Haringey council leader Claire Kober has been at the centre of a ‘bullying’ storm this week after she announced that she would be stepping down after May’s local elections, blaming alleged sexism, bullying and personal abuse.
The BBC has featured the issue no fewer than three times on its Daily Politics programme, treating the claims as fact on numerous occasions in an apparent abandonment of impartiality or balance, in spite of the fact that the claims have not yet been investigated and that local members and residents have alleged high-handed and even bulling on the part of Ms Kober.
One programme was even titled to ask ‘Is Labour the new nasty party?’
None of the claims in either direction have been investigated, let alone proven – yet the BBC has ignored one set and handled the other as factual.
Ms Kober is scheduled to be a guest on tomorrow’s Andrew Marr Show, in what will be the fourth discussion of the same topic in fewer than seven days.
But the situation in Haringey is far from the simple ‘bullying left-wingers’ narrative the BBC and other ‘MSM’ have attempted to portray.
For example, ‘centrist’ council candidates opposed to Ms Kober’s hugely controversial ‘HDV’ plan to transfer huge numbers of council houses to a public-private partnership have been reselected, while opposition to the plan has come from members of all parties and none, as well as from almost all local union branches.
Now the SKWAWKBOX has obtained a series of emails showing that, while Ms Kober has alleged that she has been bullied – or as BBC presenter Andrew Neil put it this week ‘hounded out of office’ – she took concrete steps to try to block the candidacies of a number of prospective left-wing, anti-HDV candidates for the forthcoming local elections.
In one of the emails, Ms Kober admits doing so.
In September last year, as Haringey ‘LCF’ (local campaign forum) was preparing to interview prospective candidates, a controversy erupted among local officers about a series of ‘dossiers’ submitted by Claire Kober about six candidates, objecting to their selection.
This was an action that apparently worried the then-chair of the LCF so deeply that he wrote to other officers urging them not to do the same – and warning them of a likely breach of the Data Protection Act (DPA) if they did the same:
Since the applicants’ list has now been circulated to all LCF members, this opens up the option to other LCF members to lodge data with the assessment team in relation to specific applicants.
I can only urge all LCF members not to do so so as not to overburden the process in terms of administration, the interview timings and the handling of any subsequent complaints. It may also reflect badly on the person submitting such material.
Any person creating and using data in this way is the data controller since, unlike the branch and whip’s reports, this material has not been commissioned or sanctioned by the LCF. They therefore bear full responsibility for any such data as it is supplied by them in a personal capacity and not by the LCF or on its instructions. I also believe it is not covered by any consents obtained so far either, as those consents relate to different data and different data controllers
[Emphases added by the SKWAWKBOX]
In the email exchanges that ensued, Ms Kober wrote to the LCF detailing the information she had sent:
The text of the email, for the benefit of any visually-impaired readers using text-to-voice:
It’s probably easiest if I let you know what ‘data’ I sent to the procedures Secretary and regional director to be shared with interview panels. In addition to a short covering letter, I sent the following:
Candidate 1: publicly accessible Facebook post and screenshot of Haringey Council web page detailing the result of a by-election
Candidate 2: publicly accessible response to the Local Plan (obtained by googling ‘candidate’s name haringey’) and publicly accessible Facebook posts
Candidate 3: publicly accessible Facebook exchange
Candidate 4: 192.com background report. Background reports are publicly accessible and can be obtained on any adult in England. They provide information on an individual using public data sources (principally the electoral roll and Companies House records).
Candidate 5: No info shared beyond a covering letter
Candidate 6: screen shot of the Friends of Finsbury Park web page
I trust this information is useful.
The email exchanges make clear that the ‘covering letter’ was a subjective opinion about one candidate that s/he should not be selected. The ‘192.com background report’ was a 15-page report purchased from that website on a candidates background.
The subjects of the dossiers included three sitting councillors – casting an unflattering light on ‘centrist’ complaints about deselection ‘purges’.
As a result of the concerns raised about this information, which had not been requested or authorised by the LCF, a senior local officer sent Ms Kober five questions about what she had done:
- What part of the rulebook or NEC guidance led you to believe that additional material to the Whips Report and Branch reports were part of the process?
- Does this contravene the candidates code of conduct?
- Did you only carry out this research on the 6 candidates or were these the only people you found things on (although by your own admission, one was just your subjective opinion letter)
- If you carried out this research on all candidates, were they aware you were doing this? Do you object to us writing to all candidates highlighting there could be the possibility you have?
- When did you start to collect this information and where has it been stored before you submitted it? How was it stored? Did the subject know you were collecting this and did they consent or were they aware?
Ms Kober never responded.
During a pre-recorded interview shown on the Daily Politics programme this week, Ms Kober repeated her allegations of bullying, sexism and personal attacks and it is expected that she will do similarly on Marr on Sunday.
The targets of her ‘dossiers’ may well have felt bullied and might certainly characterise the obtaining of credit reports and other personal information, or the writing of ‘subjective cover letters’, as ‘personal attacks’.
If the BBC does not reflect such information during the Marr programme tomorrow and subsequently, it will be failing abjectly in its obligations of balance and impartiality – and in the most basic requirements of journalism.
Claire Kober was contacted for comment.
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