Harriet Harman has called for Cressida Dick, the Met police commissioner, to resign over “unacceptable behaviour” towards a woman.
The Labour leader, at a meeting of Labour MPs held in Westminster on Monday night, called for a summary of a personal letter from the Guardian, sent to her office on the night of the Rotherham abuse scandal, to be made public in case it influenced the chief constable to quit.
Lawyers for Labour MP Jess Phillips demanded the removal of Dick after they said that leaked private correspondence raised serious questions about the conduct of the commissioner in relation to a previous allegation of inappropriate behaviour.
At the meeting, attended by the police and crime committee chairman, Keith Vaz, and former Labour frontbencher Simon Danczuk, Harman called for her to step down to save “the vast majority of good people” in the Met, which has been rocked by a series of scandals.
Calling on Dick to resign, Harman said she had raised the issue with the prime minister, Theresa May, in a private conversation on Tuesday, and said she would be asking for a list of problems facing the police force to be produced in the coming weeks.
Speaking outside the meeting, Harman said: “Any police commissioner should be held to account if the standards of the job are really not up to scratch. I think that perhaps Cressida Dick ought to step down because she is not doing her job properly.”
Harman said Dick’s actions, if they contained any hint of misconduct, meant she could not be regarded as an appropriate person to hold the high office of commissioner.
Dick’s office has said her refusal to resign, despite an attack by the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, has led to a witch-hunt, and that the commissioner is only being targeted because of her sex.
Harman said on Monday: “This is an unacceptable trend at the Metropolitan police, where high level staff who have made allegations about staff members of the Met are also being pursued on sexual harassment grounds.”
After the Guardian revealed details of her allegations against Dick, Phillips told the BBC that Dick had “repeatedly and firmly told me to ‘back off’” when she had raised her concerns with her office in July.
“I’m really not able to live my life in front of the police chief, in my normal parliamentary work, because the police chief has the power of the whip and the chairman of the home affairs select committee does not,” Phillips said.
“She has chosen to try and interfere. She has no right to interfere because she’s on a public salary – I’m on a local one.
“It can’t be ignored. I think her conduct has been uncalled for and the mayor and [home secretary] Amber Rudd should encourage her to step down.”
Dani Simons, who had a six-month relationship with Dick, raised the concerns in her letter, according to sources. During that relationship, Dick allegedly tried to persuade Simons to end it, but Simons rejected that request and continued the relationship.
Harman said the final outcome of the inquiry should be the “most important consideration”.
“To make a judgment on this matter, especially given the baggage that comes with a member of the Met’s senior management and being in the same job, is to give her the benefit of the doubt when what is needed is for the people of London, the public and parliament, to understand what is going on,” she said.
“We were told that a dossier on abuse being drawn up by the home affairs select committee contained 70 complaints about the police. It would be very helpful if the details of all those complaints could be disclosed, because it would be a matter of full transparency for MPs to support or oppose one of the representatives of the people.”