Eileen Davidson, Chair of the East of England Labour Party, conducted the Annual General Meeting on 22 March 2017 of Clacton Constituency Labour Party, when a new pro-Corbyn Executive Committee was elected.
Inquisition, then expulsion
Following publication on 4 January 2017 of the SKWAWKBOX exposé, concerning the scandal of the defection in December 2016 of Councillor Jack Parsons from UKIP to Labour, Eileen Davidson ordered the cancellation of Clacton CLP's All Members Meeting scheduled for Thursday 5 January 2017.
Three weeks later, on Thursday 26 January 2017, Eileen Davidson and Cameron Scott held a secret meeting in Labour's Clacton office with the five members of the CLP Executive Committee (EC) (Sam Atkinson, Danielle Atkinson, Chris Bird, Dan Casey and Nicole El-Safty). The next day, invitations by email were extended to individual Clacton CLP members to attend interviews in Clacton on Friday 3 February 2017. Since the individuals concerned did not wish to be interviewed separately, they decided to meet the Eastern Region officials as a group.
Six Clacton CLP members therefore attended a joint interview, where they expressed their concerns about how the CLP was being run. Eileen Davidson responded by confiding that that four of the EC (Sam Atkinson, Danielle Atkinson, Chris Bird and Dan Casey) had resigned the previous day with immediate effect. The Regional Chair did not explain why they had resigned, nor did she reveal why the remaining fifth EC member Nicole El-Safty did not resign. She simply told the CLP members attending the interview to ignore anything Nicole El-Safty had to say about the future direction of the local party.
TDC election irregularities
Dear Returning Officer,
2017 Frinton by-election
On Sunday 18 December 2016 Nicole El-Safty, vice-Chair of Clacton Constituency Labour Party, arranged for her grandparents who live in Frinton to propose and second a blank nomination paper. On Monday 19 December 2016, I was informed that, although I'd been a Labour party member for over twenty years (1990-2007), I hadn't been a member for the prescribed 12 months continuous period to qualify as a candidate. Also since I'd never been a union member, which was another qualification, Labour's Eastern Region would have to approve my candidature.
Nicole telephoned me at 10:00am on Tuesday 20 December 2016 to say that Region were happy for me to stand, and I should come and sign the nomination papers. At 10:30am my wife and I drove to Clacton and visited Ms El-Safty, and met her partner the former UKIP - now Labour - Councillor Jack Parsons, who helped me fill in the nomination paper that two days earlier had been signed by Nicole's grandparents - who I have never met! Cllr Parsons witnessed my signature and said he was waiting to hear from Labour's Eastern Region to get the Certificate of authority signed. Jack suggested I should leave the nomination papers with him and offered to deliver them to the Town Hall before the 4:00pm deadline. I declined the offer because I didn't trust him, and also because I had brought along a covering letter addressed to the Returning Officer.
My wife and I took the incomplete nomination papers to Alison Rowlands at the Town Hall at midday, saying that Region would email the authorisation before the deadline. Alison told us that an email was not acceptable, it had to be an original signature. She suggested that Sam Atkinson, Chair of Clacton CLP, could be Labour's authorised signatory. Back we went to see Jack (Nicole had gone to work) who then telephoned Region (no response) and Sam Atkinson (no response). Jack finally got through to Chris Bird (Treasurer and acting Secretary) of Clacton CLP and explained that Region had not yet authorised anyone to sign the certificate, but could he nonetheless sign and get Region's authority later. Chris Bird agreed, and my wife and I walked to his address in Marine Parade East. So, technically, when Chris signed my papers at 13:30 he was not the "party's registered Nominating Officer (or person authorised by the registered Nominating Officer." I am given to understand that Region's authority was received before the 16:00 hours deadline, but I have not seen a copy of it. We handed in the completed papers to Rachel Tappenden at 14:00 hours.
2016 St Paul's by-election
The whole Executive Committee of the Clacton CLP were reported to have been involved in the supposed 2016 St Paul's by-election scandal, misleadingly reported in a SKWAWKBOX article dated 4 January 2017.
