On Thursday, the SKWAWKBOX exclusively reported a bombshell dropped in the heartland of the Labour right, in the form of the suspension of the right-dominated ‘LCF’ (Local Campaign Forum) – the body that controls candidate selections – in the West Midlands borough of Sandwell, home to both Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and Labour First die-hard MP John Spellar.
The following day, in another exclusive, this blog published the ‘highly confidential’ email sent by the secretary of Sandwell council’s Labour group to ‘all Labour group members and observers’, advising them of the suspension.
In a third exclusive, the SKWAWKBOX can reveal that the chair one of the three constituency Labour parties (CLPs) in the area, West Bromwich West (WBW), has written a stern email on behalf of the CLP’s executive to the Labour group secretary, asking for answers to searching questions that suggest WBW members feel that even the way notifications of the suspension are being handled might be an attempt by councillors to limit damage and influence proceedings:
The chair advises the group secretary that WBW has played a full role in the complaints about the conduct of the LCF – and challenges the ‘advice’ given by the secretary and the Labour group whips in their email notification of the LCF suspension.
In the context of that challenge, the advice in the notification could be taken as an attempt to suppress or divert:
However, as there is now an active investigation, discussion or debate on this cannot be permitted. This is in order to safeguard the independence of the investigation. For now, all queries you may have should be directed to Regional Office.
The WBW chair also points out that many of the people who have been the subject of complaints are now members of the council’s Labour group on whose behalf the notification – and the ban on ‘discussion or debate’ – were sent. The potential conflict of interest is huge.
He points, too, to the fact that the CLP is conducting its own investigation into some of the issues and expresses concern that the ban might be used as an excuse to avoid answering questions in that investigation – and suggests that the council’s Labour group is actings as if local CLPs are answerable to the group instead of vice versa.
Finally, the chair suggests that there has been a lack of transparency in the way even the earliest communications around the suspension have been conducted – that those with a conflict of interest have not been as open about it as should be expected – and asks who was behind the instruction to send the email about the suspension, making clear that he expects any discussions among councillors to be properly minuted and available.
It seems that local party officers in a position to recognise it consider that the powers-that-be in Sandwell are attempting to influence the investigation and the behaviour of members even as those influential individuals reel from the shock news of Jennie Formby’s decision to suspend the body that would have been used to control selections – unfairly, according to those complaining.
Whether it’s the new regional director to be appointed soon or a central representative of Ms Formby and the NEC, they are going to have their work cut out to unpick the rights and wrongs of a deeply unacceptable situation in Sandwell.
That makes it all the more essential that they act resolutely – and succeed.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.