Chapter 9: The undemocratic imposition, without a vote of members, of the Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion in November 2019
This is the ninth and final chapter of what was always intended to be a single article. A compendium of all nine chapters — written and published since May 4 2019 — can be found together via this link to the single article (which will be regularly revised in the days and weeks after May 14 2020): Iain McNicol: The criminal conspiracy against the Labour Party, its leadership, and its members
With the last of nine instalments covering nearly nine years since the creation — and then the enforced dissolution — of the City Party in Brighton and Hove, it is time to come full circle.
I began with the prelude to the surprise selection of Kyle as the Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Hove in June 2013 (against Labour Party rules, from an “open” long list of 16 men and a short list of three men).
I end here with the bizarre process resulting in the “selection” — more accurately, the imposition — of the Labour Party parliamentary candidate in Brighton Pavilion in November 2019.
First, though, I want to go back to what was the historic general election of 2017, when Jeremy Corbyn became so close to being our country’s first socialist prime minister.
The lie of the land in 2017 in Brighton and Hove was clear: Kyle in Hove was automatically the candidate and was certain to win (with the implosion of the Liberal Democrats in 2015, an ineffective Green campaign, and the collapse of the Conservatives in a constituency that was strongly anti-Brexit); Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion was also certain to win again, “even if she strangled a dog on live television,” joked one local activist; Brighton Kemptown, however, was definitely in play, following the Nancy Platts failure by just 690 votes to unseat the Conservative MP in 2015.
On Sunday, April 30 2017, with Platts having recently quit as trade union liaison manager in Jeremy Corbyn’s team, a three-person panel appointed by McNicol and his employees, met to decide whom to impose as the official party candidate.
Clear favourite was Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the former chair of the then-defunct City Party, a prominent member (for East Brighton) on Brighton and Hove City Council, and a friend of Platts (who had decided not to stand, following her painfully-narrow defeat in Brighton Kemptown in 2015 and a similarly disappointing result in Brighton Pavilion in 2010). Russell-Moyle was seen as broadly sympathetic to Corbyn and therefore had the support of Brighton and Hove Momentum.
Then the mid-morning telephone call came that fateful Sunday in April. The caller — someone intimately involved with the process — alerted me to the fact that the result was being fixed by two of the three anti-Corbyn members of the panel. Indeed, almost simultaneously, a well-informed article on the Brighton & Hove News website jumped the gun, in an article under the headline “Labour to spring surprise candidate on Brighton Kemptown”. I still do not know if it was a pro-Corbyn or an anti-Corbyn source; I suspect the former, in an attempt to overturn a draft decision arrived at in an informal “pre-meeting”.
The article stated: “A selection panel meeting is expected to pick charity chief executive Michelle Thew, who became chief executive of Cruelty Free International, formerly the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, in 2006.”
Furthermore, it reported — a little bizarrely, given its irrelevance — the selection-cum-imposition committee had chosen from an all-women short list, adding: “The news was a surprise to local activists with three members of Brighton and Hove City Council — Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Dan Yates and Tom Bewick — among the frontrunners.”
Within hours, the anti-Corbyn manoeuvring had been turned around and Russell-Moyle was, later the same day, named as the candidate; happily, he was subsequently replaced by Platts as a city councillor in the safe seat of East Brighton (who even more happily became leader of the Labour-controlled council less than two years later).
There was some consolation for Thew, the chief executive of Cruelty Free International (formerly the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection).
Within 24 hours, Thew — who turned out to be a little-known member of Hove CLP — was imposed as the candidate for Brighton Pavilion (the constituency where I live).
Amusingly, despite being still suspended, I was approached by my CLP’s officers to help with the press launch of Thew’s campaign — prompting yet another complaint to McNicol’s cronies (left).
The complainant need not have bothered. For Thew — on the day of the planned launch (Thursday, May 4 2017) — decided to withdraw “for personal reasons”.
