CHAIR: Representative from TUC
SPEAKER: Member of Wallasey CLP
INVITED TO ATTEND: Angela Eagle, MP, and Anne Hutchinson from NW Labour, both declined.
AGENDA: A rebuttal of the attacks on Angela Eagle and an explanation of what transpired at the AGM (24/06/16) and the indefinite suspension.
***NB: The parts in square brackets [ ] are my own additions.***
Chair explained how meetings work and a rough order of events, plus clarity on how the audience needed to behave and when they could speak, after the Speaker had finished.
SPEAKER: [approximate transcript.] [He prefaced the explanation with an example of just how bad the smears are getting.] “ Here is a letter signed by three members of the LP, stating the speaker was flyering for the Public meeting in their road, but only posted to certain houses. Their complaint was therefore he had access to privileged data on who is in the LP. The problems arising from this declaration are: he was in London at the time [showed ticket stubs for train, credit card recipts, hotel bill etc]. This letter was sent to Wallasey CLP Secretary, co-Vice Chair, NW Labour Anne Hutchinson, Iain McNicol [!], Angela Eagle [!!] and Jeremy Corbyn [!!!]” [Nothing has yet been ‘done’ about this accusation but he has his evidence ready should anything come of it, and this is the level Wallasey CLP are having to be at right now, because of a torrent of lies and smears.]
[Re the AGM on 24th June, approximate transcript]: “there was [sic] no accusations towards Wallasey CLP before 24th June. What changed? The holding of the AGM. The meeting proceeded for the most part as usual. Only delegates are allowed to attend the AGM according to LP rules. Some people came anyway and were told/reminded of this and said ‘ok I’ll go then’ (which was turned into ‘running out in shame’). [!]
“Paul Stuart was Chair (Vice-Vice Chair of Wallasey CLP) and ruled using the rules at his disposal over who stayed and who went. One person (a woman with what appeared to be a teenage son) wanted to stay and her son be Observer, but it is not allowed in the rules as he was not a delegate so was refused. A ‘large male’ made a ‘smart comment’ and she threatened the thump him. That became a threat to ‘beat someone’s head in’ in the smears.
“It settled down and elections were held for new officials (18 of them, 11 were ‘in hindsight’ Eagle supporters). Most only had one standee and all were voted in. One post (Secretary) had two standees, and votes were cast twice. Of the 44 attendees all voted and both times it came out 22-22. So the rule book was checked to see what to do in this scenario and eventually the Secretary that is now holding the position got in appropriately. Various delegates asked for motions to be considered but that according to the rules is not allowed at AGMs so we were denied, on that reason only. A vote was taken on whether to send a letter to Angela Eagle thanking her for her service as an MP and loyalty to Corbyn which was passed 39-5. [oh the irony, in hindsight.]
“Then Monday Eagle resigned and declared her intention to stand as a challenger for leader of the party. Wallasey CLP still maintain that was her right to do that. Then nine days later in the Liverpool Echo [local paper] of ‘threats of violence over Eagle’s leader bid’ that were supposed to have happened at the AGM. BUT nobody knew she was standing for leader on that day, she declared the Monday AFTER the meeting! The day after the Echo article, Jowell also stated that Eagle faced homophobic abuse but as has already been recorded Eagle did not attend the AGM. Paul Davies wrote to her asking her to retract this statement, and as yet has had no reply.
“Bernie Moonie (Councillor) then publicly backed up the homophobic abuse claims. [The speaker then voiced their fears that even attending this public meeting might result in their expulsion from the LP as matter stand. Then the speaker made the following declaration:] Kathy the new Wallasey CLP chair is not only an LGBT activist of many years, she has a gay son; and the new Secretary (also a Kathy) was a strong equal rights campaigner too, with a gay daughter who was about to be married [to anther woman, obviously.] At the meeting there were also 5 delegates out as gay, 5 councillors. 3 union officials, who apparently saw this ‘abuse’ and there was not one challenge to it, because it did not happen. If it had, there would have been a challenge.