Exposed by SKWAWKBOX Tendring News Channel interviews UKIP defector Jack Parsons (9 December 2016): On 4 January 2017, the SKWAWKBOX blog reported that the Clacton CLP had been suspended for supporting Jeremy Corbyn:
Following the debacles at Wallasey CLP and Brighton & Hove CLP, the SKWAWKBOX has learned that Clacton CLP in Essex has – in effect – been suspended because its Executive Committee (EC) – which consists more or less entirely of right-wingers – feel their positions are threatened by the steadfast support of the majority of its members for Jeremy Corbyn.
Members of Clacton have told this blog that a vote of no-confidence in the EC was likely to be carried at an ‘All Members Meeting’ (AMM) scheduled for tomorrow – and apparently with considerable justification. The CLP EC includes:
- A Chair (Sam Atkinson) who rubbished the decision of two-thirds of CLP members to support Corbyn for last summer’s leadership election – and said she wished for a snap election to be called and Labour to lose, to get rid of the party’s leader;
- Dan Casey
- The Chair’s 17-year-old daughter, Danielle;
- Chris Bird
- Nicole El-Safty
In order to prevent the much-needed clear-out of the unfit EC, which has been extensively discussed among the members, including on the CLP’s Facebook page, Labour East’s regional director, only today – the day before the meeting – sent this:
- I wish to make you aware that I am instructing Clacton CLP officers to cancel the CLP All Members Meeting planned for Thursday 5 January.
- Should any meeting go ahead any decisions taken will be considered void.
- I would request that the CLP Secretary or other officer emails members to inform them of this asap, and to explain that the instruction has been given by the Labour East Regional Director on the grounds that concerns have been raised with him about the proceedings of the meeting and that no Regional Officer is available to attend.
- I have discussed the issue with the Chair of the Labour East Regional Board, Eileen Davidson who is in agreement with this action.
- If any member has any queries about this please direct them to email firstname.lastname@example.org whereby a Regional Officer will respond to their query.
- I will contact you next week to discuss next steps.
- Best wishes,
"While this is not – yet – a formal suspension of the CLP, a key meeting has been summarily cancelled from on high. Not because of anything that has happened, but because of ‘concerns’ about what might be done at the meeting. There are no grounds whatever to assume that there will be any unacceptable behaviour. The only ‘concerns’ will be those of the EC, who are aware that they were likely to be out on their ear via the vote of no-confidence.
"Members tell me that they fully expect a formal suspension of the CLP to be imposed soon – as has already happened in Wallasey and Brighton/Hove under similar circumstances. Once is unfortunate. Twice is worrying. Three times is a pattern. It’s clear that we’re seeing a pattern emerge of entrenched, right-wing MPs, Councillors and CLP ECs who will resort to causing the suspension of their local party rather than allow its Corbyn-supporting majority to run it democratically – with the collusion of regional and even national authorities to enable them.
"This is, beyond question, bringing the Labour Party into disrepute and the MPs, Councillors or Members responsible should be on administrative suspension pending an investigation to decide whether they should be expelled. The SKWAWKBOX calls on Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) to intervene in all these cases and to do so with an independent investigator so that the similar debacles in Wallasey and Brighton are corrected and not repeated in Clacton.
"The country needs a Labour Party focused on moving forward and winning – and that requires decisive action against those clinging to positions of power who are prepared to lose elections to protect those positions."
I should be grateful if you would conduct a thorough investigation into these two by-elections, and institute proceedings where offences may have been committed.
On 1 February 2017, Martyn Knappett, Deputy Returning Officer, replied:
Dear Mr Haseldine,
I write with reference to your e-mails dated 27 January, 31 January and 1 February 2017 and am responding as the Returning Officer’s appointed deputy for the St Pauls Ward Tendring District Council by-election held on 5 May 2016 and the Frinton and Walton Parish Council by-elections held on 3 November 2016 and 19 January 2017 respectively.
If I may firstly address your request that Frinton and Walton Town Council (FAWTC) be instructed to re-run the November 2016 and January 2017 by-elections, I can confirm that neither the Returning Officer, nor his designated Deputy Returning Officer(s), have any such powers.
