25th October 2016
Alice in Wallaseyland – Verdict first – Evidence later!
Why Labour Party members should be concerned by the investigation into Wallasey Labour Party.
The consequences of Angela Eagle’s disastrous decision to resign from the Shadow Cabinet and launch a botched attempt to challenge Jeremy Corbyn continue to be played out in Wallasey. The attempted coup did massive damage to Labour’s standing in the polls. Locally, the continued trashing of the Party’s reputation may come to bite Labour in marginal Council seats and in the general Election across Wirral.
The next move by those trying to defend Angela is an inaccurate report on the local Party. Just one example will give the flavour: “A small number of members held a public meeting to discuss their concerns about the suspension of Wallasey CLP”. The Liverpool Echo live streamed this meeting called by Wirral TUC. The Echo reported that over 400 people attended. Prior to Jeremy’s election the normal attendance at all member CLP meetings was 15 to 20.
The “confidential” report was immediately leaked to the Liverpool Echo. Local Party members first saw it in the media. It has now been published online by a blog Skwawkbox. There is analysis on that blog and also on Vox Political. It’s worth reading but Wallasey Momentum does not endorse all the comment and analysis.
The enquiry concludes that it is highly likely that the brick incident was related to Angela’s leadership challenge. But the very specific allegations by Angela’s supporters, never contradicted by Angela despite being offered a chance to do so on national TV, were that it was a Wallasey Labour Party member, at the behest of Jeremy Corbyn, who threw the brick. No evidence is produced to support those wild allegations. However the report says that calls for members to be disciplined if they can’t substantiate their allegations are “intimidation”.
All this is bad enough, but for a Party that stands for fairness, the most worrying aspects are how the allegations of homophobia are treated.
In the leaked report, under “Allegations of homophobia” it says “The investigation has found that some members have truthfully claimed that homophobic instances occurred during the AGM. Others truthfully said that they were not aware of those instances. It is possible for the events to have occurred without the knowledge of all members. The allegations are not that the CLP is institutionally homophobic or that members were aware of homophobia but took no action, but are specific to individuals. These allegations will be reported to the next meeting of the Disputes Panel regarding individual disciplinary action.”
Party members who are interested in truth and justice should study this passage carefully.
They will see that the investigation has reached a verdict before any individual has been charged. They conclude “Some members have truthfully claimed…” But no allegation has yet been put to anyone. No-one has had no [sic] chance to respond, and to call witnesses. How can the enquiry have concluded that the allegations are true? It is like the trial scene from Alice in Wonderland.
Even worse, the Labour Party is apparently going to move to “individual disciplinary action”.
There is no mention of having a hearing, looking at the evidence, or of any process at all for the accused. At the time of writing, months after the alleged incident, no-one has been informed by the party that they are the ones about whom the secret allegations have been made. When they are informed, they will know that they have already been publically [sic] convicted – by the National Executive Committee!
So where does this leave the Labour Party if the evidence does not in fact support the allegations?
The central claim made in the media was that someone used an offensive homophobic term about Angela Eagle. If it is true, that would be an outrage deserving of disciplinary action.
However, in order to test the validity of this claim, the person or persons eventually accused will need to know who their accuser is. They will then know where the accuser was sitting in the room.
And the people sitting near the accused, near the accuser, and in between, can then be asked for their version of events. If none of those people heard the abuse, as the Party report suggests was the case for most people present, how credible is the accuser’s claim?
As we have stated for months now, what is being alleged is a hate crime. Labour Party procedures tell complainants in these circumstances to report the matter to the Police. Officers of Wallasey CLP responded to the initial reports by asking the complainants to do just that. It appears they did not do so.
Party procedures then require that the Labour Party report the issues to the Police. Again, that does not appear to have happened. Why might that be? It is essential that the Police are now brought into this since the NEC sub-committee has concluded that there was homophobia.
