Published On: Sun, Feb 2nd, 2020

Smears v Murphy “lowest ever” “absolute lies” for which “no shred of evidence”, say senior Labour sources

Attack on Corbyn’s chief of staff dismissed – fact no complaint ever made makes claims reproduced by Huffington Post “literally unbelievable”
Karie Murphy

Anonymous claims made by anonymous ‘staff’, published in the Huffington Post in a ‘disgraceful’ attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s chief of staff Karie Murphy, have been dismissed as ‘literally unbelievable’ ‘absolute lies’ for which ‘not a jot of evidence’ was ever presented and no complaint was ever made, according to a senior Labour source.

The article publishes claims against Murphy, including allegations of physical assault.

The Labour source – which was not Murphy – told the SKWAWKBOX:

The claims are absolute lies and the article is an absolute disgrace. Not a shred of evidence was ever presented and there was never a single complaint. If she assaulted someone, as the article’s anonymous source alleges, it’s literally unbelievable that there wouldn’t be any kind of complaint.

Several union figures, former Labour colleagues and others have also gone on record to dismiss the allegations and condemn the article that regurgitated them:

The Huffington Post’s article refers to a response by Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby to a letter sent – supposedly – on behalf of anonymous staff. The SKWAWKBOX has obtained that response. It is reproduced in full below and is clearly responding to a document that was vague and unevidenced:

Thank you for your letter dated 3rd December that you emailed to me on 20th December; I am sorry not to reply sooner but I returned to the office yesterday following the Christmas break.

You make a number of allegations, some of which are extremely serious, but the letter does not appear to be registering a grievance, which is of some concern to me. The Labour Party has a duty of care to all employees and I therefore strongly believe that any issues of the nature raised in the letter should be investigated and if substantiated, action taken to resolve them.

However, as the allegations made are anonymous it is impossible to ascertain whether or not they are true. This is not only worrying in relation to members of staff who may be feeling anxious or unhappy; it is also very unfair to the SMT against whom the complaints have been raised but who are in no position to explain or defend themselves.

I should also advise you that a significant number of individuals in LOTO have made contact wishing to distance themselves from the letter, with several of these people saying that they do not recognise the behaviours that have been outlined. Having said that, I am of course aware that this does not mean that the concerns expressed are not true; simply that it makes it extremely difficult for me to be able to judge the seriousness of the situation and how widespread it may be.
I would therefore strongly urge you to pass on the message to any individual who has a specific concern to follow the formal grievance procedure.

I can guarantee to you that all employees can do this with confidence that they will be treated fairly. You are unclear as to why you have no faith in the HR process but I can assure you that xxxxx and the team she manages are highly professional and confidential and I have not to date had any concerns expressed to me that would lead me to doubt that.

Turning to the questions you have raised I will try to address each one although I have grouped some into one answer as they are linked.

1, I agree that training is important and have been discussing this with HR, including training on management skills and on equality and diversity training. I have raised the latter in particular because of concerns I have about the lack of BAME staff working in regions and we are therefore also examining how we recruit staff to all positions to
ensure greater diversity. Having said that, LOTO would appear to have a higher ratio of BAME staff than any other area or team within the party with the exception of Community Organising. I have also raised this issue on several occasions with Executive Directors and with Regional Directors who are very supportive.

2. There is already a compulsory annual gender audit of our staff but I am happy to consider a race audit to support the objectives as outlined above and I will discuss it with the HR team.

3. You mention independent mediation where relationships have broken down. We already have this as a tool that is available where the grievance process identifies difficulties in relationships but I would stress that there needs to be clear evidence of this before we would consider employing any external body.

4. I am a little surprised at the question regarding responsibility for HR as this has always been an element for which an ED has had responsibility, in particular in relation to resource allocation, and that has not changed. This is absolutely appropriate as I cannot take direct responsibility for these issues when, for example, I am the person
who will hear final appeals against disciplinary or grievance issues. However, if you could be a little clearer about your concerns in this regard I will hopefully be able to answer those concerns in more detail.

5. There is of course respect for the role of trade union representatives and you have my personal guarantee that representatives will always be allowed to carry out that role without fear of intimidation or victimisation. If you have any specific complaints about this please let me know immediately so I may resolve them as I will not tolerate any
attempt to prevent trade union reps from carrying out duties for which they have statutory protection, irrespective of my own very strong views on the importance of this matter. Separate to this correspondence, I have also asked the HR team to speak with the union reps to ensure that they all take advantage of the training provided by their respective unions. It is important that all our reps are fully equipped to carry out what is a very important role, including having an understanding of how to deal with individual/collective grievance and disciplinary issues, and collective bargaining.

6. I am not clear what the concern is in relation to the last question relating to the press and policy teams. Of course the Chief of Staff has overall responsibility for the operation of LOTO and for setting the work programme. However, there are Executive Directors for each of the teams so if there is lack of clarity, have members of the teams raised the issues with their respective EDs or with their direct line managers? I would urge them to do so as it is of course very important that every employee understands the line management structure whatever level they are working at.

I hope this is helpful but please let me know if you would like any further clarification on any of the points I have raised above. However, I would again urge you to encourage any individual who has a concern about any of the issues raised within your letter to register a formal grievance so they may be properly dealt with through our procedures.

I would also reiterate my commitment to openness on all issues relating to staff without any fear of repercussions. That is a principle to which I have been completely committed for my whole working life and I do not want any employee to feel they are unable to raise genuine concerns with any manager within our organisation.

Another senior Labour source said:

The right of the party are clearly so desperate to discredit Corbyn and the entire left that they are making things up wholesale. Old scores are being settled and they’ll sink to any depths – and these smears against Karie are the lowest ever.

Huffington Post political editor Paul Waugh, whose name is shown as the author of the article, was contacted for comment on why he had decided to reproduce the complaints and on the Labour sources’ dismissal of them as ‘absolute lies’.

Some sources are reporting that Ms Murphy has initiated legal action.

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