Section 25 (1) of Schedule 2, Part 3, Chapter 2 of The Local Elections (Parishes and Communities) (England and Wales) Rules 2006 provides that in the event of a Parish Council Election being held that is not combined with any other poll, it is the responsibility of the council of that Parish to ask the Returning Officer to issue poll cards. As you are aware, on both occasions, FAWTC did not require poll cards to be issued and whilst I am sorry to learn of your dissatisfaction with the decisions taken by FAWTC, I can confirm that the absence of poll cards does not affect the legitimacy of either election.
Please be assured that the RO fulfilled his requirements in terms of publishing all statutory documentation relating to these polls in addition to issuing press releases to raise public awareness. As I am sure you will appreciate, I cannot comment on the page placement of any news article in the local newspapers.
With regards to your various statements concerning certain aspects of the selection and nomination process of the aforementioned by-elections, my comments are as follows;
In order for a candidate to stand validly nominated at a Parish and Community or Principal Area election, the RO must have received the following by 4pm on the nineteenth day before the poll (referred to as “close of nominations”);
• A nomination form that meets the prescribed requirements • A consent to nomination form that meets the prescribed requirements • If the candidate is standing on behalf of a registered political party, a certificate of authorisation signed by the party’s Nominating Officer or a person authorised by the Nominating Officer to do so
The RO is not permitted to go beyond checking that the prescribed requirements have been met and if so, must accept the forms at face value, making a determination on the validity of the nomination on that basis alone. The RO’s duty does not extend further than seeing that each form is correct on its face and he has no powers to investigate whether the person who signs the certificate of authorisation is so authorised. Please be assured that at the point of formal submission of your nomination papers on 20 December 2016, your nomination paperwork met the statutory requirements for a valid nomination.
Similarly, the four nominations accepted in respect of the St Pauls Ward District by-election held last May were determined as valid on the basis of nomination papers being submitted which met the necessary criteria to enable the candidates to stand for election. The selection process of any candidate is not a matter for the RO.
The RO has no powers in respect of allegations of electoral malpractice and I can confirm that the police are responsible for investigating any such instances. Every police force in the United Kingdom identifies a Single Point of Contact Officer (SPOC) in connection with reports of electoral fraud, who provides specialist support and advice to investigators. Should you wish to raise any of your concerns with the designated SPOC for Essex Police, his contact details are as set out below:
- Detective Inspector 42003159 Lee Morton, email@example.com, Non-emergency Switchboard 0300 333 4444 or 101.
In certain circumstances, the result of a Local Government election can be challenged by way of an election petition but this would normally need to be done within 21 days of the election being held. I am unable to assist you further in this regard and recommend that you seek independent legal advice before considering any such action. Details of how to lodge an electoral petition can be found in the Electoral Commission’s Guidance document for Candidates at a Parish or Community election .
In closing, I hope I have clarified the position in respect of the RO’s responsibilities having been fully met with regards to these three by-elections and should you wish to pursue any matters with the SPOC we will, of course, co-operate fully with any enquiries received from Essex Police.
Martyn Knappett Deputy Returning Officer and Corporate Director (Corporate Services)
Admonishing the Town Council
Three hours later, Patrick Haseldine sent another email:
- Dear Martyn,
- Thank you very much for this comprehensive reply to my email about suspected election irregularites, and to my request for a re-run of the 2016 Walton by-election and the 2017 Frinton by-election.
- Of course, I accept you have no formal powers to order a re-run of FAWTC elections but you could, and in my view, should admonish the Town Council for not issuing polling cards for these two by-elections.
- Our canvassers - pictured on 15 January 2017 at the 'Oh My Gosh' Beauty Salon in Frinton - were struck (not literally) by the number of voters complaining they knew nothing about the 19 January 2017 by-election. I should be grateful if you would articulate those complaints (and mine) to the Tendring First/Conservative cabal on the FAWTC.
- Again many thanks for your response which I am copying to Eileen Davidson, Chair of the East of England Labour Party, for action to be taken, and to the local press.
- Yours sincerely,
- Patrick Haseldine
- Labour candidate
- 2017 Frinton by-election