No mention was made in the blog post of the charge made against Councillor Abrams that he leaked sensitive information to @SthLondonPress. That’s probably because he didn’t – the popular local figure managed to see straight through the email sting, and laughed it off as just another dirty tricks campaign from the right of the party.
But with the four month period of sitting on the @LambethLabour naughty step now complete, how to solve the problem of Readmitting Kingsley? It is a problem all of the making of the Nu Labour twonks within @LambethLabour, and no surprises that they have managed to botch up this political act up as well.
Many activists within the party were unhappy about the authoritarian wording of the original blog post. Calls were made for it to either reflect more accurately the exact details of the events leading up to the suspension, or if that proved to be too uncomfortable, then just delete the blog entry altogether.
An edit has now taken place, but not after much prolonged debate and further fallout behind the scenes. The new posting declares with no sense or irony, or even embarrassment that:
“Chair of the Labour group Ed Davie, secretary Jennifer Brathewaite and chief whip Jack Hopkins officially welcomed Councillor Abrams back to the group at a meeting on September 20 at the town hall.
Councillor Davie said: I am very happy to welcome Kingsley back to the group and we fully endorse London Region’s view that he should play a full and constructive part in the Labour group and council.”
That’s some welcome back handshake – behind the scenes and many leading figures within the @LambethLabour group are being emailed by Councillor Davie, briefing against Councillor Abrams and trying to offer *ahem* a ‘different interpretation‘ of the events as understood by many activists locally within the party.
This really should be the end of the very messy little spot of local bother that @LambethLabour has forced upon itself. But the continued wriggling by the Nu Labour twonks in the party is making a conclusion difficult to reach.
It is a classic case of put up, or shut up – where is the actual evidence that Councillor Abrams leaked information to the South London Press? You need to look towards the allegation that @lambeth_council Leader Steve Reed ordered the hacking of Councillor Abrams’ email account, to understand properly the reasons as to why the suspension has never properly been explained to the electorate.
You may remember how the highly popular local figure was the victim of a botched email sting by a high-ranking officer within the local party. Having failed to take the bait, Councillor Abrams was given a four-month suspension from @LambethLabour.
No evidence has yet to surface to justify this suspension. The only act that the Vassall representative appears to be guilty is to forward the sting email to Kate Hoey, the MP for Vauxhall.
This information is out in the public domain after a high ranking @LambethLabour party member ordered an apolitical council employee to hack into Councillor Abrams’ email account, to try and see if the sting had succeeded.
But now it would seem that with the four-month suspension for a non-existent offence having been served, Councillor Abrams has decided to take on the right wing @LambethLabour administration from within.
Councillor Abrams is a Labour man through and through. His speech at the most recent Full Council meeting could have been used as an opportunity to shame the Nu Labour sheep who followed the orders from above to boot him out.
There is quite simply nowhere else for Councillor Abrams to align himself, other than the Labour party. He believes in fighting the ConDem cuts, rather than rolling out public sector redundancies, as proposed by the Nu Labour twonks within his local party.
Councillor Abrams is pledging to campaign for all housing maintenance in the borough to be brought back in house. With the collapse of Connaught leaving Lambeth Livinglooking even sillier, Councillor Abrams has been telling his ward constituents that further privatisation is not the answer to Lambeth’s shameful public housing state of affairs.
As for the ConDem and @LambethLabour savage cuts, Councillor Abrams has stated:
“Lambeth Council is set to make £85m cuts over the next four years. Free swimming has already gone. Nearly 700 jobs will be lost in Lambeth. I am working with the local unions, churches and community groups to protect front line services in Lambeth.”
Other areas that Councillor Abrams is keen to take on as the conscience of @LambethLabour include the re-opening of Brixton Road Youth Club (closed since the summer) and fighting the council selling off of the Calais Gate Estate.
Now is the perfect time for Councillor Abrams to take on the right wing of his party from within. He is not alone amongst @LambethLabour councillors in feeling anger and betrayal in the manner that his own party (a LABOUR party!) has been proposing a right wing agenda of savage attacks on the public sector.
By speaking up from within the @LambethLabour benches, he is likely to make more friends than enemies as the fight for the true heart of @LambethLabour is now ripe for attack.
It doesn’t say much for local political participation, democracy and dare I say it *shhh* co-operation, when the @lambeth_councilStandards Committee decides to meet in secrecy to decide the fate of council leader @cllrstevereed.
No worries – at least the outcome of the committee meeting has been disclosed: a Full Conduct Hearing is required to rule if the Leader of both @lambeth_council and @LambethLabour, has breached the Council Code of Conduct.