“The lie [snowballed]. It became not just homophobic intimidation claims but that the meetings had been getting ‘worse and worse’ all year, according to Paul Stuart (see above). Who had been the Chair for almost all those meetings (declared absences aside)? Yes, Paul Stuart, as highest ranking Wallasey CLP official. So the person in charge of the meetings was insisting that the meetings were not properly run with mounting bullying and threats of violence. If this were true, why did he not do anything about it? [As Chair he could have made points of order, stopped meetings, asked people to leave etc but did not- which is provable from the minutes.]
“The smears intensified. Eagle accused Wallasey CLP and LP members of the area of being ‘infiltrated’ by ‘militants’ from the early 90s. The numbers themselves prove this as a lie, or at least as the Speaker said a very intensive indoctrination and breeding programme, that the ‘militants’ in the CLP in the 90s must have had 800 children between them for this to be a fact. [!!!] [The fact she said this bewildered the Speaker- “why”, they asked, “was it so ‘strange’ that new people joined the CLP?” Wouldn’t a bigger CLP and more involvement be good for the party?]
“Miliband did the £3 vote for supporters to try and generate interest in the LP. The PLP asserted this measure would increase the number of ‘activists’ in the party but few took them seriously. And now the NEC have invented a £25 rule, which is odd-if they want to stamp out ‘activism’ why make the supporter option open again? Essentially they did it to try and ensure the result they wanted in the leadership challenge.
“So what is the result of this for the Wallasey CLP? [In the speaker’s opinion] indefinite suspension. As until the lies are proven and some kind of resolution or ruling is made, how can they hold meetings? [There has been NO proceedings initiated against Wallasey CLP as known at the time of the meeting. The speaker has] sent letters to two of the accusers at the time of the meeting suggesting they all undergo a lie detector, and to initiate some kind of ruling, but has had no response except for Helen Osborne from Eagle’s office asking them ‘in what capacity do you request this?’ [The speaker replied] ‘as an accused Wallasey CLP member in more than one charge, [see above re the alleged flyering too.] There was no reply.
“On the 26th June Eagle said she would stand as challenger. Wallasey CLP can make no statement about that as by then they had been suspended. They hope to have a meeting on 27th (August?) to officially vote on this.
“Then the Wallasey CLP had a lot of emails sent to them from members saying they had been called up to ask who they supported in the leadership challenge. Kathy (Sec) assured them they were not from the CLP. They used the number as given to them by the complainants and called it, to find it was Helen Osborne’s office [!!!] [Now the speaker had been accused of having LP lists, but did not, hoe did Osborne know who to call without having illegal access to member lists?]
“[They finish by reiterating that] there is no need to stop all political discussion in the constituency but to bear in mind that this was a public meeting, not a CLP meeting.”
Questions/issues raised from the audience, picked at random by the Chair. Each respondent was passed a Mic by a Unite official, clearly identified by high vis.
- Confirmed that it is delegates only at the AGM, and confirming that Eagle did not attend. Her reason was that she was attending her sister Maria who had broken her leg.
- Asking re Kathy (Sec’s) email on suspension. The speaker confirmed that there was a general suspension of meetings as per LP rules during hustings/ challenge for leader, but that essientially Wallasey CLP had been suspended twice. There was no email about this second suspension because Kathy had been forbidden to email LP members about it. NW Labour were contacted about how to resolve this and they said that they were not going to contact the members and [QUOTE] ‘they’ll hear about it in the media’. [!!!!!]
- Query: is there a judicial review possible on these events, so that all the facts of the matter can come to light. The speaker replied that that procedure is lengthy and expensive, and that they are hoping for an NEC reversal of the second suspension and that they will also reverse taking off the ‘members can vote in election’ from the LP website and retroactive exclusion of members. [NB crowdfunded court case Thursday 4th August on these matters.]
- Reiteration on the court case for Thursday by Harrison Grant. That they are short of funds and people can donate should they wish at crowdjustice.co.uk. The same audience member stated that there are 2 electoral registers, one public one private, and many who are being refused a vote may be because they have requested not to be put on the public one, which was slowing down processing and indeed throwing out applications automatically; and that it was best to call the LP office to sort it out.
