Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch made an astonishing admission that she hacked into a Labour opponent’s website in an interview with the Mail on Sunday published on 8 April.

Recently appointed Vice-Chair of the Conservative Party with responsibility for candidate selection, she said she launched the cyber-attack to sabotage material on a Labour opponent’s website in what she claimed was a “foolish prank”. Conservative HQ has put it down to “youthful exuberance”, although she committed the crime when she was 28.

Tom van de Bilt, secretary of Saffron Walden Labour Party, said: “What Ms Badenoch has described doing is a shocking breach of the Computer Misuse Act: a criminal offence punishable by custodial sentence.

“The Cambridge Analytica revelations show how vital it is that political campaigns stay within the law.  Tory attempts to make light of this as not ‘proper hacking’ because it relied on guessing a password miss the point.

“The seriousness of the offence comes from the effect on the victim and on the reputation of our democracy, not the skill level of the offender.

“Given the current climate of concern around cybercrime, and especially in relation to electoral campaigning, Saffron Walden Labour Party further ask that local Conservatives condemn the hacking of opponents’ websites and urge Conservatives in parliament to withdraw the whip while the matter is urgently investigated.”

Since this press release was issued, the Labour MP whose website was hacked has been identified as Harriet Harman, who was then deputy leader of the Labour Party, Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for Women and Equalities. She has accepted an apology from Kemi Badenoch.

In response, local Labour party secretary Tom van de Bilt said: “In accepting an apology Harriet Harman has been gracious in the extreme and I accept her prerogative as the victim if she wishes a line to be draw under the matter.  However, for Kemi’s constituents this apology will do little to alleviate concerns about her personal judgement a mere two years before first standing for parliament herself; nor does the flippant manner in which she disclosed it give much confidence in her commitment to tackling cybercrime today.

“Failure to discipline Kemi Badenoch, both within the law and through Conservative party procedures, is a green light to illegally disrupt the work of opposition parties in a democracy. It would also show the Conservatives’ ‘respect agenda’ to be empty rhetoric.”