Now call me old Mrs Cynical, but the process I’m describing in this blog, went so well for the bullies on Weaver Vale CLP executive, it was almost as if it had been engineered.
Stage One: Remove the secretary and replace with your own candidate
The July CLP executive meeting had been shambolic, disrupted by a group that were unhappy that Weaver Vale had elected a Labour MP. Men (and women) behaving badly The Secretary had finally found his excuse to resign, which was fortunate as it allowed a temporary secretary to be appointed (when I say appointed, pushed into the job by the Runcorn delegates is closer to what happened). This was Jamie Bramwell. A Runcorn branch member, friend of the Runcorn faction, but more significantly, he was at this time a Unite delegate to the National Executive Committee (NEC). The NEC are the Labour Party’s senior governing body.
Stage Two: Send Out Inaccurate Minutes and Ignore any Request for Amendments
The September meeting was due and the minutes from the July meeting had gone out.
It’s standard procedure in every organisation that I have ever been involved with, for minutes once written to be sent to the chair for agreement, before being distributed to members. Not in this case. The temporary secretary had written up the minutes and sent them out without any consultation with the chair. They were completely one sided, only reflecting what the Runcorn delegates wanted to them to. Both the chair and I had emailed Jamie Bramwell a week before the meeting and asked for amendments. But as is standard practice now in the Labour party, our emails were ignored (email no. 3 at the end of this blog).
The first item on the agenda was to agree the minutes. I objected to them as did the chair. As the meeting started, unhappy with the way it was heading, I switched on my tablet and recorded what was being said. Audio of minutes
The secretary could not offer a good reason why any amendments should not have been included, just that he didn’t see any bullying. Nor would he offer some compromise form of words. Instead the secretary refused point blank to include any reference to the shouting and bullying that had taken place, by obfuscating and blathering about non relevant points:-
“NEC position on other CLPs going into special measures
We all made contributions ……. I did not, there seems some ….. having a dig …. Ask the executive”.
The Runcorn branch delegates did not contest my view point that the minutes were one sided. Nor did they contest that the incident took place.
It was now obvious that the Runcorn branches were going to try and airbrush from the minutes (some might say doctor) the way they had behaved at the July meeting.
The Secretary continued blathering “I never seen any victimisation, bullying or harassment ……. you need to report it …….as we all do in the labour movement …….I can’t put it in if I didn’t see it….. I had no complaints until I sent out the minutes.” He seem to think that I should have reported to him the bullying and harassment. I had done what I considered the more appropriate action and reported it to Anna Hutchinson at the North West Regional Office (for her to ignore). He says he saw a member leave but saw no nastiness. That member ran from the meeting in tears, followed by the a member of his branch to ensure he was alright and this was witnessed by several members waiting outside of the meeting, including the MP Mike Amesbury.
Eight minutes into the audio Bill Moores a Unite delegate and close ally of the Runcorn contingent confirms that the meeting had been chaotic with everyone shouting at everybody else (I only partially agree with him here, the shouting was mainly by Dave Cargill and the Runcorn delegates at the Chair, the youth delegate and myself). This as it turns out was not a very helpful intervention for his co-conspirators as, in my opinion it confirms the bullying and aggressive behaviour that had occurred at the previous meeting. Despite knowing and commenting that the previous meeting had been aggressive and unpleasant, Mr Moores went on to vote with the Runcorn delegates not to include any reference in the minutes.
The secretary was being deliberately obstructive, would not listen to my points and was not acting in a professional and impartial way. I felt like the secretary and some in the meeting were trying to provoke another rowdy meeting. I was not going to help enable this.
Stage Three: Agree One sided Minutes and Cover Up the Bullying
Time was ticking on and the chair to bring this to a conclusion asked for a vote on the minutes, without any inclusions or amendments. Of course this was carried, but I asked for a recorded vote, as three of the executive, voted not to accept, the partial and inaccurate minutes. If the vote was recorded I do not know, as shortly after the meeting and following a series of petty actions, both the chair and myself resigned from the party.
The minutes purport to show that Weaver Vale ran a chaotic campaign, which is what the Runcorn branches want them to reflect. Why I couldn’t possibly say. I and many others in the CLP and Momentum would say that we ran a great campaign, given that it was a snap election allowing no time for planning, and without any help from the Regional Office. Unfortunately, once again as in 2015, some members were deliberately obstructive as they did not want the candidate we had.
At the July meeting the Chair was told he should be ashamed of running such a chaotic campaign and if he had any integrity would resign. It says on the first page of the Labour Party Joke (rule) Book, Chapter 1 Clause 1 paragraph 3 that
The Party shall bring together members and supporters ……… and promote the election of Labour Party representatives at all levels of the democratic process.
That’s exactly what we did in Weaver Vale in the teeth of opposition from some in our own CLP!
