There has been an interesting sequence of events on Merseyside this week – or to be more precise, on the Wirral peninsula.
On Monday, the ‘Labour Uncut‘ website featured an interview with supposed ‘northern [Labour] legend’, former north-west regional director Sheila Murphy, who launched a blistering attack on the Labour Party’s newer members on the peninsula:
Ms Murphy, who also used to work as office manager for Blairite MP Luciana Berger and was a prominent member of Yvette Cooper’s 2015 leadership campaign team, accuses other Labour members of bullying, but has a not entirely unproblematic history in that regard, both historically and more recently – but that will be the topic of a separate article.
Coincidentally, on the very next day the very same site featured a councillor also based on the Wirral, just a few miles south of Ms Murphy – Michael Sullivan – announcing his resignation of the Labour ‘whip’ in a blistering letter in which he dehumanises supposed ‘hard left’ Labour members as ‘parasites’ and compares them to worms:
The letter, addressed to council leader Phil Davies, has featured prominently in the local press, as well as on Labour Uncut. Cllr Davies said he was “saddened and shocked” by news of the resignation.
So far, so ‘moderate’. But then things begin to turn odd.
The original Word document containing Sullivan’s resignation letter was also released – perhaps unintentionally – and was obtained by the SKWAWKBOX. And the document’s ‘properties’ present some interesting features.
First, according to the properties of the Word document, the author of Mr Sullivan’s resignation letter is not, as you might expect, Mr Sullivan:
Instead, according to Microsoft, the author of the document is one Martin Liptrot. Mr Liptrot is a PR professional and former policy adviser to Wirral council leader Davies, who provoked ‘fury’ last year when the council appointed him to the £350-a-day position of ‘investor development manager’:
Why would a now-former-Labour councillor’s letter show a close ally of the still-Labour council leader as its author?
But the interesting aspects are not yet exhausted.
Phil Davies has been leader of Wirral council since 2012. He was also Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Wirral West in 2010, taking over from a Labour incumbent who was stepping down – but lost to Esther McVey.
Mr Davies also appears in the properties of “Mr Sullivan’s” resignation letter – as the last person to save the document:
The requests for comment
The SKWAWKBOX contacted, or attempted to contact, all the protagonists in this strange situation, starting with Mr Sullivan.
He insisted that he was the author of the letter and categorically denied that Martin Liptrot had been involved:
SKWAWKBOX: “I’ve been sent a copy of the original Word document and it indicates that the author of the document wasn’t you – it was Mr Liptrot, who is employed by Wirral council.”
Sullivan: “That’s not correct.”
SKWAWKBOX: “His name is in the author field in the properties.”
Sullivan: “I don’t care what’s in the file, it’s not correct.”
SKWAWKBOX: “So what’s Mr Liptrot’s involvement with it? Because it seems odd it’s been composed on his machine. This isn’t just a ‘read by’ field, this is the authorship.”
Sullivan: “I was the author of that letter, nobody else.”
He confirmed that he has also resigned as a Labour member, not merely from the Labour whip as a councillor, pointing out that he has two weeks to change his mind on the former decision.
Sullivan was also unrepentant about his dehumanising language of ‘parasites’, stating that he had chosen it for maximum impact.
Next the SKWAWKBOX called Martin Liptrot. He stated that he had received the Word document from Cllr Sullivan – but when asked how his name came to appear on the document, he initially said that he had ‘formatted’ it for Phil Davies:
SKWAWKBOX: “The properties on the document indicate that the author of the document is yourself and not the councillor.”
Liptrot: “No, I think that – I think that the, the document that came through into – to Phil, Phil Davies, came-came, I-I-I formatted it for him.”
However, when it was pointed out to him that formatting someone else’s document would not result in his name appearing in the ‘author’ field, he somewhat breathlessly claimed that the line was breaking up and then ended the call.
Subsequent attempts to call again rang through on Liptrot’s device but were either unanswered or rejected and went to voicemail.
The SKWAWKBOX then called Phil Davies’ office and mobile lines, including multiple calls to the mobile, left a voicemail and sent an email requesting an urgent call back, but no response has been received.
The SKWAWKBOX also attempted to establish contact with Sheila Murphy, advising her via a Labour Party official that it concerned an article and she was invited to comment – but the Labour contact came back to say that she had declined to take a call.
So-called ‘centrists’ attacking left-wing members with accusations of abuse or bullying have become almost routine.
But as far as the properties of the latest set of complaints in the resignation letter of Michael Sullivan are concerned, that letter was authored by a PR professional closely linked to the serving Labour leader of the council. Mr Sullivan has said that the letter was his own work – but when Mr Liptrot was asked to explain how his name came to be in the author field of the properties, he ended the call and declined to pick up when further attempts were made to call him.
Whoever wrote it, the letter also happened to feature the day after a similar set of accusations by another ‘centrist’ just a few miles away – published in the same publication.
The Sullivan case is not routine or typical of other centrist attacks around the country. Or is it?
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