Yvonne Davies, who resigned from the party last week over its failure to protect women or serve local people, releases letter ignored by Labour mayoral candidate
Former Sandwell Council leader Yvonne Davies has accused Labour’s West Midlands Mayor candidate of “self-serving hypocrisy” for his failure to support her in resolving her suspension from the Labour Party. Davies resigned her party membership last week, accusing Labour of failing to protect women or serve local people.
Davies, who had originally supported Byrne in the selection of Labour’s mayoral candidate, has released a letter that she sent to Mr Byrne in September last year, to which he did not respond.
Ms Davies said:
Mr Byrne was keen to associate himself with my suspension in July last year, being quoted in the press and asking for the matter to be dealt with quickly. I wrote to him shortly afterwards and he responded on 16 July saying “I have escalated this with Keir’s office”. He wrote to me again on 17th August to say he had urged David Evans, the general secretary of the Labour Party of the need for, “good people to get stuck in and get a grip of the bad business in Sandwell. fingers crossed, LB”.
With still no response from the party, Davies wrote Byrne a long letter setting out why she was being victimised and again asking him to intervene to get the matters resolved. In that letter she:
- described discriminatory and unequal treatment to which she had been subjected as a working-class woman compared to the ‘perverse impunity of male Labour councillors engaged in actual wrong-doing in Sandwell enjoyed, all of which is known to you and the party’
- said she was having ‘real difficulty in reconciling [his] silence on the injustices levelled against [her] ‘considering you are fully aware of the ‘bad business’ in Sandwell that I as Leader was working on cleaning up
- accused him of ‘self-serving hypocrisy’ for failing to support her while his mayoral campaign manifesto “talks of Values and Compassion and Justice and making things real”
Davies received no response to her letter and says that she now considers “self-serving hypocrisy” to be a fitting strapline for Mr Byrne’s mayoral campaign given that he ‘did not lift a finger in the following 7 months’. She adds that she is aware that other local women have similarly written to Mr Byrne about her treatment by the party without receiving a response and that many women have approached her to start a protest campaign regarding the party’s failure to support women.
Below is the text of the letter:
It’s now nearly 6 weeks since we last corresponded, when you said that you hoped for a speedy resolution, ‘fingers crossed’. It’s actually nearly three months since I was suspended on the basis of malicious and false allegations of antisemitism and still I have had no response from the party other than a confirmation that it had received my first response on the 10th July, not even an acknowledgement of my second response on 22nd July.
I’ve always supported and respected you Liam and I apologise in advance for the directness of what I am about to say, but I feel I must bring matters to a head. I’ve worked in public services all my life and supported many people through disciplinary processes. You know as well as I do that if we were supporting any individual, as a party or as a trade union, we would publicly shame any organisation that demonstrated such a cavalier disregard for its own processes and such a lack of care for the person concerned – let alone a female council leader who has bravely led principled change, despite being subjected to a long and well-documented campaign of bullying and victimisation from senior men in the Sandwell Group over many years.
Your Mayoral Campaign manifesto talks of Values and Compassion and Justice and making things real. Values, Compassion and Justice are about the way you treat individuals Liam, and words are hollow if you can’t model the change you want to make real. Anything else is self-serving hypocrisy. Here’s just a few things you could sort out straight away given your involvement in my case and your place at the very top of the party.
1. Whilst being suspended over allegations of anti-semitism, which I challenge and refute in the strongest terms, I have also been told (8th July) that I have been accused of bullying, but I haven’t been given even a single iota of what these allegations are, who my accuser/accusers are, in complete violation of the rules of natural justice, rendering me unable to defend myself against what I can only assume are unfounded allegations. Why haven’t I been told what these are?
2. How can it be right, Cllr Paul Moore, in violation of the party’s rules, told the Express and Star newspaper of his formal complaint against me? No action has been taken against Cllr Moore for breaching my data in contravention of the DPA 2018, no disciplinary action as far as I’m aware has been taken against him for also breaching confidentiality rules of the party. Why has he not been disciplined?