As for the specific charges?
*shhh* once again.
With such a closed-door approach to local democracy, it is no wonder that Lambeth locals view activities related to the local authority with such cynicism. What is known is that the appearance of the council Leader in front of a Full Conduct Hearing relates back to the decision of (then) Councillor Betty Evans-Jacas to defect from @LambethLabour to the Tories back in October of 2009.
Reed responded at the time with an astonishing personal attack published on his own blog. Allegations were made about financial demands that Reed believes Evans-Jacas made on the local Labour party.
It is no surprise that these allegations form the bulk of the charges now stacked up against Reed. With no official word coming from the corridors of power at Lambeth Town Hall, it is a lame state of affairs when Lambeth locals are excluded from observing the democratic process which may lead to the impeachment of their council Leader.
Cut the crap etc, and it seems that two charges have been levelled at @cllrstevereed:
(i) Lambeth Council’s Standards Committee believes that a breach of the Council’s Code of Conduct was made when Reed published on his blog financial information relating to Evans-Jacas.
The allegation made in the blog post is that Evans-Jacas asked for more money in order to remain within the local Labour party. This smear from the Leader of the local council failed to mention the wider picture, and in particular, the problems that the then Labour councillor was having in paying her own Council Tax.
This dates back to 2006 and a long-standing illness suffered by Evans-Jacas. She was unable to work for a long period of time, and personally approached the @LambethLabour Chief Whip to try and talk through her difficulties.
It was decided in discussions with council officers that the Council Tax money would be deducted at source from the civic allowance that Evans-Jacas was entitled to.
(ii) The second charge made against Reed by the Standards Committee is the failure to treat a fellow Member with due respect. This is of course more of an arbitrary allegation to defend, and to be fair, a charge that a great majority of local councillors could be made to answer for following their bun fights during Full Council meetings.
If found guilty, the Leader of @lambeth_council could be suspended from office for a period of three months. Timing is all crucial here, with the planned #lambethcoop consultation from the non-citizen Citizen’s Commission due to report back to cabinet during this period.
#lambethcoop is very much the personal PR push by @cllrstevereed and his involvement is central to the success of the project. Likewise the proposal to place the permanenttemporaryStreatham ice pad at Pope’s Road Car Park is a policy that has been led from top down.
An apology at the time from @cllrstevereed may have appeased the Lambeth Tories, and probably would have prevented this messy busy being played out in (semi) private. Saying sorry (and deleting the highly offensive tweet aimed at Evans-Jacas) seems to have got @cllr_robbins out of a sticky situation.
It is perhaps ironic that all of this unfortunate political fallout is being played out just as the suspension of another @LambethLabour councillor is about to come to a close. Having been forced to sit on the Lambeth naughty step, many political activists locally will be eagerly awaiting the next political move of LabourIndependent LabourCouncillor Abrams of Vassall ward.
Reed personally led the charge against Councillor Abrams at a London wide disciplinary hearing of the Labour party. With no evidence still yet to appear to support the allegation by Reed that Abrams was leaking information, it will be fascinating to see how the Full Conduct Hearing operates, when the allegations made against Reed were self-published on his very own blog for all to see.
I find the treatment of LabourIndependentCouncillor Kingsley Abrams intriguing. It is a story that has only been touched on by the local South London media, and has yet to be really fully explained to the electorate.
The reasons for the Vassall ward councillor losing the whip of the local @LambethLabour party have some parallels with Betty Evans-Jacas, the former Labour councillor for Brixton Hill, who walked across the chamber to join the Tories.
But unlike Betty, Councillor Abrams is a Labour supporter through and through. Yet still he finds himself sitting on the outside of the local party, despite polling an impressive 2,533 votes, the highest number is his Vassall ward with 16% of the overall vote.
The real reasons for Evans-Jacas leaving @LambethLabour have never really been explained outside of the local party either. With such a powerful mandate to serve the electorate in Vassall ward, I wanted to put on the public record why Councillor Abrams has been pushed aside.
We met up in Councillor Abrams home patch early evening on Thursday. I found Councillor Abrams in amiable form. He appears to have been treated incredibly harsh over recent months. What has happened to this popular local figure to make the powerful cabinet clique give Kingsley the cold shoulder?
Councillor Abrams alleges in the podcast below that @cllrstevereed, the Leader of Lambeth Council, was personally responsible for an email sting operation to try and catch him out. The allegation is that a false email was sent to Councillor Abrams’ email account personally by @cllrstevereed, with the Leader of Lambeth Council hoping that this would then be leaked to the South London Press.
Councillor Abrams strongly denies leaking this email, and indeed the failure of the South London Press to publish the false story, seems to verify his account.
