A letter and supporting document written by Wallasey CLP’s (constituency Labour party) elected vice-Chair Paul Davies to the party’s General Secretary Iain McNicol have been provided to the SKWAWKBOX. These are reproduced in full below, with comments by this author.
Wallasey – like the Riverside CLP on the other side of the Mersey and Brighton Hove and District Labour party – became the subject of investigations by Labour’s National Executive Council’s ‘Disputes Panel’ (NECDP) after electing overwhelmingly pro-Corbyn executive committees. Allegations well after the fact materialised, many of them anonymous and – as far as can be ascertained – without substance or evidence, except one allegation that has been definitively proven false.
MPs and other elected officials fearing deselection, however, feature as an unmissable common thread.
The new Wallasey documents show the actions and plans of the CLP’s executive – and set them in stark contrast with the behaviour of those accusing and investigating the CLP. Comments by this blog are interspersed where appropriate, so please read through to the summary comments by this writer at the end. Any emphases are mine:
Dear Mr McNichol
Report into Wallasey CLP
I have received a copy of the NEC Report into Wallasey and would seek some assistance in clarifying certain matters contained in it.
I understood that the investigation was to be into allegations of Homophobic Behaviour at the Wallasey AGM and allegations of threatening behaviour at the same meeting. The report however also covers other matters completely outside the control of the CLP and I will deal with these separately.
I fully appreciate that an investigation has to be held into the very serious allegation of Homophobic behaviour. You would be failing in your duty not so to do. I would not consider it proper for me to comment on this allegation until I have seen whatever evidence there is to substantiate it.
This response is exactly as it should be. As we have seen (search Wallasey in the blog index for details), it is likely to be a long wait, however.
At a meeting of the new CLP Executive held on Monday 11th of July and attended by Noel Hutchinson of the NW Regional office the matter was discussed and amongst those present were those who have made accusations regarding the Homophobic Behaviour and Threatening Behaviour. It was made clear by them and is in the minutes that no member of the Executive was being accused of Homophobic Behaviour nor could they have witnessed such behaviour as it was underhand . That was welcomed by the Executive members but still left a cloud over the other members at the AGM.
The Report acknowledges that there is not Institutionalised Homophobia in Wallasey but , as one might expect, this was not given prominence in the media.
Nor indeed by Angela Eagle in her comments after the NEC’s deeply-flawed findings were announced.
It would be helpful to the reputation of the CLP (and perhaps the Labour Party more generally) if the point regarding Executive members neither participating in nor witnessing such behaviour could be acknowledged.
Still waiting for that…
In addition at the same meeting a detailed report was presented to the Executive regarding how we should deal with the matter. It was endorsed and a copy sent to all members to ensure that they also realised we were taking the matter seriously. A copy was given to Noel Hutchinson at the meeting prior to discussion. This Report included involving the Police.
This is a crucial point. Wallasey CLP took the matter seriously and acted ‘by the book’ – including informing the police. More on that anon.
It would be helpful if in making your next report to the NEC this point could also be made.
Allegation of Threatening Behaviour.
I am not sure if this matter is under further investigation so as with the other allegation I will not comment on whether it is a valid complaint or not.
I am concerned however that the impression has been given in the Media that threatening behaviour is the norm at Wallasey meetings . It is not and I have not seen anything in the Report that suggests otherwise.
Indeed. ‘Message discipline’ to create the impression of habitual wrongdoing has been strict, which is a tell-tale ‘more of the same’-faction tactic.
In addition, the incident referred to occurred before the current Chair was elected and as such has no bearing on her competence. I would hope that this could also be clarified.
Yes. ‘Due process’ would require that this be made very clear, so that a blameless person is not smeared. It appears that going ‘by the book’ is not universal in these proceedings.
I totally accept that the start of the meeting was a total shambles and that this did indeed lead to frustration but this was not organised by the current officers and we prepared a paper to prevent a similar shambles occurring next year plus a Code of Conduct for all future meetings. Both were endorsed by the Executive meeting on 11th July.
Again, the CLP officers behaving exactly as they should.
The circulation of material by the current Secretary
The Report is factually incorrect.
The Secretary did not receiveany notification that CLP meetings were suspended and your system will show that. On the 13th of July ( 2 days after our Executive meeting) she sent out a normal notice for the CLP meeting due on 22nd of July. This contained 4 Motions (not one as contained in the Report) which were all she had received. The very next day she had confirmation via Anna Hutchinson that the CLP should not meet. She also discussed with her the fact that she had since received a further motion. She was advised to not send out this or any further motion and notified the Union Branch Secretary who had sent the motion.
Again, nothing out of order.
None of the motions named individual members as stated in the Report.
Another claim by the report that is not borne out by the facts.
The Report gives the impression that the Secretary was selective in what motions she circulated. She was not and at all times acted on the advice of regional office.