Influence Counts – It’s Not What you Know, it’s Who
Jamie Bramwell was at this time a member of the NEC. His position should have placed on him the duty to have shown at least some impartiality, not take a one sided approach. I believe that this audio shows his unwillingness to listen to my and the chairs points, or even to meet us half way. The previous meeting had been unpleasant and I had written to Anna Hutchinson the next day to make a formal complaint as did the Chair and the delegate who ran from the meeting in tears and who later resigned from the party. Jamie Bramwell says he did not see any bullying. Other exec delegates did see it, but chose to overlook the unacceptable aggression and hostility shown towards other members. Most of these were not present at the September exec.
The minutes not reflecting the reality, does not mean this incident never happened. It just means that the unpleasant and unacceptable behaviour has not been recorded officially and has been covered up, by the perpetrators.
COMPLAINT SENT TO ANN HUTCHISON AFTER THE JULY EXEC MEETING
I wrote to you during the general election campaign about the behaviour of some of the members of the Runcorn East BLP. I have just attended Weaver Vale’s first CLP executive and general meeting since the election, Once again the behaviour of certain Runcorn East members falls far short of the standard expected of labour members. I am now formally requesting that the behaviour of certain delegates is looked into by the Regional Office.
During the election campaign, there was cause to remove (names redacted) from their roles as admin on the Weaver Vale Facebook page. I emailed you at the time with the details. Briefly, they turned up uninvited on the Sunday evening, aggressive and demanding to know why this decision had taken. I emailed you at the time, but I am happy to forward this to you again.
Tonight’s meeting was probably one of the most disgraceful meetings I have attended as a delegate to Weaver Vale CLP. Far from celebrating a successful campaign, the Runcorn East delegates came to the meeting hostile and were solely intent on making trouble. Their manner was rude, aggressive, accusing the chair and others of running a confused and chaotic campaign. Allegations were made about actions by the the chair (who is also Mike Amesbury’s agent), which he had no knowledge of, including a breach of the Data Protection Act. This CLP had no part in what happened with members details and appears to be linked to Steve Rotherham’s Metro Mayoral campaign. Other allegations were made about communication and when asked where their information had come from, they could not or would not answer. During their berating of the chair, one of them turned in my direction and shouted that I was part of all this.
(Name redacted) accused me of laughing when she told us of her sister in law’s death from cancer. This relates to the Sunday evening when she and Lauren Cassidy came uninvited to my home. I deny that this happened in the way Sandra suggests as I can remember it well. She had given a character assassination of another member of the Runcorn East Branch (name redacted), who she clearly did not want to have any part in the campaign. During the conversation (name redacted) said that her sister in law had died, at which point I got up from the couch and walked into the kitchen saying “yes well, we’ve all got problems” a reference to the fact that I was also experiencing personal difficulties. To twist the events and to publicly accuse me of this at a meeting I find deeply offensive. To make reference to this at a meeting and to make slanderous comments about another Labour member is wholy unacceptable and tantamount to bullying.
(Name redacted) was similarly aggressive in his tone and manner accusing the chair of making autonomous decisions and not consulting with the general management committee. I tried to point out that the chair made decisions in his role as the candidates agent with the intention of getting him elected. Given that it was a snap election and it was almost two weeks into the campaign before we had a candidate decisions were taken by the candidate and agent to move the campaign on quickly. (name redacted) refused to listen, got up from his seat stabbing his finger in my direction and shouting aggressively that he knew all about being an agent. He then walked to the back of the meeting. I did shout back in an attempt to make myself heard, but he continued to shout over me.
Prior to this there was disagreement about who the delegates to the executive meeting from the Runcorn East branch. This again relates to the incident when (names redacted) turned up to my home. They were adamant that (name redacted) could not be part of tonight’ executive meeting because he had resigned during the election campaign. He resigned as a result of what he called actions by some of the branch members (we have a copy of the original letter from (redacted)). (Name redacted) as agent spoke to (redacted), smoothed things over with him and he rescinded the resignation. His own Branch secretary who was also copied into his letter made no attempt to talk to him to find out why he felt like this, and has not had any communication with him to date. Even when the secretary tried to explain to them that (redacted) had changed his mind, all they did was sent insulting e-mails to the secretary. Having (redacted) back on board considerably enhanced our campaign. Runcorn East want the resignation to stand and at a meeting have removed him as a delegate. (redacted) left the meeting, upset over the way he was being shouted at and spoken about and went home. Why they are so hostile to (redacted) I don’t understand, but their behaviour towards him at the meeting and at other times is not how we as a party should to be treating our younger members. During this time (redacted) who had resigned at the beginning of the campaign (without any doubts or retraction) refused to leave the meeting saying if (redacted) was staying then so was she. (Redacted) clearly had no place at the executive meeting and had no reason even to turn up to it, except to be difficult.
The behaviour tonight from the mentioned delegates was hostile, unpleasant and threatening to individuals, including the chair. They refused to keep to the agenda. They appeared intent on criticising the campaign, making allegations and shouting abuse when challenged.
