Ishmael Osamor, the son of a UK MP, is facing calls to resign from his own parliamentary role due to a drug conviction – despite having paid his dues in the eyes of the law.
In October, Ishmael – son of Labour MP Kate Osamor – was found guilty of possessing Class A drugs with the intent to supply, having been apprehended when entering a British music festival in 2017. The prosecution accepted that he had carried the drugs to provide to friends and that he did not intend to make a profit. He received a two-year suspended sentence, a fine, and community service. He subsequently stood down from his councillor post in north London, but has continued to work for his mother in parliament as a communications officer.
After Ishmael’s conviction came to light, Conservative MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan claimed that his continued employment brought “the integrity of parliament into disrepute”, and accused his MP mother of turning a “blind eye to the damaging consequences of such behaviour”.
Kate Osamor responded to Trevelyan’s comments by claiming that they were “politically motivated”, and that she had done “nothing wrong”. Nonetheless, Kate has been referred to the parliamentary watchdog which examines breach of standards cases in the House of Commons.
Parts of the UK press also reacted vehemently to Ishmael’s conviction. Several right-wing newspapers, including The Sun and The Daily Mail, stressed Kate Osamor’s close relationship with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, seemingly in an attempt to use the case to disparage the party.
Ishmael’s conviction is being nefariously used to score political points against his mother and her party, and the hypocrisy is palpable.
The idea that a conviction for a non-violent and essentially victimless crime is inappropriate for someone working in parliament, but not for someone in another industry, is elitist and exclusionary. The suggestion that Ishmael’s employment damages the integrity of political institutions is similarly archaic. This is purposeful political gatekeeping, and it’s a barrier to the law’s ostensible intention to rehabilitate offenders.
Ishmael’s offence was non-violent, and had no financial motivation. He admitted his guilt and paid his societally-prescribed dues. This political gatekeeping seems to imply that whilst offenders should be "rehabilitated" and employed, their conviction should prohibit them from certain positions, even if their offence is unrelated to their work.
Ishmael’s conviction should have nothing to do with his employment, nor his mother’s integrity. People with non-violent drug convictions must be able to re-enter society and the workforce on their own terms, not on those deemed suitable by politicians.
Despite the emotive accusations of a double-standard, the only people guilty of hypocrisy here are those condemning the Osamors whilst paying lip-service to the rehabilitative ideal.
This is an opinion piece by TalkingDrugs volunteer contributor, Ryan Hesketh.