In the last few days, the SKWAWKBOX has published details of an intervention – or ‘clarification’ as she described it – by a BBC journalist in a London Labour Party meeting to decide whether a councillor would be re-listed as a candidate in May’s local elections.
The councillor was the subject of a complaint from a local Labour officer in relation to claims she had made to the same BBC journalist, which the complainant said included incorrect allegations of intimidation and threatening behaviour, had brought the party into disrepute and led to harassment of the officer.
The journalist’s intervention was unusual – but it was not the end of the story.
The journalist’s email – to…
The SKWAWKBOX obtained a copy of the email that the journalist sent to the Local Campaign Forum (LCF) – and a copy that she also sent to Nora Mulready.
Ms Mulready has become well-known as a result of her appearances in the media to attack anti-HDV campaigners, in which she has defended ‘centrist’, pro-HDV figures and has made claims of bullying and abuse by left-wing activists. The anti-HDV campaign includes people from all parties and none, expressing the anger of residents at a plan that would involve their removal from their homes with – according to campaigners – no guarantee and little prospect of being able to return.
Ms Mulready quit the Labour Party last month, the day before a hearing into a complaint of alleged disrepute against her involving alleged bullying and false statements – allegations made by the same Labour officer whose complaint against the councillor the journalist intervened in.
The BBC journalist sent the email to Ms Mulready some nine hours before she sent it to the LCF.
That BBC journalist is Susana Mendonça – political correspondent for BBC News:
She is believed to be a Haringey resident.
The councillor whose hearing Mendonça intervened in is Haringey councillor Barbara Blake. Cllr Blake had been the subject of an earlier complaint from a number of local Labour figures, who objected to a tweet she shared that they felt broke the Labour code of conduct – which says those standing for selection as candidates must not spread negative information about their opponents.
Those complaints were set aside by London Labour when Cllr Blake announced, in a letter to Labour members, that she was withdrawing from selection as a candidate for May’s local elections:
Ms Blake had then surprised the LCF by applying for selection in Seven Sisters ward, even though her letter stated she was withdrawing entirely from the selection process – so a new complaint was lodged.
This was the complaint discussed on Monday night and the trigger for Ms Mendonça’s email to the LCF – which she also sent to Ms Mulready.
Earlier this month, Barbara Blake gave an interview to Ms Mendonça for the BBC, which was published on the BBC News website.
In that interview, Ms Blake alleged that the complaints against her were a “culture of complaints…used by left-wing members of a local Labour party to intimidate colleagues“.
Ms Blake also made an explicit allegation that complaints had been processed without giving her a chance to defend herself:
In her email to the LCF, Ms Mendonça told Labour officers:
She notes that Ms Blake was accused of making ‘false allegations’ – and states: “I also saw the actual emails“.
Cllr Blake told Ms Mendonça that she was not asked to give her ‘side of the story’. Below is an email – one of two supposedly intimidatory emails – sent in November last year by the Labour officer to Cllr Blake in regard to the original complaint against her:
The email does not merely give Ms Blake the opportunity to put her side of the story. It specifically asks her to do so.
In spite of this email, which Ms Mendonça says she saw, Ms Blake’s claim that she was not allowed to give her side of the story was included in the BBC’s 8 February coverage – without comment or qualification.
The email shown above does mention that if the party’s endorsement was withdrawn because of the complaints, any selection Ms Blake had won would not be valid – but the BBC article describes this as “sen[ding] letters threatening not to endorse her as a candidate“.
While Ms Mendonça describes her email as a ‘clarification’, it also gives the NCF her personal opinion that the emails were intimidating.
Ms Mendonça’s email told the NCF:
the job of a journalist in an open democracy is to find out the facts of an issue
Ms Mendonça told the LCF that she had seen the emails. One of the emails asked Ms Blake to provide her statement. The BBC’s 8 February article about alleged intimidation included an incorrect claim to be made that Cllr Blake was not asked to put her side of the story.
The BBC ‘response’
The SKWAWKBOX asked the BBC seven questions:
- is it considered appropriate and ethical behaviour by a BBC journalist to be sending information regarding a sensitive disciplinary case to a third party? When we first spoke to Ms Mendonça this evening, she denied having sent the information to Ms Mulready.
- Ms Mendonça wrote to the LCF:
“I also saw the actual emails sent by ________ to Cllr Blake and to other Labour members which – in terms tone and language – did appear to be intimidatory. But, to be clear, it was not Barbara Blake who gave me those emails.”
This is clearly a personal opinion rather than a communication of someone else’s, but when we challenged Ms Mendonça about this earlier, she claimed she was merely communicating someone else’s opinion. Is this appropriate?
- As noted in question two, she stated that she ‘saw the actual emails’. A BBC article written by Ms Mendonça quoted Ms Blake, unchallenged, claiming that she had not been asked for her side of the story [when one of the emails asked specifically for her statement]
- we asked Ms Mendonça whether she was unaware that Ms Mulready resigned from the Labour Party the day before a Labour disciplinary hearing into allegations of bullying against her? She has asked us to put the question to the BBC press office
- we asked Ms Mendonça whether she didn’t realise how sharing that information with a 3rd party would raise concerns about collusion between the BBC and anti-left figures if it ever came to light. She has asked us to put the question to the BBC press office
- Did a BBC Senior manager authorise this journalist to write to the Labour party and intervene in an internal disciplinary case?
- Did Ms Mendonça know Cllr Blake, Nora Mulready, Claire Kober or any of the other pro-HDV figures before being allocated to the case? If so, why was she still given it?
We received a nine-word response – one that did not answer any of the questions posed.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Ms Mendonça for comment. She initially defended her email and denied that she had sent it to Ms Mulready. When we sent her a screenshot of the email to Mulready, she declined to answer any further questions and asked us to contact the BBC press office – which provided the nine-word response.
We also attempted to contact Barbara Blake by phone and email for comment, advising her that the apparent contradiction between her claim to the BBC and the email she received asking her to provide a written statement would form part of this article. At the time of publication, two days later, she has not provided a comment.
At the time of writing, Ms Mendonça’s Twitter account has been inactive since we contacted her for comment.
The sharing of information by a BBC journalist with a ‘hostile’ third party – and the inclusion of claims in BBC coverage when proof to the contrary was in an email in the possession of the BBC – will be of grave concern to those who believe the broadcaster already shows considerable bias against the Labour Party leadership and its left-wing membership.
Especially when the BBC provides a nine-word non-response in answer to seven specific questions about those concerns.
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