The MSM have been attempting to make something of an email by PLP (parliamentary Labour party) chair John Cryer to MPs bemoaning the party’s decision to put PLP secretary Dan Simpson on ‘gardening leave’ for the remainder of his notice period. Simpson handed in his notice some three weeks ago.
In essence, this is a non-story – although there has been (of course) an attempt to portray this as some kind of anti-Jewish move, as Simpson is apparently Jewish – although it seems few of his colleagues were aware of it.
Cryer’s email is – well, here’s what he said:
I am writing to update you following yesterday’s decision by Jennie Formby, the Labour party’s new general secretary, to disallow Dan Simpson from working his notice period as the PLP Secretary and Director of Political Services, and force him into a period of ‘gardening leave’, rather than remaining in the service of the PLP until the summer as had been previously agreed.
Since this was communicated to Dan and to myself, I have made it absolutely clear to Jennie that to use her first day in the job to effectively remove our secretary with immediate effect shows a worrying set of priorities.
Our secretary has always enjoyed the confidence of the PLP, a confidence that has been necessary to carry out the demands of the role. This confidence has been derived from the fact that the PLP have been instrumental in their appointment. We, through the chair, have always chosen who we trust to conduct affairs on our behalf. It is deeply troubling that we have not been afforded that right on this occasion.
Speaking of Simpson’s interim replacement, Cryer went on to say,
While I am deeply disappointed that no interview or due process has taken place, I know that Ben [Foley] will work hard for the short period up until the summer recess to manage the support that is provided to our front bench.
Myself, and colleagues from the Parliamentary Committee, wish to thank Dan for his tremendous record in the party – over ten years of outstanding service. I have asked him to attend our first meeting back after recess so that we can thank him personally. I hope you will be able to attend to show your support.
This email misses the point in a number of ways.
First, Dan Simpson resigned, along with a number of other ‘Southside’ figures, before Jennie Formby started her role as General Secretary – in fact, before her appointment had even been announced, so nobody can sensibly suggest he was victimised.
Second, ‘gardening leave’ is not a punishment. Mr Simpson gets to be paid for the next couple of months for sitting at home or doing anything else that takes his fancy, instead of having to go to work.
Third, no ‘interview or due process’ is needed to appoint a temporary acting PLP secretary for the brief time until full-time PLP secretary Sarah Mulholland returns from maternity leave.
Fourth, replacing Simpson now allows a smooth handover when Ms Mulholland does return, so it’s merely good management – Simpson’s notice period runs out before she comes back, so there would have been a hiatus and no time for anyone to learn the ropes.
The SKWAWKBOX spoke to a number of MPs about Mr Simpson. All felt that the attempt to suggest his gardening leave was connected to him being Jewish was outrageous and damaging to the fight against genuine antisemitism. The most positive thing any of them was willing to say about him was “effective organiser”, while all considered him to be at the far-Blairite end of the Labour spectrum – although such opinions are of course subjective and Mr Cryer’s appears to differ.
Ben Foley, who will replace Simpson on an interim basis, is highly regarded and well liked – and it seems Cryer can’t fault Corbyn’s/Formby’s choice, as his email expects good things from him.
In short, much centrist ado about nothing – and not very considerate of the other Labour employees involved.
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