Rochdale Labour ‘imploding’ as Farnell non-suspension spirals

As the SKWAWKBOX covered last week, Rochdale CLP’s (constituency Labour party) secretary sent a resignation letter to members last week in protest over the failure of Labour’s HQ and regional office to suspend the leader of Rochdale council, who has been accused of knowing about abuse at Knowl View school and doing nothing – and of misleading the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) when questioned about it.

Knowl View in Rochdale

According to local members the problem goes beyond mere inaction, with allegations of attempts to block the discussion of a CLP motion calling on the party to suspend the council leader while the matter is investigated.

Now the matter has become murkier still.

Yesterday, the Chair of the CLP sent the email below to all members, copied to their MP:

To all Rochdale Labour Party Members
Cc Tony Lloyd MP


Dear Labour Party member,

I am writing to you as Chair of the Rochdale Constituency Labour Party to apologise for the unsolicited and unauthorised email you received on Thursday from the former secretary of the local Labour Party.

As Chair, I and other officers believe we have given every support to Ms _______ as secretary. She has always been able to communicate with me and only on Monday this week did I have a detailed discussion with her about the business for forthcoming meetings.

In relation to the issue of the current Independent Inquiry into CSA, the local party is following the advice of the national General Secretary of the party in that it would not be appropriate for Labour party members or constituency parties to comment or prejudge the outcome of the Inquiry.

It is important that the Inquiry should be allowed to get on with its job without any political interference and we should await its findings.

There were many other inaccuracies in the email which are to be dealt with by the Executive Committee.

Ms _________’s email, which was sent to hundreds of local party members, has been reported to the Labour Party’s Compliance Officer at head office for the unauthorised use of the personal email addresses of party members, which is a clear breach of party rules and the Data Protection Act.

Once again, I apologise for having to write to you regarding this matter, but I think it is important that members are aware of the facts. I know the vast majority of party members are deeply frustrated by internal party squabbles.

We are committed to working hard for the election of a Labour Government under Jeremy Corbyn and taking on the real enemy – the most incompetent and disastrous Tory government we have seen for decades.

May I thank you for your continued support for the Labour Party.

Yours fraternally
[Name redacted]
Chair Rochdale Constituency Labour Party

Members have told the SKWAWKBOX of their anger at what they perceive as an attempt to strike out at the former secretary. The email certainly raises some serious questions:

  • the Chair says the secretary has been reported to Labour compliance for an alleged breach of the DPA (Data Protection Act) and party rules in her resignation email to members.
    Under Labour’s rules, CLP secretaries have automatic access to member email addresses for party business and it would be difficult to argue that her resignation was not party business.
  • The chair’s email was sent to all Rochdale members from a gmail account. Under Labour’s rules, CLP chairs do not have access to member email addresses. The ‘membership vice-chair’ of a CLP has access – but Rochdale’s membership vice-chair apparently resigned months ago and has not been replaced. The secretary’s resignation took place last Thursday and the Rochdale ‘exec’ does not meet until today, so no interim secretary has been appointed and the CLP has not met to elect a replacement. This raises concerns under the DPA.
  • the email says it would not be appropriate for members to ‘prejudge‘ the outcome of the IICSA inquiry and suggests that the suspension of the Council Leader would be ‘political interference‘. An administrative suspension during an investigation does not prejudge the outcome of the inquiry or interfere with it – such suspensions are routine in cases of serious allegations and do not presume guilt. A number of MPs are under such suspensions at the moment, as well as the leader of Slough council, so it’s perfectly standard practice for an elected representative to be suspended in such cases without prejudging guilt – so why hasn’t this been done in the case of the Rochdale council leader?

The SKWAWKBOX also understands that attempts are also being made locally to use an email, sent by Labour General Secretary Iain McNicol to Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd, to silence members with regard to the council leader’s alleged behaviour.

That email suggests that Mr Lloyd should not comment about the matter, but is specifically to the MP and not to members. Members feel that this is a cynical attempt to silence dissent.

The former secretary of the CLP described her concerns at ‘censorship and manoeuvering’ to keep the council leader in post and this has been echoed by local members to the SKWAWKBOX. Shouldn’t Labour members in Rochdale be free to express their opinions on a matter of such gravity?

One senior local figure told the SKWAWKBOX:

The party need to come in and investigate, the whole CLP is imploding and party rules have gone out the window. Other Exec officers are contemplating resigning over [council leader] Farnell and the members are increasingly becoming desperate.

This is clearly a situation that needs outside investigation and fast action to ensure that local people in Rochdale can have confidence in the behaviour of local Labour councillors and officers with regard to the terrible events at Knowl View and the serious – as yet unproven – allegations currently under investigation.

Rochdale CLP’s chair has been contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.

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  1. Anyone who has ever lived in Rochdale during the 60s-00s would have known the rumours around Fat Cyril and his penchant for young boys. However Fat Cyril got away with the abuse for decades due to the strength of the local Rochdale Observer and his brother Norman who led the Fibdems in Rochdale and led the council for some time.

    Cyril and his friends created a cult of personality around him, making him out to be some lovable eccentric Uncle. Except Cyril lived very strangely with his mother until her death and in a small terraced house very near the town centre which was totally unsuitable for a man of his extreme physical size and an ageing elderly mother.
    I met Fat Cyril om numerous occassions via work when he would enter the sorting office car park demanding his mail aggressively despite being retired from Parliament for at least 4 years.

    Farnell like other leaders on the town would have been aware of the serious concerns around Fat Cyril but like others chose to ignore them.

    Sadly this isn’t the first scandal around Rochdale CLP. The stories I could tell…

    Farnell is a Blairite, a darling of NW regional office. So don’t expect McNichol to do anything to upset the Progress/Labour First rightwing neoliberal cult.

  2. CLP difficulties will not be sorted out fairly with McNicol in charge of the NEC and an intransigent Progress/Labour First leaning NW Regional office. The Regional office are unwilling to assist or support newer left leaning LP members, I have personal experience of this and would complain about it if I thought it would do any good. The sooner we get a balance on the NEC ( and a chairperson) that represents the membership the better.

    1. Don’t disagree with your basic point, but just for clarity McNicol isn’t in charge of the NEC. He’s the senior employee of the party (General Secretary). The chair of the NEC is Andy Kerr, a good lefty. Suspect Mr McNicol is finding his job a lot less fun with a good left majority on the NEC and hopefully about to get stronger

  3. I too heard the rumours, which turned out to be true, about Fat Cyril!
    I worked on the buses in Bury in the 1960/70 and frequented daily to Rocky!
    As you write it was ignored by those close to him and the HACKS IN THE TOWNS SURROUNDING ROCKY!
    Even now the surface as only been scratched regarding those in public office dealing with children!

  4. The Left in the Party must stand with the Ex CLP Secretary who resigned her position and their support must be loud and vociferous! Every Labour Left Winger must fight against the Centrists which is just another word for Tory Lite! Bring Socialism, red in tooth and claw to Rochdale!

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