After it was discovered at the St Ann's Labour Party selection candidate selection meeting that there were people present and voting who should not have been, I came home from the pub (where I'd heard about it) and wrote this article. It has subsequently been edited by site admins to remove the names of people who were embarrassed or in the final case where a journalist said it was potentially libellous. Well here I will attempt to summarise what we have subsequently found out and hopefully take people's attention away from my original appalling rant.
*An individual has asked that their name be replaced with their function in this post on the grounds that they are not seeking public office. This has been done.
John* this from Crown Prosecution Service website 'Although harassment is not specifically defined it can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contacts upon a victim in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person'. Have you caused 'distress or fear' ? No i thought not. However, ironically, your being accused of harassment could be deemed harassment on their part.
Well that doesn't sound very pleasant. Can you arrange for it to happen in a public place so we can come give you moral support, or would you like some of us to come be there with you?
The local Labour Party have reached the pits of the earth. They will now make John a martyr and therefore give him more credence than them and they are acting like people with something to hide. And as for the police, no wonder St Anns Ward is lawless - do you have nothing better to do? John has my full support.
John Blake is the branch secretary of St Ann's ward Labour Party. It appears from John McMullan's post above, that Mr Blake’s complaint of harassment refers to John McMullan's tweets about the St Ann's Ward selection of its Labour candidates for May's Council elections.
It is certainly nothing posted on Harringay Online. John McMullan, I, and other people have taken pains to keep posts factually based. People may disagree with some of the opinions expressed, but, to my knowledge, nobody has challenged the facts which have emerged about the St Ann's ward selection.
There are fundamental issues here. As the financial position of local newspapers across the country has worsened, their traditional role of holding powerful people and organisations to account is very seriously weakened. Newspapers have shed staff; some ceased printing and widely distributing their paper editions. Some closed.
But we still need journalism and journalists. Perhaps now even more, as corporations, councils and political parties increase the volume and sophistication of their PR machines.
Many journalists are using blogs and Twitter. We're seeing the development of websites, campaigning blogs and social media where ‘citizen journalists’ make a valuable contribution to filling the gap. In the best examples, they too challenge the powerful. "Speaking Truth to Power" as the Quakers say.
So it's a huge irony that this evening 10 February 2014, John McMullan was visited by the Police. For challenging power.
It's the very same evening that a Party Leader gave the annual Hugo Young lecture, named after the outstanding and independent minded Times and Guardian journalist. This year's lecture was by Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour Party.
I haven't yet seen or read the lecture as delivered. But much of it was released in advance. Ed Miliband was due to talk about the need to move towards “people-powered public services”: He wants a departure from "old-style, top-down central control, with users as passive recipients of services." "Giving them voice as well as choice.”
Ed plans to tackle the “unresponsive state” , in the same way he wants to tackle the private sector. He says that: “Unaccountable concentrations of power wherever we find them don’t serve the public interest and need to be held to account”.
Ed will say that “Information is power”. That access to information should no longer be: "when the professionals say it is OK or when people make a legal request for it." "We should move to an assumption that people get access to the information on them unless there is a very good reason for them not to."
Ed Miliband wants to see “Devolving power down”: And not "[...] hoarding power and decision-making at the centre [...] "
So where does the internal democracy of the Labour Party fit into this brave new world of making the powerful more accountable to ordinary citizens?
Well, we know the reality of "hoarding of power" in St Ann's branch Labour Party. 26 people met in a room to vote for the three candidates in what has been a "safe" Labour ward. Until now.
At the best of times this is a shaky and dubious way to conduct local democracy. But then we learned that five of the 26 "members" of the ward don't actually there. And participation of these five changed the result of the ballot.
“Unaccountable concentrations of power wherever we find them don’t serve the public interest and need to be held to account”. Ed, that's what people have been complaining about on Harringay Online. Except that John McMillan did act. He did not do so harass anyone but to express legitimate, strong and justifiable political concerns.
“Information is power”. Dead right, Ed. Which is why some of us get angry when Labour Party professional staff and elected branch officers say that not even the Chair and Secretary of Labour's Tottenham Constituency Party are allowed to see the signing-in sheet for the people who took part in the St Ann's selection meeting.
So what's your solution, Ed? "We should move to an assumption that people get access to the information on them unless there is a very good reason for them not to." So in this case, what's the "very good reason" not to? Well, it's because John Blake thinks it is harassment.
Maybe someone close to Ed Miliband can quietly mention that from this corner of Tottenham it all looks pretty much like the same: "old-style, top-down central control, with users as passive recipients of services". Or in this case lack of service from the local Labour Party. Business as usual, in fact.
So what about local people and: "Giving them voice as well as choice?"
You see, Ed, I agree. Fundamentally and whole-heartedly I agree with what you were billed to say this evening. They were very fine words. But it seems you can't even carry this through in one ward in Tottenham. Perhaps other people will only take these ideas seriously when you and I can both point to Labour taking your words seriously inside our Party – in our own ‘backyard’. The Labour Party practising what you preach.
(Tottenham Hale ward councillor 1998-2014. Labour Party member over forty years. Former ward branch secretary and former Tottenham Constituency Secretary. My wife Zena Brabazon is one of the deselected councillors for St Ann's ward.)
Ed Miliband says one thing and the party, basically from him down, does another. Ian McNichol, as the General Secretary of the Labour Party seems to have made sure that #stanns doesn't get up as far as Ed (although the fact that his bag carrier,James Stewart, is a current but soon to be ex Noel Park ward councillor makes me think that he knows all about it) however, Labour Party members from all around the country have heard of this and because Ali Gul Ozbek is attending every fund raising dinner he can for the Labour Party they know who he is too.
All we want is fairly elected councillors, accountable to us. Is that too much to ask?
James Stewart was IN THE SELECTION MEETING IN QUESTION. He lives in St Ann's or claimed membership on September 18th at least.
The visit is over. The two officers, were apologetic (even indignant) but apparently a couple of my tweets mentioning him over the past few months have crossed the line. I didn't swear at him or even make death threats but it seems that is enough for a grown man, capable of fighting his own battles in politics, to involve the police. Ridiculous. Anyway, I have been issued with a "Prevention of Harassment Letter", so I guess that's me effectively silenced. Anyone else want to take up the baton?
I'm sorry John that really sucks. You definitely have our support any time, we think you're a great guy with honest principals that you defend. What you do helps folk so keep going old buddy
WHETHER in the circumstances, the content of the two tweets justified a complaint to the police is a matter that may best be left alone.
I don't know the two tweets that are referred to, I don't want to know and you won't want to repeat them. The officers probably have said how they believe you "crossed the line". Let us assume that the visit from the officers should silence you in respect of further tweets of (whatever was) the nature of those two tweets.
However, I can't see why it should silence you in other respects.
Apparently I called him "filth" in one tweet, although I wonder if they got their wires crossed there, and I said in another "I know I'm hassling you but...".