Watson ‘protecting chum’ over lewd messages claim
A LABOUR MP has accused his own party of behaving like a “chumocracy” for failing to suspend a close ally of Tom Watson after he sent lewd messages about a fellow councillor.
Adrian Bailey spoke out after a councillor allegedly sent messages to a blogger in which he made lewd sexual remarks about female colleagues.
The party opened an investigation after the messages were published online and Mr Bailey raised the issue with Mr Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, whose constituency also covers part of the Sandwell Council area.
But in the meantime the male councillor has been allowed to carry on in his role, leaving his female colleague avoiding meetings because she “cannot face the thought of seeing him, knowing what he said”.
Mr Bailey accused Mr Watson of appearing to put “misplaced party loyalty above the interest and wellbeing of individuals” and that “local party members are accusing him of a cover-up”.
Richard Marshall, the councillor who is alleged to have sent the messages, has referred himself for investigation and said he wants a “clear and transparent investigation” to take place. He also claimed the alleged comments had been misrepresented.
Mr Bailey, whose constituency borders Mr Watson’s, personally informed Jeremy Corbyn of the case last Wednesday and expressed his concern that the councillor has not been suspended.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: “Given that suspension of Richard Marshall would be consistent with both normal local government practice and Labour Party actions with other elected representatives, it is highly suspicious that nothing has been done to date. These allegations are very embarrassing for them. It looks as if there is an informal ‘chumocracy’ intent on prolonging action for as long as possible in the hope that the issue will somehow go away.
“It would appear in this case that Tom has put misplaced party loyalty above the interest and wellbeing of the individuals. Tom was a strong supporter of the council leader Steve Eling and two of his employees have cabinet posts on the council alongside Richard Marshall and Steve Eling. Inevitably some local party members are accusing him of a cover-up.”
Maria Crompton, a councillor, has personally called on Mr Watson to demand the suspension of her colleague after expressing distress at the possibility of seeing Mr Marshall at work. She told The Telegraph: “I am now avoiding the council [building] because I can’t face the thought of seeing him, knowing what he has said. The only resolution would be his suspension.”
The Sunday Telegraph understands Mr Watson told Ms Crompton it would be inappropriate for him to intervene because of his position on Labour’s executive committee (NEC). However, in a local newspaper article in May 2016, he publicly condemned the action of another councillor who is also facing an investigation by the Labour Party and would come before the NEC.
Mr Marshall said in a statement: “I would like this matter thoroughly and independently investigated. Unlike Parliament, there is a proper standards process in local government and as such I have self-referred the complaint against me to [the council’s]’s monitoring officer.”
Tom Watson said: “A serious complaint has been made against a councillor in Sandwell. It is being investigated by the Labour Party and that investigation will be conducted thoroughly and fairly. It would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment until that process is complete”.
ON WEDNESDAY evening, a group of senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office mandarins were gathered together at a drinks reception. They were joined by a number of distinguished members of the great and the good.
Hours after Priti Patel’s enforced resignation, the atmosphere was celebratory. “They were triumphant,” according to one of those present. “It was as if they had notched a hit on a scorecard.” The notional scorecard comprises Brexit supporting ministers, and in that context Priti Patel’s departure from the Cabinet was indeed a triumph for the FCO. It can hardly be overstated how opposed the FCO is to Brexit. The Foreign Secretary is, of course, another matter. But as an institution, the FCO regards Brexit as something close to evil.
Ms Patel’s downfall was her own fault. No one forced her to hold a series of unauthorised meetings and break the ministerial code. But once her own culpability is accepted, there is a deeper issue here: the role of the FCO.
In the eyes of the FCO, Priti Patel was a double offender. First, Brexit. But perhaps just as bad, she also wanted to reset relations with Israel.
That involved not only sharing UK aid with Israeli missions in Africa; she also floated the idea of helping the Israeli army deliver aid to Syrian refugees in the Golan Heights, an area whose Israeli control the UK has never recognised.
It was during her unauthorised meeting with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that the shared Africa aid plan was agreed. Downing Street signed off on it later, with the enthusiastic support of Theresa May. Indeed, the original idea was to announce it at the dinner celebrating the centenary of