Instead, on Wednesday, May 10 2017, Solomon Curtis was unveiled as the new candidate (making it a hat-trick of male Labour candidates in the city, for the first time since 2001).
Even though I had indeed helped with the press coverage, I was refused entry to the actual event at the Brighthelm Centre — and was then photographed by a furious Cattell (passim) when I later returned to pick up my wife.
On June 8 2017, Curtis inevitably lost; Kyle — who mentioned Corbyn only to rubbish his leadership — won; so did Russell-Moyle, thanks in part to huge numbers of pro-Corbyn volunteers travelling from Hove, Brighton Pavilion, and beyond.
So what was going on in the chaotic, bureaucratic, anti-democratic — but ultimately doomed — attempt to fix Brighton Kemptown for Thew, the unknown member from Hove (who, as it turned out, was — through her anti-vivisection work — a friend of Lucas)?
To any of the small number of people who knew what had gone on, the answer was obvious: Kyle’s friends in the McNicol machine wanted a no-hope outsider to stand in Brighton Kemptown so that it became a can’t-win seat — and so that resources could be funnelled into Hove.
Not only was this strategy quickly thwarted — by union intervention (specifically Unite and GMB Union) — but also some of us persuaded the Green Party candidate to stand down and make way for an ardent pro-European such as Russell-Moyle. Result on June 8: an astonishing Labour majority of 9.868!
On Tuesday, June 6, there had been a huge get-out-the-vote rally with Barry Gardiner in the Synergy Centre, Brighton. I — like other suspended members who had been canvassing hard that very evening in Brighton Kemptown — were refused entry by Amy Fode, the then Labour Party Regional Director, even though many non-members were admitted.
Fast forward to 2019 and — with Kyle and Russell-Moyle having a clear run again (“open selections having been ruled out and “trigger” ballots brushed aside because of the “snap” election that had been foreseen for months)— only Brighton Pavilion was in play.
Naturally, all CLP members were determined there should be no repeat of the farce of 2017.
The easiest way to explain yet another undemocratic imposition is first to outline the timetable as it affected the Labour Party in seats it was unlikely to win in the “Brexit” general election on December 12 2019:
- Wednesday, September 4: An email lands at 6.40pm from Jennie Formby, McNicol’s replacement as general secretary, inviting applications. It gave would-be applicants less than 48 hours to meet a deadline of 5pm on Friday, September 6;
- Monday, September 9: Without explanation — but understandably — a new deadline had been extended to 10am; I submitted my application at 8.24am and received an immediate confirmation of receipt;
- Tuesday, October 8: After three weeks since all selections had been paused, the NEC Officers’ Group met to approve emergency procedures. Which, in the case of Brighton Pavilion, meant that the longlisting, shortlisting, and selection of a candidate resided almost entirely with the CLP and its members. Subsequently, CLP officers claimed they repeatedly — and unsuccessfully — sought permission to begin the selection process;
- Friday, October 18: A generic email was sent to would-be candidates — in cluding me — from the “Labour Party Selections Team”. It stated: “The Party has received a very large number of applications and we are progressing selections as quickly as possible to prepare for a possible early election. Regional offices will be in touch in due course when longlists and shortlists are decided for the remaining vacancies. We are not able to provide feedback on individual applications.”
- Tuesday, October 29: MPs vote for a general election on December 12; almost immediately — and with no formal notification to those who had applied more than seven weeks earlier to be the candidate in Brighton Pavilion — Labour’s NEC Officers’ Group decided to change the emergency procedures. With little publicity, it ordained that those seats that had not yet selected a Labour candidate and were not represented by a Labour MP would now have their candidate picked by panels composed of representatives from the NEC, the party’s regional board, and the CLP.
The decisive date, as I learned later, was Friday, November 1, when two members of Brighton Pavilion CLP — the requirement reportedly was “a woman and a BAME member” — were summoned to Labour Party headquarters, where they joined two members of the Southeast Regional Board.
