In a week of ‘appalling’ and ‘foul’ behaviour, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has heaped yet another conflict of interest on top of others that already challenged his fitness
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has attempted to hijack Labour’s disciplinary processes by demanding copies of complaints and updates on their status. He has been accused of inviting clear breaches of data protection – and even wanted complaint and member details to be sent to his private, non-Labour email address.
A ‘coincidental’ intervention
In addition, on Tuesday he made his first ever appearance at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) ‘Disputes Panel’ – which coincidentally was due to discuss serious allegations against one of Watson’s close allies: former Sandwell council leader Steve Eling.
Watson so disrupted the meeting with what was described by other NEC members as ‘foul’ and ‘appalling’ behaviour that the panel was unable to complete its business and the discussion of the case against Eling had to be postponed.
A troubling track record
While Watson intervened on Tuesday when not intervening would have threatened an ally, eighteen months or so earlier, Watson had refused to intervene when a sexually-harassed woman councillor had asked for his help against another ally – Richard Marshall, a close Sandwell associate of Eling. The woman councillor was forced to miss meetings to avoid meeting the man accused of abusing her.
Even more problematic
But Tuesday saw another, perhaps even more problematic Watson intervention involving another two councillors from the same Sandwell borough: Bob and Barbara Price.
The Prices quit the Labour Party in 2017 in protest as serial bullying of councillors, especially women, by senior figures in Sandwell Labour. One of the women, Councillor Yvonne Davies, was suspended from the Labour group for speaking out against the same Richard Marshall.
Cllr Davies – who has also accused Tom Watson of bullying her so badly that he made her ‘life a misery – and was recently readmitted after being fully exonerated. The Prices rejoined last autumn when the NEC’s investigation into complaints against senior Sandwell figures was announced.
During the party’s assessment of Cllr Davies’ case, Bob and Barbara Price gave evidence to investigators against one of the councillors who had behaved particularly aggressively toward Cllr Davies at the meeting where she criticised Marshall for his involvement in taking tens of thousands of pounds from a local widow. The Prices are now seeking to stand again in May’s local elections.
At the meeting, Watson spoke against the pair’s readmission to the ‘panel’ of candidates.
The aggressive councillor against whom the Prices testified is an employee of Tom Watson.
The SKWAWKBOX wrote to Watson:
You spoke against Bob and Barbara Price during Tuesday’s disputes panel. Barbara Price was a witness against [redacted] in Yvonne Davies’ complaint against him for bullying behaviour.
[Redacted] is your employee.
Do you acknowledge the conflict of interest?
He did not respond.
In 2012, Tom Watson claimed a witness had given him “clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No 10”. The witness had not said this and in 2015 Watson was forced to apologise.
Watson does not appear to have learned any lessons from that experience. Earlier this year, he demanded the suspension of a whole CLP – a CLP the party said had acted within its rights.
This week, instead of recusing himself when complaints involving his ally were on the agenda, Watson disrupted the meeting so badly the case could not be decided.
And in the same meeting, instead of recusing himself from a case involving two opponents because of an equally clear conflict of interest, he tried to block their application to stand for the Labour Party.
Watson’s history, both recent and more distant, mean Labour cannot allow him anywhere near any disciplinary process – except the one he probably deserves to face himself for abuing his position and bringing the party into disrepute.
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