Well officially it was for standing against an official Labour Candidate. But that hides a whole raft of broken rules, skullduggery and deceit from the party, so for your pleasure or pain I record below the events as they occurred taken from my report to the party at the time. It's also very old news now, and like most who leave the party after so long you quickly start to wonder why you put up with all the hassle in the first place? funny enough as well after, rereading it I find myself thinking why was I so damn considerate in my language?
THE CONTINUED LIES AND DECEIT OF
It is with deep regret that more than 3 months after my expulsion from the Labour Party, that I find myself writing to you, having to respond to the continued lies , deceit and denials which has been emanating from party officials from the East Midlands regional office.
Having decided to not comment publicly so far on the matters that led to my expulsion and that of other long standing party members, I now find myself in the difficult position of having to speak out to defend both my good name and reputation and that of others who have been defamed by the party’s lies.
It was my sincere hope that the party would deal with it’s own faults, take action against those who have shamed its name and respond to the varied complaints and calls for an enquiry which have come from many members and from the Constituency and the District Party. They have chosen however not to do so. They have instead decided to widen their trawl for wrongdoers and have accused others in the Party of having intentions other than they had.
In this report I will lay out clearly the breaches of party rules and unnecessary lies peddled by the regional office and challenge them to deny them, not in an internal report to party members, but if necessary in a court of law. I am certain of my facts and of the witnesses that will bear truth to the many points that I will raise.
I ask only of you to ask, could this unnecessary series of events have been avoided?
Who is to blame? And how can the damage ever be repaired in the absence of the truth and of any justice to those of us who have been so badly wronged?
Within this report, I will outline and explain how the officers of the East Midlands Labour Party colluded with others within
A) Blocking my candidature to represent the Party at the 2007 Borough Council Elections in both Castle Ward and St Crispin’s Ward,
B) Breaking its own rules on the selection of it’s candidates,
C) Ignoring complaints made to it during the process,
D) Fabricating evidence to defend its wrongful actions
E) Defamed the names of others in its attempts to cover up its own lies.
Throughout these last 3 months I have entertained the idea of returning to the Labour Party once this matter had been dealt with, even now party members have asked me to accept the whip and ask to rejoin. I cannot do so whilst the regional and national party continues to deny any wrongdoing, and whilst officers of the East Midlands Party are happy to lie and to collude with others to cover up there misgivings. Without the truth the party has no integrity.
I am also currently considering standing at the next general election, nothing would have pleased me more than to have done so once more under a Labour banner. The opportunity for me to do that now seems to be outside of my control.
I have many good friends within the local party, and I would take this opportunity to thank them for there personal support for me and others expelled over this matter, but I would now say to you all, can you really justify remaining in an organisation that exists to defend the truth and to uphold justice when it is so scared of facing up to its own misdemeanours? I would ask you to consider carefully what you will do if the only option you are given is to “shut up” don’t question the executive” and are asked to “put the past behind you” without it first being dealt with. Cllr Keith Davies’s repeated requests to “draw a line under the issue” can only be actioned once the errors of the past have been recognised and dealt with.
I still remain willing to work with the party to investigate this matter without any thought of revenge or retribution. But I will not walk away and allow the truth to be corrupted
Northampton needs and deserves, now more than ever a strong Labour Party presence ready to take on and tackle the injustices meted out by our two local councils and in addition needs to play it’s full part in the return of a fourth term Labour Government.
However it will not do so whilst its strings are being pulled by cowards and traitors within it’s midst, who are willing to put their own needs to cover their own tracks before the need for the truth. And it will not do so if the only option left to its members is one of either blind obedience or reluctant admission that the party is not interested in the truth.
REPORT PART ONE: INITIAL SELECTION:
On Wednesday the 21st March, I attended a meeting of the executive officers of Castle Ward (Central branch) as Chair, with the vice chair Cllr Marie Dickie, the secretary John Dickie, and the two candidates for the election, the sitting councillors Lee Barron, and Peter Evans.
At that meeting LB announced that due to his recent election as Regional Secretary of the CWU and the birth of his new daughter, he was not willing to continue with his candidature and a discussion ensued as to how a replacement could be found. I was asked to consider standing for selection. I declined. I agreed to consider this further with my family and we also agreed to the ward calling an emergency meeting to deal with the vacancy for the 28th March. On Thursday the 22nd March I informed John Dickie and Lee Barron, that having discussed the matter with my wife that I was willing to put my name forward for selection.
