Warning. This blog contains truths some in the Labour Party may find uncomfortable
On 7th December 2017, just after I received my letter confirming that I had been expelled from the Labour Party, I submitted a Subject Access Request (SAR). A SAR is a legal entitlement for an individual to find out what data an organisation keeps on you. The Party had a statutory time limit of 40 days to respond.
After 90 days and despite several reminders that the Party had not let me have my data, for which they had made a £10 charge, I asked the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to intervene. The Party were ordered by the ICO to supply my information.
The SAR came, in mid April, 2018. I knew from various administrative errors (known commonly as cock ups) by the Compliance Unit (CU) and from information I had received from friends that my SAR was incomplete.
I asked for Jane Shaw (of the Compliance Unit) to confirm that this was the case. I’m still waiting for her response. I then contacted a solicitor who wrote to the Party asking them confirm the SAR was complete or otherwise. Several letters were ignored and the solicitor was never contacted by the Party. This is significant because of what happened just before my appeal hearing.
In July, I was notified that the date for my appeal hearing was 2pm on 3rd August. The pack that came contained an agenda, a letter explaining the format of the meeting and the “evidence” that the CLP had submitted. This amounted to 9 screen shots from facebook. On both the agenda and the letter it stated “no new evidence was to be submitted”. I worked on my rebuttal for the hearing.
Nine days before the hearing, I received a new pack of “evidence”. This included
- A statement from the CLP executive, written in semi-legalese, obviously somebody with legal training had had a hand in writing it and pulling it together. It laid out the areas the CLP did not want to have discussed, including my complaints against three members of the CLP executive, for bullying. It was clearly trying to direct the scope of the panel.
- 43 new screenshots of my social media comments.
- A statement from the CLP Secretary.
- The allegations of racism against Asians, Chinese and Israel had been changed to racism and antisemitism.
I challenged this new information with Jane Shaw, who was her usual (non) co-operative self and told me, that it was all in accordance with the rule book and if I had wanted information from the CLP, I should have requested a separate SAR to them. Jane Shaw knew that this was the position with SARs. She did not tell me that a separate SAR was necessary. My first request to ensure I receive ALL all of my data goes back to 29th January, followed up in April and the first solicitor’s letter is dated 1st May. It appears, she did not want me to know of the existence of other data and deliberately kept quiet. In response to my concerns that the appeals process was entirely one sided. This was dated 24th July.
As Governance Officer my role is not only to administer appeals against the rejection of membership, such as yours, until they have been reported to the NEC Disputes Panel and referred to a regional office for the hearing to be arranged, but also to provide local party units, individual members and others with advice regarding the Party’s rules and procedures. Yes, I gave an opinion regarding the posts shown to me, but I had no part in the decision making process that led to the rejection of your membership and from what you say, the evidence provided in support of that decision does not include the posts about which I expressed an opinion. There therefore seems to be nothing to suggest collusion by me in the CLP’s
Jane Shaw gave an opinion to the CLP on the data being submitted, but could (or should that be would?) not tell me that I needed to submit a separate SAR to the CLP.
The late notification in effect meant that I did not have a lot of time to rethink my defence and I felt I would be going into the hearing with one hand tied behind my back.
Once again I ask advice from the ICO. The ICO needed time (about six weeks) to assess my request for clarification so I formally asked for the hearing to be suspended until the status of the new data had been clarified. The Chair of the panel, Mick Whelan, ASLEF delegate to the NEC, refused my request, without any explanation why. I’ve emailed him for answers to several questions including the refusal to suspend the hearing, he has never had the decency to reply.
I did not attend the hearing. It was a kangaroo court, designed to set members up to fail. I assume that the CLP secretary did attend.
Before I felt forced to resign because of the hostility to both my husband and myself by the CLP executive, I had made a complaint against three of the CLP executive for bullying. They are three are members of one family. On the executive is another family member, and their supporters and friends. A clear conflict of interest exists on the executive. This was never considered by the panel. So in that respect, the legalese tripe the CLP had concocted did it’s job. The panel in its wisdom, dismissed the “historical” evidence. The reasons for rejecting my appeal were screenshots of my criticism of Halton councillors and this blog (which the CLP apparently are not happy with), actions I have taken in response to the inaction of the Labour Party at every stage.
Any disciplinary procedure worth taking part in, would never allow conflicts of interest such as this. Jane Shaw, the Compliance Unit and the Labour Party see nothing wrong with it. Nor does she see anything wrong in giving the CLP the benefit of her opinion, but she never saw fit to even advise me of the correct procedure, when I asked for it.
The decision to find against me, I think was a foregone conclusion and the fact that I was not present made no difference whatsoever.