suggestively'. He left the event with the claimant, making her hold his hand and accompanying her to a bus stop. He then kissed her on the forehead, attempted to kiss her on the mouth and invited her back to his flat. On another occasion he invited the claimant on a private trip abroad, which was found to be 'sexually motivated, unwanted, placed her under pressure and intimidated her'.
Matheson, who is understood to be married, released the following statement:
"From the start I accepted I had committed a minor breach of the code and had hoped that an honest and open approach would stand me in a fair light. This has proven not to be the case and I am dismayed that I have been found guilty of several allegations that I know to be untrue.Indeed my insistence on what I know to be true - that I had no sexual motivation in this matter - was held against me as a refusal to accept my guilt, and caused an increased sanction which I felt was disproportionate.Despite provable factual inaccuracies in the sanctions report, my appeal against sanction was not even considered, for the same reason. Therefore, I faced a suspension from the House of four weeks.Whilst I believe that this is an excessive and unfair penalty, I cannot challenge the process further. I believe that the honourable and right thing to do now is to resign my seat and seek to rebuild my life elsewhere.I would ask for privacy for my family. This matter has also caused a great toll on my health, requiring my hospitalisation, and I ask that my privacy is respected while I recover.I will forever be grateful to my constituency, and my party, for giving me the honour to serve, and I apologise to the people of Chester, and to the House of Commons, for the disrepute I have brought.
I once again apologise to the complainant in my case, for the hurt I have caused."
Matheson has held the City of Chester for Labour since 2015, when he took the seat from the Conservatives with a wafer thin 93 vote majority. He increased that majority in 2017 to 9,176 and his majority currently stands at 6,164. He held front bench positions under both Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer, most recently in December 2021.
A by-election will now be held to replace the disgraced MP.
City of Chester, General Election 2019
Chris Matheson (Lab) 27,082 (49.6%) -7.2%
Samantha George (Con) 20,918 (38.3%) -2.2%
Bob Thompson (LDem) 3,734 (6.8%) +4.1%
Nicholas Brown (Grn) 1,438 (2.6%) New
Andy Argyle (Brexit) 1,388 (2.5%) New