Labour’s announcement of the resignation of General Secretary Iain McNicol on Friday – although the negotiations had started last Tuesday, as the SKWAWKBOX exclusively revealed – has been described by the mainstream media (MSM) as ‘sudden’, with some outlets reporting that McNicol himself had not been aware that his departure would be announced.
The SKWAWKBOX can now exclusively report what, according to Labour sources, may have accelerated the party’s announcement of McNicol’s resignation.
The Sandwell accusations
Two senior Labour figures in the West Midlands borough of Sandwell are currently under investigation over a string of serious allegations, ranging from interference in local election process, financial impropriety, harassment and bullying, abuse of power, racism and severe sexual harassment.
The events alleged took place over a considerable period and include claims that Asian applicants were consciously excluded from selection as candidates for May’s local elections – and that obscene WhatsApp messages were sent to female colleagues.
Alongside those allegations, senior local officers including councillors have alleged that Labour’s West Midlands Regional Office (WMRO) has ‘protected’ the pair, allowing them to prolong their behaviour.
Although there is now heightened public awareness of the situation in Sandwell and an investigation into the matters is now underway, the pair have not been suspended – in spite of the years-long period over which allegations have been made.
Declining to act
On Friday, Iain McNicol was told by the NEC (National Executive Committee) that the two officials should be suspended while the investigation was carried out. Both have sexual harassment complaints against them, as well as other allegations, and a suspension without prejudice would be expected practice.
Labour sources claim that McNicol declined to commit to the suspensions, saying only that the investigations were ongoing. Some sources say this is the second time something similar has happened with regard to Sandwell, with the earlier case involving a request to suspend the borough’s ‘Local Campaign Forum’ (LCF) – although a suspension of Sandwell selections was forced through after the revelations from a local source, sending shockwaves through the entrenched Labour right.
Labour MPs have, correctly, been suspended during investigations of less serious allegations than those against the two Sandwell men and ordinary Labour members have been suspended for innocuous social media posts.
According to some sources, this failure to commit was a major factor in the decision to announce the resignation without delay.
The parliamentary attack
Last month, Tory MP James Morris branded Sandwell council a ‘rotten regime’ in an extraordinary House of Commons attack and claimed Labour deputy leader and local MP Tom Watson ‘had serious questions to answer‘ for ‘remain[ing] so quiet‘ on the matter.
Local members have alleged that the two councillors who have been found guilty of misconduct were ‘stitched up by the right’.
Sandwell selections are set to resume this week, but the resumption is likely to be challenged.
A Sandwell dossier will be discussed at an NEC officers’ meeting tomorrow, ahead of the full NEC meeting next month.
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