Second Open Letter to Iain McNicol
10 November 2016
Dear Iain McNicol,
I was if you recall suspended from the Labour Party, in the process having my vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader cancelled. This suspension was lifted recently but I was left with an indefinite warning on my ‘file’ with regard to my future behaviour. I subsequently asked for any information you hold on me by appealing to the Freedom of Information Act. The response from your colleague, Mike Creighton (ominously but not unpleasantly entitled ‘Director of Audit and Risk Management’), was more efficient than I had anticipated, for which thanks to you both.
Well, I now know that I was found guilty on the basis of of two specific tweets. I quote from your paragraph under the rubric ‘evidence’:
A tweet was found which contained a flagged phrase, ‘tory-lite’: ‘Mistake to think Blairites & Corbynites want the same things & disagree how best to get them. Blairites are Tory-lite. We need change!’
Posted at: Tue 26th Jul 2016, 10.08am It’s at the URL:
A tweet was found which contained a flagged phrase, ‘alan johnson, shit’. The full text is: ‘RT @dr_shibley: Alan Johnson needs to take responsibility for how shit his campaign was.! Posted at: Tue 28th Jun 2016, 2.30pm. It’s at the URL: http://twitter.com/GrahamScambler/status/747799421287600132
Now, count to ten, maybe take a stiff drink, and re-read these two scandalous items. You might even notice that the second item was a RT, and RTs are by convention not necessarily endorsements (although I am happy to endore this one). The term ‘shit’ of course described the EU referendum campaign, not a person. You should now reach the conclusion that my suspension, disenfranchisement and the issuing of an indefinite warning about my future conduct don’t make a lot of sense.
I have one demand (not request) and a couple of suggestions that you might find helpful.
The demand is that you remove the warning from my file. You must admit, just between the two of us, that it represents a misjudgement worthy of a Whitehall farce. Unpunished Labour MPs commit worse ‘offences’on a daily basis.
The suggestions are twofold. First, in order to restore members’ faith in the administration of the Labour Party, to purge the purge as it were, it would be sensible to disseminate a full data-set on the extent of members’ disenfranchisement over the period of the second leadership election. This should include new members who were excluded and members who never received their ballots as well as those who were suspended or expelled. It would advisable also to list those CLPs who have been sanctioned by your office, plus the rationales.
You might find the second suggestion less palatable. It is that you tender your resignation with immediate effect. There are many members and others who discern an unhealthy dose of Stalinism in your recent decision-making/activities. They argue that you have calculatingly presided over a policy of gerrymandering aimed at reducing support for Jeremy Corbyn. It is reasonable to conclude that had you not acted as you did, he would have polled well over 70% of votes cast. I can understand how many members feel, although I cannot of course comment on the veracity of their views. Putting this on one side, your image is undoubtedly tarnished, which will concern you. Your resignation would pave the way for a fresh start. Maybe many Labour MPs would discard their daggers and get more reflexively and positively behind the twice-elected leader of the Party? I am sure you will agree with me that the damaging currency of an hypothesis presently being circulated – namely, that some Labour MPs would favour an early general election in the hope that Jeremy Corbyn would be trounced, replaced and ‘normal service’ resumed – reflects badly on us all and is totally unacceptable to the membership.
My suspicion is that you may not respond positively to my suggestions, but I remain ever optimistic.
PS I look forward to hearing from your office by return that the outstanding warning re-my future conduct has been cancelled. We all in the Labour Party believe in free speech don’t we.