Lee Barron announced to his group on the Borough Council on Friday the 23rd March that he was standing down. In her report to the Party the Regional Director Emilie Oldknow states “On Saturday 24th March, unexpectedly, it was announced that the Labour group leader was standing down as a Labour Candidate for Northampton’s Castle Ward” I am not going to fall out over a discrepancy of a day, but it was never announced to anyone other than the group on the Friday night. Someone however at that group meeting took it upon themselves to inform others including the press.
Over that same weekend I was contacted by Wayne Bontoft of the Chronicle and Echo to tell me that a “Labour Councillor” had informed him that LB was standing down and that I was replacing him as the candidate and as Leader of the group. Mr Bontoft also informed me that the Conservative MP for Northampton South Brian Binley and the Leader of the Tory group Cllr Tim Hadland were also aware of the above, having been informed by the same source. I informed WB that this story was not true, but that I had agreed to go for selection. The C&E ran a story on Tuesday 27th March which confirmed my decision to stand for selection. I had informed WB that a) I would have to be selected first, and b) that who would lead the group would be a matter for those elected. Following his story under a sub editors headline of “Cobblers chief to stand for election” Mr Bontoft phoned me to apologise for the misleading headline within the article and that he would be prepared to bear witness to the conversation we had had and that I had not said that I was the selected candidate. .
In her report to the party Miss Oldknow suggests that “a report appeared in the local newspaper on the Tuesday morning stating that Tony had been selected for castle Ward, his comment was “I am delighted to be selected for Castle Ward” Miss Oldknow know’s that this is a lie and a copy of the newspaper report can be found at http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/template/ViewArticle.aspx?SectionID=255&articleid=2181592 I ask her to retract her lie and to apologise.
Also that same weekend, Matt Forde a regional officer from the East midlands phoned John Dickie as secretary of the branch and in John’s words the following was agreed.
On Sat 24th March Matt Forde phoned me and accepted that the ward had been put in an impossible situation, but that the region wanted to take over the process. I indicated that a ward selection process was already in train and whilst he understood that he had perhaps anticipated the party’s actions. that it was in the best interests of securing a good strong candidate for a safe ward. At no time did MF mention gender balance .It is a lie to suggest that he ever raised it in any conversation with me. The first the ward knew about this was the letter sent to women members after the selection of Tony Clarke.”
The regional party have made much play of the fact that Mr Forde had telephoned John Dickie to tell him that the regional party was taking over the process, however regardless of what can or cannot be taken from a private phone call between two people without witness, what we do know is that at no time whatsoever was the Constituency Chair, Secretary or the District Party Chair or Secretary informed of the regions sudden interest or their desire to take over the selection or of how they planned to do so.
On Wednesday evening the 28th March I attended a selection meeting at Northampton Labour Club which was quorate and was also attended by the chairs and secretaries of both the constituency and the district party. I was selected as the candidate for Castle Ward.
In her report Emilie Oldknow accuses the branch of breach of party procedures in this selection and even suggests that the meeting did not take place. The then Chairs and secretaries of the two bodies present will attest to this being untrue.
PART TWO: THE ALL WOMAN SHORTLIST
On Thursday morning the 29th letters arrived from the region, to women members within the Borough of Northampton (including my wife) informing them that the region was to hold telephone interviews for a panel on Friday night the 30th March and that a selection meeting would take place on Saturday 31st March. These letters were also sent to party officers in
The branch immediately challenged the ruling on the need for an all women shortlist. The outgoing Labour group had 10 members of which 3 were women 30%. At the time of the regions intervention 4 of the 10 held seats had women candidates selected for them, an increase to 40% of the seats held. One of these seats had been filled by the wife of a retiring councillor who stood down, also at the last minute without any intervention from the region and or involvement of the district or constituency party’s We know not what procedures were followed in this case but enquired of the party why the two wards of St James and Castle had been treated so differently in exactly the same circumstances. The party did not respond to our complaints.
On Saturday the 31st March the 2nd selection took place. Three women attended. Ann Timson, a Castle Ward member who wanted to know what was occurring. A Mrs Choudary, the wife of Iftikhar Choudary who informed John Dickie and David Brede (Constituency secretary) that he had brought her along because Sally Keeble MP had phoned him and asked him to. He also informed them that his wife only spoke rudimentary English and that she felt uncomfortable in being considered.
