Hacked Off

I have been having some problems with my Hotmail account of late. Yeah, yeah, I know – should have switched to gmail. I have, as it happens, with each gmail being forwarded to my Hotmail account.

The reason why I haven’t migrated fully is because my good old Hotmail address stretches back fifteen years. Everyone knows how, and where, to contact me.

Some people have been a little *too* enthusiastic in trying to make the most of my Hotmail account though. I have been receiving of late those Hotmail automated messages, telling me to change my password ASAP. These are triggered off by someone trying (and failing) to hack into my account.

There’s a pattern to all of this online activity as well – the password changing email always appears after I have posted a Lambeth based political post to m’blog.

Blimey.

I can write endless cricket waffle, and much like the post itself, my Hotmail account is of little interest to anyone. Write a Lambeth based political post however, and all of a sudden, someone wants to see what is inside my personal email account.

This appears to be something of a theme in Lambeth over recent weeks. I have already explained the circumstances that led to @LambethLabour’s Councillor Kingsley Abrams being suspended from his party for a period of four months.

The Vassall ward Councillor was suspected of leaking Nu Labour information to the South London Press [um, site borked, at time of posting...]. An internal Labour Party panel was set up to enquire into whether he had leaked information, which produced a report that was then handed over to the Labour Group Executive for consideration.

The panel found no evidence that Councillor Abrams leaked any information to the South London Press, yet still the full @LambethLabour group voted for a four-month suspension for Councillor Abrams at its group meeting on May 17th.

Here’s where the hacking story in South London gets rather sinister, leading me to consider switching my own personal Hotmail account to a provider that is known not to have so many security holes.

Why was Councillor Abrams suspended with no evidence presented to the @LambethLabour group that he had leaked to the South London Press? Someone, somehow, had found some information, which led to the suspicion that Councillor Abrams wasn’t the enthusiastic flag waver for the Nu Labour project in Lambeth that the party requires of its councillors.

What was this information? On the day of the full @LambethLabour group meeting, copies of a number of emails were produced by the Leader of the Council, all copied from Councillor Abrams’ Lambeth Council account. These included an email sent to Kate Hoey, the MP for Vauxhall, informing her that the Head of Lambeth Living had resigned.

Blimey.

This was news to Hoey, and of great political significance, seeing as though along with Councillor Abrams, she has long since been critical of the Lambeth Living ALMO experiment.

There was absolutely NO truth in the resignation of course – the email had landed in Councillor Abrams’ inbox as a political sting to try and encourage him to leak it, and then subsequently provide a bona fide reason to remove the left of centre Councillor from the right wing @LambethLabour party.

The resignation of the Head of Lambeth Living is a huge story of local interest – which is why you didn’t hear about it because the sting backfired spectacularly. Councillor Abrams forwarded the email to Kate Hoey as evidence of the dirty tricks campaign being waged against him by his own political party. The MP for Vauxhall was not impressed:

“It is central to a free democratic society that every citizen has an absolute right to free and confidential communication with his or her elected representative… without fear that their communications will be intercepted by third parties”

Or even your own local political party.

Whops.

In a serendipitous style, the smoking gun email that never was, bounced between the original high ranking @LambethLabour party member who hatched the plan, over to Councillor Abrams account, crossing the river into Westminster with Kate Hoey, and then back to Lambeth and the laptop of the very same person that sent it, after the instructions were given to hack into the Councillor Abram’s Lambeth account.

And all the time, Lambeth Living still had a Head in charge…

But the real issue here is one of the legalities of looking at the private email of other people. Most work contracts state that employers have the right to monitor emails coming through the internal server. But Councillor Abrams isn’t employed by @LambethLabour, and so the group has no business in snooping around.

Nu Labour has now obtained so much power within the borough, that it is able to exert pressure on supposedly apolitical council officers to do the dirty work on its behalf. If @LambethLabour has no morals in snooping on a party member, who else are they trying to hack into?

Um…

With the Vassall ward being a hotly contested patch between @LambethLabour and @LambethLibDems, you would expect our friends from the red side of the borough to be keen on keeping any card carrying members of the Labour party. Councillor Abrams polled an impressive 2,533 votes – the highest in the ward.

With a London Labour party panel next up to hear the case, I’m starting to consider who is actually on trial here – the Councillor with no evidence against him, or the political party that has been trying to trap its own party members.

Meanwhile, I’m busy changing the password for my damn Hotmail account. Must think of something easy to remember.

l***le_s***s

That should do.

4 thoughts on “Hacked Off

  1. I know that your average councillor is a bit thick – well you’d have to be to take so much shit for so little money without having any say in the policy decided by the local boss – but why do they use the council’s system at all, when the whole council leaks like a sieve ? ? ?

  2. I dont see what the issue is here – Councillor Abrams is doing council business and for all intents and purposes is a council employee therefore his emails are accessible by the authorities. As a representative of the council he has a duty not to undermine it by leaking information.

    And as to why he should use the Lambeth system rather than his own – its to do with public accountability to us the council tax payers of Lambeth. Its also because as a public body they have to be searchable for freedom of information requests and the like. Besides I bet the Lambeth system is far more secure than hotmail and the like; remember how republican Sarah Palin suffered embarassment when her yahoo emails were hacked –

  3. @Magnus The issue is that the email was snooped upon by a council officer, under the direct instruction from someone very high up in the local Labour party. If the council officers had a valid reason to go snooping, then as you identified, this would be within their right.

    However, it was for party political reasons that the very high ranking Lambeth Labour official put pressure on the council officer to do the snooping.

    Councillor Abrams does indeed have a duty not to leak any information. No evidence has been provided as yet that this was the case. The internal Lambeth Labour party review found nothing, yet still the residents of Vassall ward have one of their democratically elected councillors suspended.

  4. I wonder if you know this, but some councillors do not use any other account than lambeth.gov, and one such innocent soul told me that she was encouraged to use her account (*Laugh!*) ‘for security purposes’. Bet she has had second thoughts about that now, poor child!

    What is really appalling is that it now appears that, when Councillor Abrams email was searched, a number of emails addressed to him by residents, his MP, and others were, quite improperly, disclosed to third parties.

    This is totally unacceptable, as it completely destroys the confidence in the confidential nature of their correspondence which constituents are entitled to expect when communicating with their elected representatives. On this basis, the most severe sanctions must clearly be applied to those responsible, as, if permitted to go unpunished it will undermine the whole democratic process of personal representation as we know it. Someone has, indeed, blundered!

    Expect Questions in the House, referrals to the Information Commissioner – and resignations!

    Interesting times ahead . . .

    Tell me, too (Do!), what can be regarded as being confidential about an email, the content of which is untrue, which is sent by an *agent provocateur*, and givies news of the resignation of the Chief Executive of a body that is (supposedly) independent of the Council? Ah, yes. Indeed, it could only happen in Lambeth!

    Kafka, anyone?

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