I do think that you should clarify this matter to the NEC and acknowledge it to the Secretary.
It seems that the specific allegations against individuals that are required for defamation proceedings are already in evidence.
Conflict with Labour Council
I think this all refers to Ward meetings or individual members. If there has been any problems at the CLP they would surely be in minutes and I have not seen any reference to this. The policy adopted by the CLP was that the Labour Party should maximise the use of Reserves and in election literature put the blame for Cuts on the Tories. I never heard any proposal to set an illegal budget.
Individual or ward-based discussions with councillors have no bearing on the conduct of the CLP and cannot justify its suspension. Even if the ‘conflict’ (which the report makes clear are complaints against councillors, not any kind of abuse) is true, this is simply democracy in action and nothing untoward. We vote in our councillors and if we’re not happy we’re entitled to tell them so – and to vote them out if we’re still not happy.
None [sic] CLP items in the Report
I think it a great shame that the Report includes items outside of the CLP control which has led many to confuse these with items within the control of the CLP.
Calls to set an illegal budget and attacks on the Labour Council
I do not know of any such calls or attacks. Presumably Katherine was given minutes of Branch meetings that made such calls and attacks. I and my fellow officers would be grateful if you could provide us with copies of the relevant minutes and if and when the CLP is allowed to meet we will attend the meetings of the Branch / Branches to discuss.
Calls to deselect Councillors who refuse to set an illegal budget
I have never heard such a call at the CLP nor my own Branch and I am confident that the CLP would , either unanimously or by a huge majority, rejected such a call.
Either way, working for the deselection of any elected official is simply party democracy. If not enough people agree with the move, it won’t succeed.
Abusive messages to Angela’s office.
The Report states that there were hundreds of such messages left by Labour Party members. To state they are members must mean that you know which Constituencies they live in. I appreciate that you cannot name them until due process has been followed but it would be helpful, to put this into perspective in relation to the state of our CLP, if you could provide us with information regarding the number of messages suspected to have come from Wallasey members and what action is being taken against the guilty individuals.
As pointed out in the analysis of the report elsewhere in this blog, the language of the report around these ‘abusive messages’ is vague and, one might conclude, designed to give the impression of abuse by members when in fact it is not. The fact that only a tiny number of people – if any at all – are said to be facing disciplinary enquiries suggests either one or two people sending lots of messages or that the messages are not from CLP members at all.
Smashed window in Labour Party Office
I do not believe that this should have even been in the report unless there is evidence that it was a Wallasey member who did it. As I understand it, the person who left the threatening message was not even a Labour Party member and I would hope the same applies to the window incident whether it was done for reasons of politics, homophobia or vandalism.
Indeed. And there is no such evidence. The police have not even confirmed that there was a brick, let alone charged anyone. The report also fudged the fact that the person convicted of sending threats lives hundreds of miles away and is not even a Labour member, allowing readers to conclude otherwise.
I can see no relevance to this with regards to Wallasey CLP. It was known from the time of his arrest that the individual was not from Wallasey and not a Labour Party member.
All the above might not have been so important and could have been dealt with in the fullness of time if the Report had not been leaked to Press with accompanying Spin.
Rather than us all individually countering the mistakes and clarifying the Report it would be preferable if the Labour Party did this for us. I believe that you owe a duty of care to all your members including both those who allege homophobia and those whose conduct has been misrepresented by the contents of your Report and the accompanying press coverage.
Yes. But, as we saw during the latest leadership election ‘purge’, one-sided action is sadly not atypical on the part of some parts of the Labour party structure.
On a personal note, you may not be aware but three members joined together to state they had witnessed me delivering leaflets to their houses in the same street. They suggested I was making unauthorised use of Labour Party data and insinuated that this had been provided to me by the CLP Secretary. Fortunately for me I was in London on the day in question and provided Katherine with evidence to this effect. I have never received confirmation that I am exonerated or information as to any investigation into how three members could all identify me as being somewhere I was not.
This accusation, definitively proven false, calls into serious question every accusation made by supporters of Wallasey MP Angela Eagle.
Vice Chair Wallasey CLP
And now the supporting document, which is the report to the CLP on the allegations shortly after they were made, which Paul Davies references above:
Allegations of Intimidation ad Homophobic behaviour at Wallasey CLP AGM
There have been reports in the press and TV , first about Intimidation which surfaced in the Liverpool Echo Saturday July 2nd ; 8 days after the Annual meeting and, more recently, Homophobic Behaviour,
The reports all refer to alleged behaviour at the Wallasey AGM Friday June 24thtwo days prior to the announcement that Angela Eagle was resigning from the Shadow Cabinet and contemplating standing as Leader.
