The UK’s tallest MP has claimed his height partially contributed to him losing his temper with parliamentary staff attempting to fix his IT problems, as he was ordered to issue a public apology on Monday.
Daniel Kawczynski, who is 6ft 9ins tall, was found to have acted in a “threatening and intimidating manner” towards two members of staff after being unable to participate in a virtual committee hearing last year.
The incident occurred in April, shortly after Parliament was forced to switch to virtual proceedings because of the Covid pandemic.
According to a report released on Monday by the Independent Expert Panel, which oversees appeals and sanctions in parliamentary bullying cases, Mr Kawczynski, the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury, was said to have grown frustrated after being unable to join a virtual hearing.
When the two members of staff failed to resolve the technical difficulties, he is said to have been “repeatedly rude, aggressive and impatient” with them and other staff “before, during and after the meeting”.
These incidents led to the two staff members initiating a formal complaint and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards finding that Mr Kawczynski had “abused his power” as an MP by “making exaggerated and malicious claims”.
A panel set up to determine what sanction he should face decided that he should apologise in the Commons chamber. However, he appealed against this.
During his appeal, Mr Kawczynski said the panel had failed to take account of the impact on his mental health of being forced to apologise in the Commons, as well as “the psychological and emotional pressure” he was operating under at the time.
In other grounds cited in the panel’s report, Mr Kawczynski is also said to have argued that “Brexit and serious flooding” in his constituency had given rise to “serious difficulties for him as the local MP”.
It went on to state: “The Respondent is 6’9” tall and thus very conspicuous in the street, in his local shops. He found himself under repeated attack by members of the public on both these grounds.
“He emphasised to us how such attacks could be extremely vicious. Against that background, the advent of the pandemic added another layer of pressure. It was in that context that his frustration with the technical problems associated with a remote meeting caused him to be so angry.
“Nevertheless, he emphasised that he had never set out to bully anyone and did not wish to bully anyone.”
In an apology issued in May last year after being challenged over his behaviour, Mr Kawczynski also told two senior managers in Parliament: “Just to follow up have thought about the letter long and hard. I understand and respect your concerns outlined. I apologise for any behaviour lacking in traditional patience and good manners towards your teams. Hope you can accept my apology and pass on.”
Mr Kawczynski outlined other steps he had taken in response to the complaints, including giving up alcohol and issuing an apology to the complainants.
However, a second panel found the sanction was “proper and proportionate”.
According to the report, on April 27 Mr Kawczynski is said to have acted in an “intimidatory and threatening manner” towards the two complainants and other staff members after experiencing technical difficulties logging on to the virtual committee hearing.
While he did not “shout or swear”, he is said to have contacted one of the staff members on his private mobile phone repeatedly during the day, describing the issue as a “scandal”, “an outrage” and “a farce”.
He is said to have claimed they were a member of the “snowflake generation” and were “useless”, while also threatening to resign from the committee and initiate a complaint against its chairman.
He is also said to have gone on to make “critical and untruthful comments” about the staff members on a WhatsApp group set up by MPs on the committee to discuss its affairs, stated that he wished to lodge a complaint about its chairman, and threatened to resign from the committee.
‘How do you get away with it?’
In other conversations with separate staff members belonging to Parliament’s digital service, Mr Kawczynski is said to have “ranted” and said to one: “What the hell are you playing at?” and “I’ve turned this bloody computer upside down trying to get it to work.”
He then demanded the name of the staff member’s line manager so he could complain about him, before following up to complain that he could not reach the line manager and asking four times: “How do you get away with it?” These conversations did not lead to separate complaints but were included by the panel as supporting evidence.
The report also states that it was “clear that as this day proceeded, the Respondent consumed a significant amount of alcohol”.
The panel noted that Mr Kawczynski had “demonstrated an increased level of contrition during the latter stages of the complaints process through his written apologies to the Complainants, in his letter to the Panel Chair, in his reflective statement and during his oral submissions when he apologised unreservedly for inappropriate behaviour and the impact that it had had on the Complainants”.
It also noted that he had “undertaken emotional intelligence training in order to better understand the impact of his actions on others”.
However, the panel went on to state that while Mr Kawczynski had apologised to the complainants, “some concerns remain as to the sincerity of the apologies given to date”. While he had taken steps to “understand his personal drivers and the impact of his behaviour on others” they believed his insight, while “developing”, “is still quite limited”.
The Telegraph has approached Mr Kawczynski for comment.