The third candidate was Mrs Tess Scott, the mother of an intern who had worked in Sally Keeble’s office and who was ineligible to stand by the very nature of the letter sent out by the regional party indicating that only women living in the borough would be considered. In fact the ward again challenged the party to inform them as to how she had received the letter as she lived outside the Borough, and also how she had been invited? And if she had been afforded the opportunity to stand as a member of Kettering Constituency Party, had other members of that constituency been offered the same opportunity? And indeed had women members in the other surrounding constituencies also had equal access. No answers were forthcoming.
David Brede and John Dickie stood outside the meeting and spoke to both Ann Timson and Iftikhar Choudary, at no time was there any conversation between themselves and Mrs Scott, at no time were any of the candidates intimidated, and no complaints were received. In her report to the party Mrs Oldknow states that they “attempted to intimidate the women as they attended the meeting” again this is untrue and this allegation should be withdrawn. It is aimed in part at the existing secretary of the Constituency Party whose only intention in attending the meeting was to act as an observer, He was denied along with the sitting County Councillor for the ward and ward members access to the building and/or to the meeting.
Furthermore in her report Miss Oldknow suggests that “Tess Scott, the Labour candidate received on three separate occasions abusive and intimidatory phone calls from members within the Castle Branch and other constituency members” again this is untrue and if Miss Oldknow or Tess Scott want to perpetuate this lie then we challenge them to provide details in full of who was responsible and what was said. In absence of this we again call for an apology and a withdrawal of the statement.
The District Party Meeting of Monday 2nd April:
On Monday evening the 2nd of April a meeting of the executive of the District Party (LGC) met together with a representative of the regional party to try to discuss a way forward and to identify a route out of the mess that had been created by the regional party’s intervention. Over that Weekend. Mr Aziz Rahman, the candidate for the neighbouring St Crispin Ward had contacted the party to tell them that due to ill health he was not able to continue as candidate. At that meeting it was suggested that the party ask me to consider attending a selection for the now vacant seat in St Crispin Ward the following evening. At this meeting Les Marriot informed those present that he “Had heard” that Peter Evans was considering not standing. This comment had no foundation and or evidence of truth. The members of the executive present including Nova Keown, Ulric Gravesande, Anjona Roy, and others will testify to the accuracy of the above if asked. At 10.30pm on Monday 2nd April I was asked to fill in a form for selection to stand in the St Crispin’s Ward at the election. I did so against the wishes of many branch members as an attempt to bring a halt to all of the infighting that had occurred.
Whilst this meeting took place Sally Keeble MP was in the restaurant opposite the Labour Club owned by Aziz Rahman trying to get him to withdraw his decision to stand down as a candidate. It is my view shared by others that her intention was to prevent me standing in St Crispin Ward. The next day Mr Rahman received phone calls from Ian Riley which he found to be intimidating and in his words bullying him into not withdrawing his candidature
The Second Selection Tuesday 3rd April
On the Tuesday evening I attended for interview for the panel, and for selection for St Crispin Ward. Also present to my surprise was Mr Iftikhar Choudary and 2 others.
Of the interview panel only panel member from Corby was known to me, the other two members I believe were from the
I was called back up to the selection meeting and informed that I had been selected as the candidate for Castle Ward and asked if I would accept the nomination. Matt Forde was in the room at this point and I once again asked for clarification as my understanding was that no vacancy existed. Mr Forde refused to answer other than saying that there is a vacancy and I had the chance to accept the same. I did.
When I returned down stairs I phoned Peter Evans who was the sitting Councillor and explained the situation to him. He, like me took it that Mrs Scott must have withdrawn. Mr Choudary was selected for the vacant St Crispin seat and I spoke to Matt Forde again to seek some clarification as to who I would be standing with and also to speak to him on a confidential matter regarding another candidate. Once more he avoided an answer and together with Mr Ian Riley left the building having endorsed my nomination paper.
10 minutes later Peter Evans phoned me to say that he had just received a phone call from Mr Forde to tell him that he had been deselected as the sitting councillor on the basis that the party “Had heard” that he was withdrawing. He informed them that this was untrue and that attempts to contact him earlier were not able to be responded to as he was carrying out a mental health assessment as part of his work. At no time did Peter Evans withdraw, and at no time was he not the candidate for the seat. My concerns over the selection had been confirmed and I was then phoned by Matt Forde who told me that the party had “acted in good faith” I informed him that I had just been selected as the candidate and endorsed by the regional party to stand and that myself and Peter Evans would be doing so by submitting our nominations the following morning. Mr Forde said he would need to speak to the constitutional officer and that he would phone me the next day. But he also said for the first time that I “should not submit my nomination paper” I asked him under what ruling he was denying me that right as an endorsed candidate? And he would not give me answer. Miss Oldknow in her statements makes serious allegations as to the intent of Mr Evans and Mr Rahman and ignores the factor of Mr Rahman’s ill health and makes further allegations saying “they wanted a man selected” This is defamatory and should be withdrawn immediately.