Ms Eagle was not even at the meeting and, considering that the motivation for the supposed abuse was said to be anger at her decision to stand against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the fact that the meeting took place before she announced her candidacy is fatal to the credibility of the accusations.
In the Echo it was alleged as a headline to a near full page article on page 6:
“Threats of violence over Eagle Leader bid”
Clearly, in view of the date of the meeting, somebody ‘briefing’ to control the public perception.
This was attributed to Wirral Young Labour and the article reads as if members at the CLP, or some of them at least, were angry at Angela launching a Leadership bid.
This mystified your Officers because of course no one at that meeting knew that Angela was doing anything but supporting Jeremy Corbyn and the meeting congratulated her for doing so. She resigned 2 days after the CLP meeting. There was no reason for any member to be antagonistic towards her and if they were it could have nothing to do with her Leadership bid
‘the meeting congratulated her for [supporting Corbyn]’. Doesn’t sound ‘febrile’ (the word used in the NECDP report about the CLP meeting (and, curiously, about Brighton Hove and District’s supposedly-abusive meeting).
The penultimate paragraph of the Echo article quoting the unnamed spokesperson for Wirral Young Labour states;
“Claims of doctored lists, threats of violence and a walkout of ashamed members paints a particularly dire picture of our own internal democracy”
Indeed it would if true
As early as early July, the fact that the accusations constituted a smear campaign was being given away by the inclusion of clearly-false allegations that not even the NECDP’s laughable report could bring itself to include.
There is no mention in the article of any Homophobic behaviour.
But although many accusations were made that were completely lacking in credibility, the central allegation was conspicuous by its complete absence.
The Officers attempted to call an Emergency Executive meeting to discuss these allegations and draft a response but were advised that 7 days’ notice would be required. In any event the previous Secretary had not responded to a request by the incoming Secretary to provide contact details so it would have been impossible to convene an Executive meeting.
The Chair and Secretary asked the Vice Chair Paul Davies to speak to the media about this issue and any other accusations regarding the conduct of the CLP and handle any other requests for interviews from the media.
The Echo article was followed by a Television interview on Politics Today on Sunday in which Tessa Jowell alleged:
“I spoke to Angela about her meeting. She faced homophobic abuse at that meeting”
Indeed this is how the specific allegations began to unfold. But in their first instance, the allegations were already showing themselves to be nonsense: Ms Eagle did not ‘face’ anything ‘at that meeting’.
She was not present. This fact is not disputed.
This Television interview was then widely reported in the Press including the Pink News. It gave the impression that Angela Eagle was at the meeting and “ faced” direct abuse.
The article in Pink News stated;
“Angela Eagle has been subjected to homophobic abuse since resigning from the Shadow cabinet and revealing her plans to challenge current Leader Jeremy Corbyn according to a senior Labour Politician”
If Angela has been subjected to abuse of any kind this should be deplored but any such abuse could not have happened at the AGM in response to her Leadership bid as she declared her resignation 2 days after the meeting. Obviously Angela could not have “faced” direct abuse at the meeting either as she was not there.
Neither Tessa Jowell nor Angela Eagle were present at the meeting so of course neither were a witness to any such events themselves and there was, unfortunately, no mention as to what exactly happened.
More recently Bernie Mooney a Wallasey Councillor , the Secretary of the Constituency until the recent AGM (when she was replaced after a ballot) and former Trades Union Tutor appeared on BBC North West Tonight on 7th July 2016 and made the following allegations:
An ousted officer of the CLP joining in allegations against those who had voted her out.
“There were homophobic gestures made to our newly elected LGBT member. There was hostile names called at Angela. At one point somebody called her a dyke. Now people will say that; that didn’t happen, but there are people who will give evidence to that. That’s the type of thing that happened through this meeting”.
Again, Ms Eagle was not present at the meeting. Nothing could be ‘called at’ her.
Again this could give the impression that Angela was at the meeting as the hostile names were allegedly “at Angela” not about Angela. It also suggests that there was not an isolated incident but such behaviour “happened throughout the meeting.”
There were no complaints about any misconduct made at the actual AGM or to the Officers of the CLP during the week that followed, so the Press reports were the first your new Officers knew about these allegations .
At the meeting or immediately after, when events would be fresh – nothing.
Bernie Mooney was at the meeting and from her Statements appear to have first hand knowledge of what was said or know of people who do have such first hand knowledge and so, fortunately, can assist us in finding out exactly what happened.
The allegations are particularly upsetting to those members who were present who are Gay or members who have Gay children , such as our new Chair and Secretary, and who have opposed such behaviour over many years. This is especially so as they were reported in the Pink News. They should also be upsetting to all other members of our CLP whether present or not.
Seriousness of the Allegations
The Labour Party is proud to have been at the forefront of the long campaign to eradicate Homophobia and discrimination in whatever form it may manifest itself .