The worry must be that having reached a verdict, the Labour Party will now feel obliged to stand by it whatever the evidence shows. A finding of homophobia against an individual could cost them their job. If there is no reliable evidence, it will be libel. This could all end up in court. Have the Labour Party NEC and its full time officials thought this through?
We should add that Wallasey Momentum is not behind the reported “crowd funding” of legal action – and we don’t know who is. It could be a hoax. But legal action is clearly possible if and when an individual is accused.
The Labour Party NEC must urgently reconsider the train of events that they seem to have set in motion. A proper independent investigation of the allegations must take place, with a fair hearing, and the conclusion following the evidence. The Party procedures are clear and fair – but they have not been followed. Any specific allegations against individuals must be shared with them, and that should happen now, not in January 2017 or Spring 2017. An unbiased interviewer who has not already decided the result should question the accuser, the accused, and their witnesses. An independent panel should then consider those facts, and there should be a right of appeal. It is going to be hard for the Party to recover from this massive procedural blunder, but they must try.
Evidence first – verdict later!
Wirral In It Together comment
Note: Interestingly, nobody in the know locally has been able to verify that a crowdfunding action is underway on the part of Wallasey CLP.
It seems unlikely because although it was announced a few days ago, it still hasn’t shown up anywhere! However, see link here.
As far as hard, irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing goes, as yet there’s nothing turned up that is concrete or detailed enough to rally around or seek to defend and overturn.
What’s in the public domain, filling the obedient media, are unofficial smears and innuendo, with precious little being issued in any official capacity. Which is no basis for legal action until somebody’s been formally accused of bullying, intimidation or homophobia. Only then can the wheels start turning and a response be put in motion.
It’s also a distant prospect until the police are notified of a hate crime – necessitating a change in the NEC’s controlling, defensive stance – which as time goes by, seems increasingly unlikely.
The “brick” itself seems to have originated from Imran Ahmed, Angela Eagle’s press person, who was briefing the hungry media on 12th July, the assumed date of the criminal damage incident.
Investigations are now complete, with nobody being apprehended or charged. Currently, in response to an FOI request placed by the writer, Merseyside police are still not willing to admit that any projectile, brick or otherwise, actually exists.
As for Labour, more than three months down the line since the original allegations were made, the NEC sub-committee report is wholly reliant upon anonymity and hearsay, causing an all round air of uncertainty and rumour – the kind of climate which only serves to advance (or damage) the accusers’ case as the gaps are filled in by wild speculation.
The exclusive Wallasey Constituency timeline however was made public in early August, remains as detailed and factual as the day it was posted, and – unlike the Labour NEC media facing position – won’t be vulnerable to chopping and changing in response to the fluctuating whims or demands of the impatient, sensation-seeking mainstream press.
Update – 23rd December 2016
Recently, the whole brick / damaged stairwell window event was turned upside-down when Merseyside Police responded to a Freedom of Information request we’d lodged on 2nd August 2016.
As you can see, the police decided very early on – back in July – that there was no conclusive evidence to support the suggestion that the brick (which was found on site) damaged the stairwell window. However they didn’t release the information at the time in order to avoid damaging the integrity of their inquiries.
So a dozen or so large circulation UK newspapers got it woefully wrong because they jumped the gun and gave in to either laziness or sensationalism, by publishing several articles based around a central falsehood – the bogus idea that a brick had damaged Angela Eagle’s constituency office window.
In fact, they got it doubly wrong because it wasn’t a brick that damaged the shared stairwell window – the one with the hole in the glass.
The wayward thrust of many of the news stories was that it must have been a political act, and it therefore must have been a Corbyn supporter who was behind it. Evidence for such a wild suggestion came there none.
We also lodged a detailed complaint with press ‘regulator’ IPSO about inaccuracy in a Daily Telegraph article which reported on the incident, but they contrived to find against us. Given the recent police statement, which confirmed that no window was conclusively damaged by a brick, and the subsequent failure by the press or media to correct the online versions of the articles produced at the time it may be a good idea to revisit this with IPSO in the New Year.