Labour Party Chair and MP Ian Lavery is highly regarded, capable and proudly northern.
He is also leading the ‘democracy review‘ into Labour Party procedures ordered by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and which is expected to recommend a series of measures for the democratisation of the party that will be deeply unpopular with Labour’s right-wing bureaucrats, MPs and councillors, who are thoroughly on the back foot and desperately trying to cling to their positions and influence.
All of the above make him a target for the antipathy of the Establishment even more than most Corbyn-supporting MPs.
Whether connected or unconnected, last night’s BBC Newsnight programme ran a piece stating that Lavery had received £165,000 from a trade union he ran and claimed that he
will now face questions on his record over a number of disputed payments by the union he ran.
This is stretching the ‘News’ in Newsnight’s title to the limit, since the information has been in the public domain, including on the BBC’s own website, for more than a year and a half – as the BBC’s article based on the Newsnight piece admits.
Nonetheless, Newsnight ran it and the MSM (mainstream media) are running wild with it today. The justification for treating this as news appears to be that a letter was sent out by the Trade Union Certifications Office (CO) to the National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) Northumberland Secretary Dave Murphy last week about the allegations.
That might make sense, if the letter treated the allegations as substantial and concluded there had been wrongdoing. However, it in fact states the CO has examined the allegations and concluded that no further investigation is appropriate. The conclusions range over a number of pages, but below are some examples:
The report does raise a criticism of the union itself for not being able to provide some items of paperwork, but acknowledges that the decisions in question were duly recorded in paperwork that was available and it notes:
It is clear that the National Union of Mineworkers Northumberland Area is a union in steep decline as a result of the end of the deep coal mining industry in Northumberland and the UK. Indeed the Certification Officer has been told that the Union is considering dissolution as a result of the decline
Before stating, in its section ‘Overall conclusions’:
Ian Lavery has issued a formal statement on the matter, which is reproduced below. However, he also told the SKWAWKBOX:
This latest attack is a result of the conclusion of the Certification Officer’s report into allegations submitted by the Sunday Times and Newsnight.
The CO states clearly that there is no further action having found NO wrongdoing whatsoever.
The CO published an extremely detailed document providing personal financial details etc which has allowed the right wing to attack me, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. It’s a full political attack following a positive result.
A report is released on old allegations stating there is no evidence of wrongdoing nor any justification for further investigation – yet the Establishment media are all over it, throwing around accusations of ‘questions to answer’.
A ‘full political attack’ might well be considered an appropriate description.
Ian Lavery’s formal statement:
Eighteen months ago, a number of allegations were made against me and the union I used to lead, the National Union of Mineworkers (Northumberland Area).
The allegations, presented in the press dripping with innuendo, resulted in two inquiries. The first, by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, reported over six months ago. The second, by the Certification Officer, which regulates trade unions, was published this week. Both cleared me of any wrong doing.
Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the sensational journalism which accompanied the initial allegations has been repeated, regurgitating smears and ignoring the simple fact that the Certification Officer has exonerated the Union and myself as an individual.
The Union was run entirely within the rules of as set out in the TULR 1992 regulations and the accounts were submitted to the Certification Officer every year with no queries ever raised by that office. As the Certification Officer’s report makes clear, no member of the union, past or present, has made a complaint about the financial affairs of the union.
It is astonishing to see the level of media interest that a union being cleared of wrongdoing has generated and in the terms of my employment, which dates back to 1994 and was set by our members. It shows clearly the interests of those reporting it, when many actual reports of wrongdoing, such as a flagrant disregard for electoral law, go relatively unreported by the press.
The NUM (Northumberland Area) brought millions of pounds into the coalfield by supporting miners and their families through test cases and tribunals. There are tens of thousands of people living in the Northumberland coalfield whose only support at the darkest of times came from the NUM.
It is worth noting that much of the press that now attempts to smear our record were fundamentally opposed to ensuring miners and their families were awarded the compensation they deserved.
I remain immensely proud of our record.
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