Homophobic Behaviour can be very distressing to those who are the direct target and those who witness it. No such behaviour should be tolerated and should always be challenged
These are very serious accusations. They reflect badly on the Wallasey CLP if it is thought by our General Membership or the General Public that our 44 delegates, several of them very experienced in the Labour Movement, in attendance on the night witnessed such behaviour and took no action to prevent it and either correct the behaviour or move to eject the person or persons responsible.
If there was such behaviour, even if not witnessed by everyone present then action must be taken to both defend our members against abuse at future meetings and maintain the reputation of our CLP.
We must neither discourage members from attending future meetings nor let anyone who does attend think that they can act in such a way with impunity.
Homophobic behaviour is a crime and should be treated as such.
One of our Executive Officers, Paul Davies, met with the Police at Manor Road Police Station once we heard the Bernie Mooney interview and was assured that any complaint would be treated seriously provided there were people prepared to come forward. Those witnesses do not have to be the direct victim of the abuse.
The police have not taken any further action. Which means that nobody has come forward.
The law on Homophobic Behaviour is covered by the section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 :
A person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment alarm or distress thereby.
Sections 28-32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 result in offences under the Public Order Act being treated more seriously and an increased sentence the behaviour if related to Homophobia.
There were seasoned and well known Campaigners for LGBT rights , and against Intimidation and Homophobia, at this AGM including Councillors, workers in Angela Eagle’s office, Labour Party branch Officers, Trades Union Officials and Shop Stewards who would not be intimidated by anyone so we should have no problem getting to the bottom of this provided Delegates co-operate with any investigation. Any of these should of course have raised the matter at the meeting when the first alleged incident happened if they witnessed it.
Homophobic abuse is a criminal offence, necessitating the involvement of the police. Labour party rules also require involving the police.
Making false allegations anonymously to the NEC is not likely to result in criminal prosecution. Making false allegations to the police would be highly likely to result in prosecution.
The significance of the fact that allegations have only been made internally to party officials and none have been made to the police should not elude the reader.
The way forward
There may be members who think that we should just let this all blow over. There may be some who think that because the allegations were not made at the meeting or witnessed by everyone present they should be ignored. There may be some who think that unless the person who was the victim of the alleged abuse wants to make a complaint then there should be no further action.
We do not agree with any members who feel this way for the following reason:
- If anyone is allowed to get away with homophobic behaviour they may decide that they can continue with such behaviour, whether inside Labour Party meetings or outside.
- We owe it to anyone who has been impacted by whatever happened at the AGM to ensure that this matter is dealt with properly.
- The accusations tarnish the good name of our CLP and this would be justifies if we did nothing about the accusations.
As the alleged behaviour occurred, as already stated, before any Delegate to Wallasey CLP knew that Angela Eagle was anything but a loyal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, it could not have been as a result of any Political views or support for either Angela or Jeremy and so any investigation should not be clouded by any disagreement regarding who should be our future Leader. All members should be able to unite in a desire to see this matter dealt with properly.
We propose that :
- That there be a thorough investigation the behaviour of members at the AGM and subsequently of any allegations conducted by a subcommittee of the Executive comprising of 3 members , including and chaired by the Vice Chair.
- If there is a complaint and call for Disciplinary Action as provided for in Clause II 1A then the Procedures as laid out in Clause II 1A-M be strictly If there is not a complaint calling for Disciplinary Action then the Executive will in any event instigate an investigation which should be conducted so far as is practicable the procedures laid down in Clause II
- A full report of this Investigation to be made available to the full CLP and the Regional Officer of the Labour Party and interim reports as to the progress (but not interim findings or evidence) of the Investigation to presented each meeting of the Executive .
- The subcommittee e mail all delegates in attendance at the AGM asking them to submit statements regarding any Homophobic behaviour or Intimidation they witnessed
- Any member/members who were the victim of Homophobic abuse or witnessed such abuse and should be advised to take these allegations to the Police who assure us that they will take the allegations seriously and deal with Complainants sympathetically. It would be extremely helpful if any one making such a complaint to the Police advises the CLP Officers and provides the Crime number.
- Members should be encouraged in future to object to any perceived Homophobic or other inappropriate behaviour at meetings at the time it occurs and not wait until after the meeting.
- If members are nervous about raising such a complaint at the meeting they should approach the CLP officers or our LGBT Officer immediately after the meeting.
- Members to be asked in future to first make any allegations they may have either to the Police or Officers of the Party rather than taking such complaints to the Press.
Prepared by Paul Davies and adopted at the Wallasey Executive meeting 11/7/16 in presence of Noel Hutchinson from NW Labour
All this is exactly as would be expected of any proper executive committee of any proper CLP.
It appears that the CLP officers have behaved entirely correctly. It appears that the same cannot be said of those making accusations or about the way in which those allegations have been handled and conclusions have been reached.