3. Every communication I have received from the Disputes team has always stressed that: “The Labour Party’s investigation process operates confidentially,” it continues thus: “is vital to ensure fairness and to protect the rights of all concerned under the Data Protection Act 2018,” it strictly prohibits sharing any details: “with third parties or the media, including social media.” Why has this been flagrantly disregarded?
4. You will remember your press comments about my position when you urged the party to deal urgently with the matter…….“Labour MP John Spellar and Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne, Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Mayor, both urged their party to urgently deal with the matter.” You were very keen to be associated with the press reports at that time, but since then, the need for urgency pertaining to my suspension has apparently disappeared and you have said and done nothing to advance this matter at all. Why is that?
5. Why have fellow councillors who have made allegedly anti-semitic social media posts been allowed to continue in their roles with impunity? I’ve attached some of these, but I’m sure you have seen them before, certainly they’ve been reported as complaints to the Party before. I’m not going to stand in judgement over these – but there are some vile comments here compared to what I’ve been suspended for, but which appear to be not even worthy of investigation, let alone suspension? Why not Liam?
Despite my being forced to spend thousands on legal support, I’ve had no response to any of my requests to the party, including a SAR. This is unfair and unacceptable. It is unfair and unacceptable that I am being made a party pariah in this way. My patience is exhausted and I’m afraid I will genuinely have no choice, but to make public what I know. This includes the connivance of senior party people, to hide the truth about the Eling regime and who are even now lobbying to have due process terminated to protect those who have done wrong, or colluded, from facing the consequences of their actions.
And let’s be clear about 1 thing: this is not a “factional”dispute – right v left as some would like to portray it. I’m laughably described (by Spellar and others) as being on the “left” but I have supported our party and its successive leaders nationally, locally and regionally with loyalty and enthusiasm for as long as I have been politically active. From Kinnock through Blair all the way to Jeremy Corbyn, my support for whomsoever holds the Labour leadership has been unwavering. This is despite the fact, in the case of Jeremy, the party will be aware, I financially supported the campaign of Owen Smith MP but being a loyal Labour woman, I accepted the election of Jeremy Corbyn in recognition of the democratic mandate he had been given.
Locally, I enthusiastically endorsed, encouraged other members to support your campaign to be our Labour Mayoral candidate because I believed and still do, you have the values, skills and passion to take our region forward.
No, this is not “factional” – it’s about values and principles and goes to the heart of what it means to be principled in public life. I’ve done my utmost as leader of Sandwell council to bring a values-based approach to public service, bringing transparency and clarity to party, executive and scrutiny roles, to the separation of party and council business, to the difference in role between elected members and council officers and above all else to instil an ethos based on “doing the right thing” and the primary role of elected members being to serve their communities, rather than to serve their own political interests. That we have people in the party who will apparently stop at nothing to reverse this, is indeed shameful.
Worse than that, it is an attempt to thwart proper process by those who are themselves facing standards hearings in regard to their actions in previous roles of seniority within the council.
At its heart is also misogyny, which I’ve faced for many years. In 2017 I was hounded out of the council chamber with the Leader, Eling, banging his stick on the table, orchestrating a chorus of “out, out, out”. My crime – to question the wisdom of bringing Richard Marshall – mate of Eling [who was declared bankrupt after failing to repay around £40,000 taken from a local widow] – into the Cabinet. The next meeting, I had Councillor Moore bawling “resign!” at me in public, waving his finger in my face threateningly, ultimately shouting in public all across the car park. To have me suspended, the Chief Whip used fabricated allegations – all of which were thrown out at my appeal.
Where is the outrage Liam? Where was the protection of my party and senior officials for me -a Labour woman under attack from masculine supremacy demonstrated by vicious bullying and intimidation, attempting to brow-beat me in to submission?
