Labour MP and former interim leader Harriet Harman has suffered a humiliating rebuke after emailing local party members encouraging them to vote for right-wing candidates in the ongoing elections to Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
Labour rules – and GDPR data protection regulations – do not allow members’ details to be used for purposes for which those details were not expressly provided. The party’s Code of Conduct for the NEC elections states:
The use of any other party data to which a candidate or their supporters have access to by virtue of holding another office should not be used for the purpose of the candidate’s election campaign; such use may lead to disqualification as a candidate and potential further disciplinary action...
In addition, the appendix to Labour’s rules governing access to members’ data is clear:
ii. Misuse of information contained within the membership lists could be a breach of the Data Protection Act, and should be reported immediately to the Data Protection Officer at Head Office.
Despite this, Harman sent out the following email to local members on Monday encouraging them to vote for particular candidates in the NEC elections:
Later the same day, Labour’s HQ sent out an email to all members warning them that they must not use member lists to ask members to vote for particular candidates in the election – on pain of disciplinary action including disqualification as a candidate if they breach the rule:
By the following lunchtime, Harman had emailed local members retracting her appeal for their votes for her preferred candidates:
But this wasn’t Harman’s first such email. On 2 September, she sent a similar email to members:
This prompted a response later the same day from Camberwell and Peckham Labour party’s secretary, in an email sent to all the CLP’s members:
although packed with information and opinion, Harriet’s e-mail leaves some key pieces of information unexplained or addressed, particularly for those new to our Party.
For newer members, the NEC is Labour’s National Executive Committee. It is made up of representatives from each section of the Party – the Shadow Cabinet, Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), councillors, trade unions, affiliated organisations, Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), Young Labour and BAME Labour. All sections have elected representatives but our local Party will be dealing only with nominations for the CLP places this month. You can find out
more about the role and composition of the NEC on Labour’s website here.
Harriet’s personal preferences for the CLP NEC positions, whilst perfectly legitimate, are just that – nothing more and nothing less. She will have the opportunity to support and advocate on behalf of the nomination of these candidates in her own CLP when they meet to discuss this. Harriet will also have a vote in deciding who is elected as the PLP representatives on the NEC – so will have two bites at the cherry.
I did toy with the idea of sharing with all members my personal preferences for NEC nominations by our CLP, but have decided to rise above this – because two wrongs don’t make a right. This is the second time that Harriet has intervened
in processes that are legitimately the Constituency Party Leadership Team’s to manage – the last time being the election of a new Leader & Deputy Leader, earlier this year.
One local Labour member described Harman’s first email as “an outrageous factional abuse of access to data”. Data protection specialists also confirmed to the SKWAWKBOX that such misuse of members’ data without their permission to do so would be prohibited under the law in their opinion.
Harriet Harman was contacted for comment but did not respond.
The SKWAWKBOX is aware that she is just one of an array of right-wing Labour MPs who have written to members to ask them to vote a particular way, in spite of the party rule and the relevant data protection legislation. In some cases, they have been helped or protected by regional Labour staff. If you have received such an email from your MP, send details in confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your help. The site is provided free of charge but depends on the support 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 or here to set up a monthly donation via GoCardless (SKWAWKBOX will contact you to confirm the GoCardless amount). Thanks for your solidarity so SKWAWKBOX can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.