The four were asked if the had read the applicants’ CVs; the Brighton Pavilion members said they had not even been given copies. Officials handed out two CVs to read: that of Adam Imanpour, a young member of Hove CLP, whom I had encouraged to apply, and that of another applicant (also, by coincidence, called Adam, from elsewhere in Sussex).
A quick discussion followed and the choice was made: Adam from Sussex. It was only then that officials disclosed that a third candidate had applied, but he had “failed due diligence”. That candidate was the only one who lived in the constituency. That candidate, as I found out later, was me.
With election excitement mounting, I emailed the Labour Party Selections Team at 9.15pm on Monday, November 4, to ask how my application was proceeding; I received a brief auto-reply that thanked me for my email and added: “We are not currently accepting applications.”
Even in my total ignorance, I was beginning to think I may not have been successful!
Unbeknown to me, of course, the next day a telephone call was made to “Adam from Sussex”, giving him the good news that he had been chosen as our candidate. He seemed taken aback, as he disclosed he had already accepted another constituency; I’m still not sure which one.
What was to be done? I still knew nothing, until 9.51am when an anti-Corbyn troll on Twitter was confident. “It won’t be you,” she tweeted. At 12.25pm, @BuxtonFletcher1 tweeted again (left): “Come and celebrate @greghadfield not getting selected, with a host of Labour members who all love Jeremy Corbyn so much they for @CarolineLucas”.
If true, I could only assume that someone with close contact with Labour Party officials had leaked the news. My suspicions were confirmed the next day when at 5.01pm on Thursday, November 7, Luke Stanger — a vile Hove-based anti-Corbyn troll who had been suspended for alleged racism and bullying of women — named the successful candidate as Adam Imanpour.
Which was strange, because Imanpour had not yet seen an email confirming his selection, sent by Labour Party officials at 3.20pm; strangely, both he and I got generic emails telling us we both had been unsuccessful and wishing us luck in any future applications. Separately, however, Imanpour did not know for certain he was the official candidate until 5.05pm when he received a congratulatory telephone call from Jon Rogers, chair of Brighton Pavilion CLP.
At 5.18pm, @BuxtonFletcher tweeted (left): “I’ve just been told who the Labour candidate is for @PavilionLabour and I’ll [n]ever stop laughing. Still, at least it’s not @GregHadfield.”
On Saturday, November 9, I was delighted to join 60 or so members of Brighton Pavilion CLP to give Adam Imanpour the warmest of welcomes (below left).
On the way to the meeting at Friends Meeting House, I bought a copy of the Daily Mail — which had a double-page spread headlined “Corbyn’s Dirty Dozen”, a typically-vicious hatchet job on 12 Labour Party parliamentary candidates. I was reminded of one of the questions — 1.e — I had to answer on the Labour Party “declaration form” form:
If grassroots members in Brighton Pavilion had been given the chance to vote for me, they may have ended up with a candidate the Daily Mail — my old employer — could never support.
To try to find out what went on at Labour Party headquarters, I could perhaps submit a Subject Access Request. But, on past experience, I doubt it would be fulfilled.
After nearly nine years of travail — swimming in a sea of McNicol-inspired machinations, toxic abuse, secrecy, McCarthyite suspensions, and Kafka-esque trials — thank goodness I was spared. By being (secretly) declared persona non grata — we used to call it blacklisting when done by employers — with no explanation and no right of appeal.
And thus another campaign began. With members agreeing this must never happen again.
Certainly not until the next time.
When it does, though, you can count me out.
This is the final chapter of an article that is related directly or indirectly to the shocking evidence contained in the recent leaked report entitled “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014–2019”. [Separately, I have put online some relevant extracts from the report.]
The complete article will be sent to Martin Forde QC, the chair of the official Labour Party inquiry into the leaked report (even though, strangely but unsurprisingly, its terms of reference do not appear to allow for such democratic engagement).
Please let me know what you think via @GregHadfield; if you have any further information about the individuals or events mentioned, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.