- Query: might there be a vote of no confidence in Eagle? [some small cheers.] The speaker responded that there had been an online petition on this matter but it had not been started or approved of by Wallasey CLP as they had not been able to meet to ascertain their position on this issue. But that Wallasey Labour branch had voted in confidence of Corbyn; and (22nd July) and that New brighton were about to meet and vote on it when the whole Wallasey CLP had their second suspension, so they met informally and voted no confidence in Eagle on the basis of her lies and smears.
- Query: what ‘legal recourse’ do we have of a counter attack? The speaker replied as there had been no case initiated as yet there was no legal recourse to counter sue as there was nothing legal yet to sue against.
- Query: was there any video evidence of the AGM? The speaker replied that there was CCTV at the venue and that tomorrow [3rd August] were getting a Freedom of Information request out to see the footage; but as some people who had been in attendance were lying it was doubtful all attendees would sign the agreement. [Note that the NEC have not asked to see the footage.]
- Anger at lack of ‘democracy’ by the NEC. That Eagle should not be allowed to continue in her present post and what can ‘we’ do about that? The speaker replied that when the CLP next meets they can pass a motion on that regard and that is because of that that there is no sign of lifting the suspension.
- [bit too muffled to hear properly, something about a long time activist offering ‘services’.]
- The Lol Duffy incident in the 90s raised. This member left the party 23 years ago because of it. In his view this is all down to a minority in the PLP trying to hang on to a party that has moved back ‘left’ and seeing Corbyn sing Red Flag made him have hope for the first time in years, so rejoined.
- Lifelong Green voter. He was mistaken for a woman due to his long hair but joked that he did not find this assumption ‘sexist or intimidatory’. For him it was Corbyn that convinced him that the LP were no longer ‘Tory Lite’ so he came to the LP.
- A CLP chair from a constituency 140 miles away was next (he didn’t say which one) and said he’d come all this way to show solidarity with Wallasey CLP. He shed some light on the Brighton CLP second suspension and averred that the claims of racism and spitting after the meeting there had also been fabricated- that 600 people had attended and the meeting had been very amicable.
- A member seconded the idea of arranging regular public meetings while the suspension was on. In their view there was much to discuss not least the cuts to public services done not only by the Cons bit condoned by Wallasey Council.
- Observation made that New Labour was cited by Thatcher as ‘one of her greatest achievements’. [some quiet boos].
The speaker made an addendum on the Liverpool Echo article. That he had met with the person who made the statement to the paper (James, no surname) and James insisted he’d been misquoted. So imagine his surprise that the next day James was on TV saying everything he’d said was true and added the homophobic abuse allegation. The speaker had this person’s text and this is a direct quote: ‘the AGM was the worst…Momentum and the Trade Unions were extremely organised and had all taken positions on the Executive. Non-delegates removed and someone threatened to punch someone. But nobody was barred by the Chair (Stuart) and nothing in the minutes or any protest on the matter. Momentum did push a motion of no confidence in Eagle. It’s not looking good at Wallasey.’ [Note no motions are allowed at AGMs and they have to include all issues of the meeting in the minutes.]
- Query: why should we be rendered politically ineffectual over lies? [big cheer]. We need a constant campaign of attrition in letters/emails to all outlets to challenge these accusations.
- Query: When will we see Eagle again?? [some laughter.]
- Audience member opinion: that the suspension will not be lifted as they know the CLP will meet to change policy. This person thought it was a shame it had come to this as Eagle was a LP member they were supposed to be trying to promote [implication because of her being a gay woman] yet there was no choice after what she done to want to keep her.
- Member spoke, expelled from Wallasey CLP (not by CLP) some time ago on unproven charges (of giving £100 to militants outside a meeting) and was grilled in a three DAY inquiry on the matter. The basis of this accusation was that ‘they’d read it in the Globe’ [local paper]. Now a member of Nantwich and Crewe CLP he had tabled an emergency motion of solidarity for Wallasey CLP and insisted we much not give up because ‘we can win.’