What I find more disturbing about the whole affair is the means in which @LambethLabour was able to discover that Councillor Abrams had forwarded the email sting to Kate Hoey, the local MP for Vauxhall. The allegation is that @cllrstevereed instructed an apolitical civil servant to hack into Councillor Abram’s email account.
The story then becomes a political farce; Councillor Abrams was asked to resign ahead of May 6th. He refused to do so, rightly claiming that there had been no evidence presented against him. The election campaign was in full flow, and Councillor Abrams was given the absurd situation of doing the #labourdoorstep thing, knowing full well that if he were to win, his local party was going to do everything in its power to discredit him.
Unlike Betty Evans-Jacas, Councillor Abrams has declared his loyalty to the Labour party. He has been a member for thirty-two years, and wasn’t prepared to give up on his politics on the insistence of what appears to be an incredibly dirty tricks campaign by the right of the local party in Lambeth.
Councillor Abrams continued to recount the events to me, explaining how still without any evidence after May 6th, the power of the @LambethLabour cabinet led to a four-month suspension. An appeal followed, with the unprecedented action of the Leader of Lambeth Council actually representing himself and having to explain how the email hack had happened.
The conclusion is that Councillor Abrams lost the hearing. To this date, no evidence has yet been presented as to why he was even given a four-month suspension from the party that he is passionate about. Councillor Abrams speculates in the podcast below about how the clash of personalities within @LambethLabour, and to a lesser extent, political policy, is probably behind the playground style behaviour from the powers that be @LambethLabour.
I have a lot of time for Kingsley (although not that much – he had to dash off for a ward surgery, and then a tenant meeting on a local estate. He may have had the whip withdrawn, but he is still serving the locals on his ward incredibly well.)
We walked around the Cowley Estate early evening, and he was greeted with friendly smiles and waves at every corner. This is a battle that is of the making by the right wing of @LambethLabour. It is difficult to understand what the @LambethLabour cabinet is trying to achieve. Losing the services of a highly respected local Councillor, as well as the support of a local community, isn’t the traditional way to go about fighting the savage cuts being proposed from the opposition in Westminster.
For all the claims of a personality clash being responsible for the suspension, Councillor Abrams remains a very strong personality locally. This strength of that support will be seen in four months time when the suspension is complete, and Councillor Abrams ponders his next political move.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
And in a roundabout way, it more or less was. All up until sometime after the pomp and ceremony of the civic duties were complete, and the guests of Mr Mayor (Keith Vaz MP, Val Shawcross) had been shown the way to the warm white wine in Mr Mayor’s parlour.
In some La La Lambeth Land twisted turn of fate, the Tulse Hill Situation somehow became embroiled with dear old Comrade Kingsley. Having had the @LambethLabour whip removed for allegedly leaking sensitive Nu Labour documents (is it a co-op? / isn’t it a co-op?) the good Councillor for the Vassall ward suddenly found himself centre stage, somehwere between Vassal and Tulse Hill.
Trust it to be those pesky @LambethLibDems for trying to make political capital out of the internal failings of the squeaky clean Nu Labour tribe. Way down the order paper, and an amendment was placed in at the last minute by @BishopsGavin, one of the @LambethLibDems’ elected representatives for Bishops ward.
In essence, the good Councillor was asking what the chuffers do we do with *that* empty Tulse Hill seat in the chamber, all the way up until the by-election on July 1st?
The Love Me I’m a Liberal voice of reason (and actually it did seem rather sensible to me) was to allow the displaced old Labour figurehead of Comrade Kingsley to take up the Tulse Hill seat in the chamber, sitting as an independent.
This may be a symbolic gesture in principle, but it actually has real ramifications. Don’t be confused with talk of Comrade Kingsley becoming a Councillor in Tulse Hill. What was being put forward here was the motion that dear old Kingsley, now ostracised (rightly or wrongly) from the squeaky clean Nu Labour tribe, should be allowed to sit in an independent Tulse Hill seat in the chamber.
The implication is that Comrade Kingsley gets to form a group of one. Or even two, three or four, depending on how many of the squeaky clean Nu Labour sheep actually find a backbone.
I don’t think Comrade Kingsley will be joined by my Nu Labour Councillor, @JackHopkins_Lab. Having given a sychophantic first speech in the chamber, describing @cllrstevereed as “a champion for taking important decisions,” Jack the Lad Hopkins then used his Chief Whip role to talk down the sensible @LambethLibDem suggestion:
“Why do we need an independent group? The seat will be retained by Labour anyway in the by-election.”