During my time as Leader, no officer of the council was able to walk away with 6-figure sums of tax-payer’s money, no officer of the council was bullied to comply with any element of illegal or unethical political interference, and no resources of the council were used to give licence to institutionalised racism of the most disgusting form, all of which took place under the Elling regime and all of which can be evidentially proven.
Liam, the discriminatory and unequal treatment to which I have been subjected to as a working-class woman is a disgrace when it is compared to the perverse impunity male Labour Councillors engaged in actual wrong-doing in Sandwell currently enjoy, all of which is known to you and the party, yet nothing has been said or done to address this heinous behaviour.
The realisation of the ill-treatment I am subjected to in return for years of tireless dedication to the Labour Party breaks my heart.
I have no interest myself in the leadership of Sandwell council and am happy to pass on the baton, and whilst I look forward to seeing you replace Andy Street in Summer Lane, I will not allow the party to walk away and leave me and my good character tarnished under such accusations.
I must, and I will, clear my name.
Unless this matter is concluded quickly, with my suspension lifted and the allegations concluded, I will use the mayoral campaign as a platform to draw attention to the failure to tackle malicious complaints, motivated solely by people who themselves are facing standards investigations into their conduct.
Considering you are fully aware of the ‘bad business’ in Sandwell that I as Leader was working on cleaning up, I am having real difficulty in reconciling your silence on the injustices levelled against me considering the excellent Labour values you displayed which led to me publicly supporting you in the selection race.
I will campaign to shine a spotlight on the institutional misogyny within the Party. This will include drawing attention to your own failure to intervene, to ensure the party has followed due process and given your deep understanding of just how bad this ‘bad business’ actually is, the dereliction of duty it represents on your part. I have a base of support in Sandwell and beyond and I will use it to point out that there is nothing radical or compassionate about a man who stands idly-by as party women in Sandwell are victimised and hounded by male bullies supported by the full weight of the Labour-party machine.
Many local residents who are themselves staunch Labour supporters and members have been utterly disgusted to see how an honest woman like me has been treated by the Labour Party to such an extent they have asked that I launch a campaign for justice. These are long standing Labour supporters. I have urged that the party be given time to conclude its own processes and I have said I am confident it will do the right thing……
Over the coming weeks and months, I will spearhead a campaign for transparency, public accountability and justice, asking: if you Liam cannot stand up for working-class women persecuted in Sandwell, how will you stand up for women wronged in our region?
From outside the Sandwell Council House, on the doorstep of other council houses across the region, outside your offices in Birmingham and London, to media agencies across the region, the truth of Sandwell Labour and the abusers of public office within it who act with impunity must be known to the public if the party and regrettably yourself Liam, personally fail to act upon what you know to be wrong.
Such abusers of women and violators of Labour values have no commitment to you or your campaign, they did not support Keir Starmer publicly, and in fact some of them are known to have assisted the Conservatives, some of them even served as Conservatives previously all to satisfy their own personal political aims.
Alternatively, I’m happy to put the full weight of my campaigning behind you, but you must do the right thing by me and Sandwell. This is not a “fingers-crossed” issues – it needs action to prove there is a better way.
The double-standards must stop and I turn to you Liam, in hope of a final plea for fairness and justice, I await your expeditious response.
Note, this is not a private and confidential letter and should I not hear from you and the party by the end of the month, I will publish it as an open letter.
Yvonne Davies currently sits as an independent councillor in Sandwell since her resignation from the party, having resigned from the Labour Party last week. She told Skwawkbox:
People need to be aware when casting their votes for both Sandwell Council and the West Midlands Mayor that this is a Labour Party that does not protect women and a mayoral candidate who has done nothing to prevent the victimisation, and ultimately the sacrifice, of the only female Labour council leader in the Midlands, in order to bury the truth about political wrongdoing in Sandwell Council.
Liam Byrne was sent the full content of Ms Davies’ accusations for comment several days ago and asked to comment. At the time of writing, no response had been received.
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