- More anger at the accusations, but to keep up hope. [The man clearly found it hard to talk due to a stammer and tics, and got the biggest applause once he had done.]
- Query: who paid the £25 charge? [smattering of hands] Who has been refused? [one hand.] The audience member blamed this on large donors like Lord Sainsbury and Foster and said such actions have to stop.
BREAKING NEWS: the Chair holds up her phone where allegedly Eagle had Tweeted that we at the meeting were ‘bullying and intimidatory’. Could not see the Tweet and didn’t have Twitter at the time so could not verify.
- Suggestion of a Liverpool rally on the NEC issues and the second suspensions.
- SWP member. Quotes Jo Cox ‘far more in common’. And that ‘Blairite split’ was deliberate, while the Cons were at their lowest. Also quoted John McDonnell that ‘austerity is a political choice and the LP needs to be an anti-austerity party’. Suggested a ‘victory rally’ in Central Park (local park) for ‘when’ Corbyn is re-elected [some agreement in audience]. Talked of Corbyn’s policies and deselecting MPs, and of job and local services cuts voted through by labour councillors.
- Record any future public meetings.
[To clear up the Luton hotel lies]” It was all lies. The hotel cancelled when they saw the size and nature of the event as they did not have the room for it” [as I’ve been saying massive PR blunder trying to be hidden by lies instead of admitting it was a foul up.
And for the benefit of newer members, explaining what audience member 10 meant by ‘Lol Duffy’.] “In the rule book then, you had to have an MP selection meeting/ballot, and of 50% of those ballots were blank, there had to be a reselection/ new ballot, with new opposing candidates for Duffy (who was the ‘left’ candidate standing). So the members decided to abstain as they did not want the other candidate. After the count was done, Eagle was brought into the meeting and introduced as ‘your new prospective MP’. When they were asked ‘how many votes were counted?’ they said ‘it’s a secret’ [it wasn’t a secret ballot according to the rules of the time]. When they were asked ‘who counted the votes’ they were told ‘it’s a secret’; when they were asked ‘where were the votes counted?’ they were told ‘that’s a secret’. And finally when they were asked how many absentions they answered ‘we did not count those’.
[As a final note before the meeting broke up] “172 breakaway MPs are far easier to replace than 500,000 members.”
Meeting ended, with the speaker asking, if the audience so wished, to leave their contact details for updates on ‘True Labour’s” schedule (not Wallasey CLP) and gave an email for people to contact too.
- This to my knowledge is as full and as accurate account as my note taking would allow, as the speech and the questions were coming thick and fast. Where I could not write a word for word transcript, I summarised and/or abbreviated.
- The venue was adequately serviced (no ice cream!) with full disabled access including a lift and ramp.
- The room was ¾ full. I’d estimate attendance at 300 (I didn’t think to count the chairs and rows till I got home, oops, but there were 2 aisles of approximately 10-15 chairs per row and at least 20 rows, with seating round the side too. I am going on there being 10 chair per aisle (20 total) and 20 sets of rows and is probably an underestimate.)
- There was no violence, no swearing, no sexism, racism or homophobic comments and the chair and speaker made it clear no such thing were going to be tolerated. A written handout of codes of conduct to be followed backed that up. People were good natured throughout and came and left in an orderly manner.
- There were TUC collection buckets at the end to fund the meeting.
- Outside the town hall were a couple of stalls (no Socialist Worker sellers) and a man selling a ‘socialist’ newssheet, one selling badges of all types and someone else whose stall I did not investigate.
- Outside the venue room there was a Momentum stall. Nobody was being forced to join and from time to time someone was explaining to people passing into the venue what the stall was about. Some people stopped and checked it out but I did not see anyone signing up.
For the November 2016 update click wallasey-report-with-comments1 and in February 2017 the NEC announced ‘the accused’ had been cleared of ‘all charges’ but the suspension has not yet been lifted. There is a meeting with the NEC in March at which it is expected the gag will be removed.