As the SKWAWKBOX covered last weekend, Labour MP and former leadership challenger Owen Smith triggered much amusement on social media when he jumped to the completely erroneous assumption that Twitter account @James4Labour was John McDonnell aide James Mills and attempted to embarrass ‘Mills’ by commenting on his Twitter output.
Smith only embarrassed himself – and started a reverse “I’m Spartacus” hashtag, #IAmNotJamesMills.
However, Smith’s behaviour since his blunder has led things down darker paths – and has triggered a formal complaint to the Labour Party by the person behind the @James4Labour account.
Rather than acknowledge his error and apologise – or at least stop ‘digging’ – after his ‘doxxing’ attempt backfired, Smith’s continued tweets on the subject have developed an unpleasant edge:
James’ anger and upset at this behaviour was deep enough to cause him to submit a formal complaint to both the Labour complaints department and to Chief Whip Nick Brown, of which some key extracts are below. The complaint starts with a quote from Labour’s social media policy, which to which all Labour members, including the parliamentary, are expected to adhere. Emphases have been added by the SKWAWKBOX:
“A starting point for all our actions as members of a party and a movement is to treat all people with dignity and respect. This applies to all our dealings with people, offline and online. Everyone should feel able to take part in discussion about our party, country and world. We want to maximise this debate, including critical discussion, as long as it does not result in the exclusion of others”.
With this in mind, I would like to make a formal complaint against the MP, Owen Smith, who has attempted to intimidate, undermine, bully and troll me on twitter these past few days and shown a total lack of respect for me, and many others, which has resulted in being “blocked” on twitter.
His behaviour is totally unacceptable, isn’t what we should expect from our MPs, and goes against the aforementioned statement from the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.
To put all of this in to context so you can see for yourself & make up your own minds…
…Here’s where the complaint starts. Owen decided to reply to my tweet, which you can see above, at 21:58 saying: “Hey, someone told me this evening that you are James Mills who works for John McDonnell. Haven’t you got some proper work to do, James?“
Now, do you think that is an appropriate response to a member of the Labour party? I don’t know who this “someone” is but they couldn’t have been more wrong. The attempted doxing of a member of John McDonnell’s staff is totally unacceptable and not the kind of behaviour we should expect from our MPs. If Owen was so certain of his information, why didn’t he speak with John’s office or contact James Mills direct and deal with it internally. He then called in to question the work ethic of that staff member. Again, totally unacceptable. Owen thought he was on to a winner & so certain of his facts that he felt justified in using twitter to demonise one of John’s staff and show them in a bad light.
He was wrong. And I told him directly he was wrong, making light of the situation despite the seriousness of it. I also said he was “embarrassing” because, surely, one would make absolutely certain they had concrete evidence before coming to attack in this way? As you can see, I followed up asking who ‘James Mills’ was as I had never heard of him until this point.
Instead of realising the error of his ways and accepting that the information he had been given was wrong, he persevered and said I had been “busted”. I’m not quite sure how I was “busted’ as I am not James Mills, I have never been James Mills and I never will be James Mills. Despite what “someone” has said to Owen Smith. Why does he think he has the right to insult someone in this way? His information was wrong.
A point I made on 27/05/2018 in a tweet to Owen Smith, asking for an apology for his error. To both myself and the now unfairly incriminated ‘James Mills’, who has done nothing wrong but has been smeared in the most inappropriate of ways. I ask you: Is that so unreasonable?
Owen then proceeds to abuse me & label me a “Troll”, asking what my name is. I told him, “James. My name is James”…
…Instead of accepting that the information he had been given was wrong, he decides it better to attack me and accuse me of being the troll.
After much deliberation, I felt I couldn’t leave this as his behaviour has been totally unacceptable and unfair on both myself and James Mills. So on the 29/05/2016, there had been a BH so I waited for a day where staff might be able to action something, I tweeted: “I hope @johnmcdonnellMP’s office are writing to @OwenSmith_MP this morning on behalf of @JamesMills1984 as this tweet is totally unacceptable”. The tweet in question is the attempted doxxing of James Mills / a member of John McDonnell’s staff. I am sure you will too recognise the seriousness of this and how inappropriate it is.
He then responds with “Are you still going on, ‘James’?” Why the highlight of my name? As though he doesn’t believe me. I am not a liar and have never been a liar. My name is James and has always been James. Why would I need to lie about this to Owen Smith? HE is the one who was given the wrong information. He then continues, “Anonymity really dents your credibility, you know“. Is THIS really acceptable? Is it really fitting with the NEC Statement of making sure everyone feels they can take part in a discussion about the Labour Party? I think not. And for an MP to attack a member and voter in this way is simply unacceptable. He finally concludes with, “And you’re clogging up my timeline with this dross“. I’m sorry, Owen is the MP & he came at me because he supposedly had information I was somebody i’m actually not. He tweeted this to his 63.9K followers in the hope that he had “got me”. How very wrong he was. Am I to blame for people defending me & stating how out of order Owen was. He was hoping he had got one up on John McDonnell and exposed a member of John’s staff.
