John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, is perhaps best known for his boorish confrontation with a bemused former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, which was filmed by a camera crew that just happened to be nearby.
Mann, a vocal opponent of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently had to eat public humble pie after Labour’s ‘Corbyn surge’ in the General Election. He remains no friend of the pro-Corbyn independent media, having hilariously compared the editor of this publication to ‘a Russian gangster’ in a Daily Mail article published at the end of June.
He also has a controversial history, having called after the 2015 General Election for huge cuts in benefits and tight controls on immigration, making Labour’s lead in the polls for its clear anti-austerity stance an uncomfortable fit for the right-winger, who has been an MP since 2001.
Now the SKWAWKBOX can reveal that Mann’s pugnacious nature led him into a race-related controversy that culminated in an interview with Nottinghamshire police after complaints about a brochure he issued on anti-social behaviour singled out one ethnic community:
The brochure provides advice on a range of situations, but the complaint concerned one particular section:
Amid a series of chapters on issues that are intrinsically anti-social, Mann included an entire ethnic group: ‘Travellers’.
Ben Bennett, the 13-year-old Gypsy Traveller (GT) who was in the news last week for his email to a Tory MP about comments that singled out the community, was interviewed on Friday along with his family by this blog in an article that revealed the shocking levels of prejudice, racism and exclusion suffered by the GT community. And in 2016, the brochure prompted him to write to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Ben, who has suffered severe bullying at school because of his ethnicity, told Corbyn:
He went on:
Corbyn referred the matter to the Chief Whip, responsible for party discipline, but the Whip, surprisingly, decided no action was appropriate and told the family to refer the matter to the police, which they did.
Nottinghamshire police interviewed Mann and reported back to the family on the results:
The police’s response, which appears to confirm that the issue was being investigated as a ‘hate incident’, shows Mann telling officers that the booklet was no longer in print – and being told by them that any future reprints must be updated so that no community is singled out.
Mr Mann wrote to the family and to Travellers’ Times (TT) magazine. His email to the family set a troubling tone from its first sentence:
Mann also claimed to have helped the family with, among other matters, advice relating to problems Mrs Bennett’s parents were facing. However, Mrs Bennett told the SKWAWKBOX that her father died before Mann became an MP and her mum has never lived in the constituency.
Mann’s message to TT was also considered problematic. The magazine emailed Mrs Bennett about his response – which included similar accusations of defamation and which named the Bennetts specifically – flagging concerns about a potential breach of the Data Protection Act:
From: TT Team <redacted>
Date: 5 October 2016 at 12:29:08 BST
Cc: Yvonne [redacted], Patrick [redacted]
Subject: FW: Article naming myself
Here is John Mann’s response to our article.
I have copied in Yvonne and Patrick from the Traveller Movement after speaking to them about this. It may be that the JM email is in breach of data protection laws. It was unsolicited and at no point did we identify anyone as the “constituent” making a minor claim in the article. This appears to be an assumption he has made all by himself.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Mr Mann for comment. He indicated that he feels that the complaint is politically motivated and denied that the police interviewed him:
The police like the pamphlet. gordonBrown described it as tremendous and it is currently being updated for a reprint.
There is no such reference [to Travellers as antisocial] currently , which is why when the police were contacted by the Bennett family, strong Consetvative candidate supporters at the election – mrsbennett attended the general election count with a Tory rosette on, they declined to interview me , take a statement or investigate their complaint.
The booklet will again advice how to deal with illegal trespass , including by travellers and explain the law with regard to this .
You will of course have a copy of my letter to mr Bennett , which asks why – as the currentbooklet was last circukated in2009- he didn’t raise issues then . I represented his son in 2010 over discrimination allegations at his school, or when he and his son attended my 2010 election rally with John Prescott and asked me to facilitate a photo.
I remain unclear who made the complaint by the way as it appears to be from the younger son who was 3 when the booklet ran out of stock .
Spelling has been left as originally retrieved to ensure fidelity, bold emphasis has been added by the SKWAWKBOX.
Mr Mann has been asked whether the updated booklet will still mention Travellers specifically in spite of police advice stating that this would not comply with current laws, but has not responded so far. His response will be added if/when received.
The Bennetts deny being Conservative supporters. Mrs Bennett said,
We’re all strong Labour and Corbyn supporters. The children attended the election count as journalists, to film the event for Travellers’ Times. I may have worn a rosette briefly for my friend, who was standing against Mr Mann, but my loyalties are with the Labour Party.
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