Labour MP John Woodcock has been suspended from the party ahead of an investigation into claims he sent inappropriate text messages to a female former aide.
The backbencher, a fierce critic of Jeremy Corbyn, had been ordered to appear before party disciplinary chiefs over the alleged harassment, which he has denied in an open letter to constituents.
The Labour party’s disputes panel said last year that a fuller investigation would be needed, although they decided that he could remain as an MP until it was resolved.
But the new Labour general secretary, Jennie Formby, who has the power to intervene in cases in order to protect the party’s reputation, is understood to have ordered that he have the whip withdrawn until that has taken place.
A Labour party spokesperson said: “John Woodcock has been suspended from the Labour party pending due process. It would not be appropriate to comment further on an ongoing case.”
Woodcock, a former No 10 aide to Gordon Brown and shadow minister, was accused of sending inappropriate texts and messages to a former staff member between 2014 and 2016.
The national constitutional committee which will investigate the claims could decide, if further sanction is needed, to extend his suspension or even expel him from the party.
In an open letter to his constituents after the Sunday Mirror reported on the claims, Woodcock said: “I do not accept this but know the complaint must be thoroughly and fairly investigated.”
He said he had not yet been notified of any date for a hearing and had decided to follow party guidance that the process should remain confidential to reassure potential victims that they could make complaints without being exposed to unwelcome publicity.
The Guardian was unable to contact the Barrow MP, who has a majority of 209 in his Cumbria seat, for comment.
Woodcock is one of Corbyn’s most outspoken critics, condemning him for not doing more to tackle the party’s antisemitism problem and for his failure to unequivocally condemn Russia after the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
The complaint was understood to have been made in November to a Labour panel which was set up in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal at Westminster.