If Miss Oldknow is unwilling to do so then she should inform Mr Rahman and Mr Evans as to where this slander has emanated from in order that they can seek legal redress, if she does not then I believe as the author of this repeated slur she should be willing to defend her accusation in a court of law.
Miss Oldknow also lies in her report about the sequencing of events. Mr Evans was not informed of the view of the regional party as to him having withdrawn, nor for that matter was anyone else in the party, including either the LGC Executive members or the Ward officers, until after I was selected.
In her report Miss Oldknow states that “Both Mr Clarke and Mr Iftikhar Choudary accepted selection as Labour candidates on the Tuesday evening” This is not in question, but she goes onto say “Mr Clarke did so in the knowledge that he would be replacing Peter Evans in Castle Ward” This is a wicked and vicious lie and I will again stand in a court of law and invite those present at those meetings to repeat it under oath if they so dare.
Indeed, were this the case then why did Matte Forde phone me back less than an hour after endorsing me to tell me that Peter Evans was not withdrawing? Why were the LGC executive also unaware of his supposed withdrawal and what evidence for it exists outside of the here say of Les Marriot at the meeting on Monday night?
Having broken its own rules over the imposition of an all women’s shortlist and then broken the rules they then set for the selection of the same, they then deselected a candidate without anyone’s knowledge, including the candidate, and then selected me in his stead without an explanation. If I am being kind I could put this down to incompetence, however I fear other reasons exist for the actions taken by party officers that can only be explained by them if required to answer.
Wednesday 4th April Nominations
At 10.30am on Wednesday the 4th April I attended the Guildhall to submit my nomination together with Peter Evans as the official Labour candidates for Castle Ward. These were the only two nominations held by the agent, although I understand Tess Scott’s papers were submitted via Catherine Russell who works for Sally Keeble without the permission of the agent. Matt Forde sent me first a message and then rang me to instruct me “not to submit my nomination as I was no longer a candidate.” Witness to this phone call was John Dickie, Peter Evans, Anjona Roy (the agent) Arthur McCutcheon and Gary Youen’s. I asked repeatedly under what party ruling was I being instructed not to submit my nomination and on what basis the party had decided that I out of the three endorsed candidates had been contacted to request my withdrawal? No explanation was forthcoming.
Not wanting to be party to any more lies, deceit and behind close door decisions myself and Peter Evans submitted our papers without party endorsement.
Neither of us took any pleasure in doing so.
During the period that the above charade was played out I made several attempts to get the party to intervene at a national level. In addition the Branch sent off two letters of official complaint to the constitutional officer for answer. Peter Evans also wrote asking for answers to questions he had raised regarding the validity of the process
We have never received any answers to any of the questions we posed about the breaches of Party rules by the party itself.
At one point in an attempt to get the party to resolve the issue without further unrest Marie Dickie contacted the then Party chair Hazel Blears by telephone to asked her to intervene. Marie will confirm that Hazel’s response was,
“Marie, Sally Keeble has briefed me on this whole issue and told me that it would be a disaster for the party if Tony Clarke was elected to the Borough Council”
I remain to this day unsure what Sally meant by this and only she can explain her comments, however I fail to see how the outcome has been anything but a disaster created by the party itself through it’s own foolishness.
Each of the above comments and statements can be backed up by hard copy evidence and by witnesses to them occurring.
I have now grown tired of the continued failure of the party to sort out its own mess or even to acknowledge its faults. My silence on this matter to date and my unwillingness to act against the party’s interests has so far been met by indifference and by instructions to party members not to speak to me. I consider this both childish and unhelpful.
I will now be considering what comments I will be making to the press once the cover up report written by Miss Oldknow is released? Maybe I should just copy them into this statement? Maybe I should tell them exactly who I believe has instigated this whole affair and why? Maybe it’s time for me to accept that whilst I have friends within the party that the party itself is not worthy of my continued silence and protection. I just hope that in possession of the truth that you are now better informed and equally determined to ensure the matter is dealt with.