This was fighting talk, not to mention arrogance in the extreme. It would have made sense during the political hustings in that merry month of May, but as a response in what to do with the incredibly delicate Tulse Hill Situation?
Jack the Lad Hopkins now has significant power within Nu Labour himself. So would you if you had just referred to your glorious leader as a “champion.” The @LambethLibDems motion was voted down by the Nu Labour tribe, and poor old Comrade Kingsley was left to sit alone on the Lambeth naughty step.
It’s not that his Nu Labour colleagues smell or anything, simply that forming an independent and recognised political group actually allows you council privileges within the Town Hall. You physically get a desk, a phone and access to the borough’s IT infrastructure.
Oh, hang on…
Comrade Kingsley is now stuck out in Lambeth No Man’s Land (somewhere between Vassall and Tulse Hill) awaiting the outcome of his appeal to the wider London Labour party over his treatment, following the removal of the @LambethLabour whip.
The move by @BishopsGavin to try and find a lone voice for Comrade Kingsley wasn’t a political act of philanthropy. There is little love lost between Comrade Kingsley and his @LambethLibDems ward colleague, Councillor Bradley.
In Lambeth street slang, I believe the vernacular for the inclusion of the motion is that of s*** stirring. Sadly it looks like that it is dear old Comrade Kingsley that is left in the s***, given the Nu Labour tribe respecting the “champion” that is @cllrstevereed.
And so why the cold shoulder for Comrade Kingsely? He’s a lovely fella, who although may not be politically aligned with the pioneering vision of a co-operative form of local government (aren’t we all?) he cares passionately about his ward, and the future direction of the Labour party.
At a time when the Nu Labour project has imploded so spectacularly on the national stage, now is the time when the party is supposedly trying to reconnect with its core values.
Not in Lambeth, it ‘aint.
Kingsley’s appeal to the London Labour party should be lively. He wants to remain within the political organisation that he is keen to take forward. But does the Labour party, Nu or traditional, want to listen to a dissenting voice?
His @lambeth_council email account was hacked into directly by @LambethLabour. It is permissible for Lambeth Council as an employer to access his email account, but it isn’t @LambethLabour that is paying Comrade Kingsley his allowance.
And what did the hackers find within Comrade Kingsley’s Inbox? Nothing at all to do with the Tulse Hill Situation, but simply a few constituency emails, oh, and an email from some old bird called Kate Hoey.
We need to return to a familiar old theme around these parts to find further rationale as to why the Nu Labour election-winning machine wanted to take a butchers at Comrade Kingsley’s emails…
@LambethLabour has become so paranoid about the complete meltdown in relations between the sex ad funded newspaper and the Nu Labour cabinet, that it was prepared to hack into Comrade Kingsley’s account, just to access the slightest hint of any sordid betrayal.
One of the allegations that Comrade Kingsley is facing from Nu Labour is that he sent an email to a @SthLondonPress reporter. The allegation continues that this was then read back out over the phone from the offices of @SthLondonPress to a very high ranking @LambethLabour official.
Seeing as the contents of the alleged email haven’t appeared in the pages of the @SthLondonPress, the conclusion is that the local newspaper is either asleep on the job, or simply that the allegations are a complete fabrication.
As I said – the London Labour group internal investigation should be interesting.
It is actually the exact opposite that has taken place. Comrade Kingsley has attempted to act as a peacemaker in the whole @LambethLabour / @SthLondonPress stand off.
He arranged for a meeting in the Effra pub between a high ranking @LambethLabour party official, and a representative from the newspaper. Both sides failed to find common ground, and you can draw your own conclusion over the success of the meeting, with the continued publication by @LambethLabour of Lambeth Life. Which doesn’t really help anyone.
The end result is a further freezing of the frosty relationship between the local council and the local media (of sorts,) as well as a further problem to be added to the Tulse Hill Situation – what the hell do we do with Comrade Kingsley for the next four years?
Timing couldn’t be worse for @LambethLabour. Comrade Kingsley is entitled to remain representing the good people of Vassall until 2014. That is what they voted him in for with 2,533 votes – the highest in the ward.
It is my understanding that his wishes to continue to represent his Vassall constituents. I believe that he also wants to represent Vassall under a Labour banner, something that he campaigned under during the #labourdoorstep period.
So yeah – the first full @lambeth_council meeting back in the Red Flag flying 44 4342 seat controlled @LambethLabour borough, and it was all supposed to be apolitical. It’s such a shame, as the other News In Brief (that really should be headline news) include:
The election of Neeraj Patil as the new Mayor of Lambeth, and a totally wonderful and inclusive speech from the as ever ace @mayoroflambeth.