Again, I ask you, do you really think this is the behaviour of an MP and a member of our party? I think not.
I am not involved with the inner circle of Labour, with any MP and have never been so. I am an ordinary member and voter, engaged in political life, supporting Jeremy Corbyn and fighting for a Labour Government. As I have made very clear in my biog. I don’t need to be attacked by some crazed MP because he has scores to settle and an agenda.
I then posted a final tweet as I tried to make sense of all of this, which stated:
“The only reason I can give for @Owensmith_MP attempting to intimidate and bully me is because I am a supporter of @JeremyCorbyn’s and take an active role in supporting him on Twitter in my capacity as a @UKLabour member & voter”.
All the things the NEC committee encourage, as set out in the statement above. And elsewhere int he Labour Code of Conduct. Owen’s response says more about him and his nastiness than it does about me:
“I think i’ve given you more than enough oxygen, ‘James’? WOW. And, again, why the need to highlight my name. Why does he continue to think I am a liar and not called James despite me telling him that it is. I have no reason to lie. He then says, “Going to spoil your fun now and block you. Go troll someone else. Bye”. Now, it is for him to decide to he blocks or not- that’s up to him- but I ask you: do you really think this is how our MPs should behave? What if someone raised something he didn’t like at one of his surgeries & pointed out that he was wrong? What would he do? Knock them out so he didn’t have to engage? Usher them out of his office? This is not fitting with the statement agreed with the NEC and is not the behaviour we should expect from our elected officials who are there to serve us, the people.
He then posted a tweet, which he delights in saying he had a “very productive 10 mins… blocking various trots, trolls and tedious tin-hatters“.
I’m sorry. Is it really acceptable for him to insult us in this way. We are not “trots” or “tin-hatters”. We are dedicated members of the Labour party, working hard everyday to fight against the Tory regime and work for a Labour Government. I’m sorry that Owen finds the engagement “tedious” but maybe he should have thought about that before he came with his false accusations, smears and lie and posted such nonsense to his followers on twitter.
My name is James. Has always been James. And will continue to be James. I don’t work for John McDonnell. I don’t work for the Labour party. And I am not involved with the party other than being an active member online and canvassing when I get the opportunity. To say Owen Smith has been rattled by me is an understatement.
I am appalled that Owen Smith thinks his behaviour is acceptable and that he feels he has the right to publicly accuse people in this way. He continued to infer I was a liar and that I was deceiving people. He has been nothing but insulting and I hope you will act.
You will be able to see from Twitter the amount of support I have had from people who agree with me that Owen’s behaviour has been totally unacceptable.
Given Owen likes to use twitter in such a way, I think it is only right that he deletes his tweets, lets us know by tweeting that he has deleted his tweets, giving the reason that they contained untruths and misinformation & attacked an innocent member of the party and also a staff member. I also expect a tweeted public apology to myself and James Mills, tagging us both in the tweet. I also trust you will have an internal investigation regarding the attempting doxing of one of John McDonnell’s staff. Totally unforgivable.
This whole episode has proved that MPs think they are above the electorate and have a right to act in any way this wish.
They do not and I look forward to you taking action and Owen’s public apology on Twitter.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted James Mills, who was unable to provide an opinion publicly because of the nature of his role. However, his few tweets in response to Smith’s may give an indication of his feelings on the matter:
“@James4Labour” told the SKWAWKBOX:
I have asked for three things:
1. He should delete tweets containing untruths.
2. He should tweet saying he deleted them because they contained untruths/misinformation & attacked an innocent Labour Member & also a Staff Member
2. He should tweet an apology tagging me & James Mills
I don’t know that he will. But it might make him think twice before he attempts to dox, troll, insult, humiliate and intimidate again.
Owen Smith has also been contacted for comment.
The Labour Party clearly ‘dodged a bullet’ – happily by a country mile, given the scale of Corbyn’s victory – when members rejected Smith’s attempt to persuade them of his leadership abilities. Jeremy Corbyn’s equanimity, grace under pressure and humility cast an unflattering light on the behaviour and demonstrated attitude of Owen Smith in this episode.
Smith is not the only one. The social media behaviour of many so-called ‘centrists’ makes a mockery of their preferred status as victims of some supposed ‘hard-left abuse’ – and the sooner the Labour Party can shed the ‘hot-house flowers’ that seem to feel entitled to bring it into disrepute, the better.
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