When I wrote my original email, you said that if I wanted their behaviour to be investigated, you would do this. The party takes bullying seriously and rightly so. After tonight’s debacle, I would like you to look into the behaviour of the named delegates from Runcorn East to the CLP.
Treasurer Weaver Vale CLP
E-MAIL TO JAMIE AFTER THE SEPT EXEC MINUTES HAD BEEN SENT TO MEMBERS
I’m sorry to have to say this, but I do not accept that the executive minutes are a true and accurate reflection of the meeting.
1. No reference to DC shouting and bullying behaviour which was directed particularly at the Chair is recorded. Nor any reference to my point that the chair was acting as Mike Amesbury’s agent, or that I was not allowed to finish my point due to being shouted down by DC. The continual attacks at the chair and unfounded allegations the Runcorn delegates should be recorded.
2. No reference to the victimisation of (name redacted) by DC, SC and LC when trying to establish if he was in fact a delegate. The Runcorn delegates refused to listen or accept what the chair was saying. There is no mention of the refusal of LC to leave the meeting, as she had resigned her position as campaign coordinator on the selection of Mike Amesbury as candidate, or of her statement that if (name redacted) was staying then so was she. Both eventually left, (redacted) in distress, again no mention of this point. No discussion on the position of (redacted), who had previously resigned from his position as youth delegate, but had been brought back on board by the Chair discussing his difficulties or that the Runcorn East secretary had not discussed this with (redacted).
3. The meeting did not agree that the campaign was chaotic. The reasons for some difficulties were explained by the chair and others, that we ran the campaign after a snap election, without any planning or preparation, returned a Labour MP and with increased turnout in all parts of the constituency had presented challenges. The campaign was not perfect, but it was not chaotic. This point will not be accepted by the Runcorn delegates.
4. The data protection issues that were raised were nothing to do with the CLP. Access to members data was given by NWRO to (name redacted, member of Halton CLP), but the chair or the secretary had no input into this arrangement. This was put to the meeting by the Chair. To infer that the Chair (who was acting throughout the campaign as Agent to Mike Amesbury, not strictly as CLP Chair) has presided over a breach of data protection is both unfounded, unfair and deeply insulting.
5. No reflection that (redacted) tried to calm the meeting.
These minutes do not reflect any of this, but that is hardly a surprise given that the Runcorn delegates continually shouted down any other speaker, hurled unfounded allegations, refused to let others speak and tried to intimidate the meeting, making discussion difficult if not impossible. These minutes are nothing more than a blatant and unfounded attack on the Chair.
As a reflection of how members conducted themselves and of the issues covered, I do not accept these minutes. They are selective, partial and totally unacceptable.
PUBLISHED MINUTES OF THE SEPT EXEC MEETING
WEAVER VALE CLP
Secretary : Jamie Bramwell
Chair : Ian Fletcher Treasurer : Jeanette Fletcher
Minutes of the Executive Committee Meeting held on Friday, 14th July, held at 7.00 pm at Frodsham Community Centre, Fluin Lane, Frodsham, WA6 7QN.
1. Present :
Ian Fletcher, Sandra Cassidy, Peter Lloyd-Jones, Jamie Bramwell, Colin Hughes, Una Long, Bill Moores, Margaret Moores, Dave Cargill, Martha Lloyd-Jones, Paul Dolan, Diane Schofield, Jeanette Fletcher and Barrie Davidson.
2. Chairs introduction and apologies for absence :
Chair gave explanation of his role in the election and noted long-serving secretary Mike Garvey had resigned.
Sandra Cassidy proposed that in the absence of a CLP secretary, Jamie Bramwell could act as interim secretary. Agreement from the room with no objections.
Resolved: JB to act as interim secretary of the CLP.
Questions from the floor asking for clarity on resignation of secretary. Chair’s responded there were a “number of reasons”, that the secretary felt his “work was not respected” and it had been “on the cards since 2015”. Commented that MG had threatened to resign several times.
Discussion took place on various issues following the recent election victory for the CLP and Mike Amesbury.
SC: Raised she had been removed from Facebook page and unfounded accusations of lack of activity. Also raised that non-resident cllrs had been invited to meeting by other non-resident cllrs, under instruction to do so.
MLJ: Agreed campaign was chaotic, incidents such as double/triple leafleting of same areas and PLJ had been ‘sacked’ for campaign organising role.
PLJ: Raised issue of three campaign coordinators all covering same area. Told he would have position revoked at one stage. Raised concerns that secretary had resigned due to the direction the chair was taking the CLP.
DC: Raised data protection concerns.
PD: Pressed for process to move campaign issues forward and listen to them in full.
Resolved: that a panel be set up to address campaign issues raised.
Meeting concluded at 7.30 pm with no further business being discussed due to time contraints.