Ian Ian Aust Austin in MP (Cas (Case e No. CN-0 CN-0217 217))
We have been instructed by Ian Austin MP. We write in response to the letters of 19 and 26 July 2018 sent to our client by yourself and the Right Honourable Nick Brown MP respectively. It would appear that Mr Brown’s letter is intended to be the culmination of a disciplinary process which which has progresse progressed d from the notifi notificat cation ion of an invest investiga igatio tion n to the issue of a warnin warning g and reprimand in just seven days, without properly disclosing the detail of the complaints against our client or the rules which he is alleged to have broken. As outlined below, the Labour Party has failed to observe the most rudimentary principles of natural justice, due process and transparency in investigating the complaints against our client. The issue of a warning warning and reprimand reprimand is, in the circumstance circumstances, s, wholly unconscionable unconscionable and neither it nor the process leading to its issue can be regarded as fair. We note that the alacrity of this process has been in marked contrast to the abject failure of the Labour Party to investigate the mountain of complaints of antisemitism about which our client has been such a vocal critic and which appear to underlie the complaints complaints that you have received. received. This disparity in priorities can only sensibly be explained by the Party’s desire to silence our client’s public criticism of the Labour leadership’s failure to get to grips with this critical issue. 1.
Fac Factua tual back ackgroun ound You wrote to our client on 19 July 2018. Your letter was headed ‘Notice ‘Notice of investigation’. investigation’. You informe informed d our client client that he was being being investigat investigated ed in respec respectt of alleged alleged ‘abusiv ‘abusive e conduc conduct’ t’ in Parliame Parliament nt on 16 and 17 July 2018. 2018. This conduc conductt was alleged alleged to have have been ‘in breach of rule 2.1.8’ (sic). You stated that an investigating officer would be appointed and that our client would be contac contacted ted in due course course with with details details as to how the investig investigati ation on would proceed. proceed. You stated that that an investigation investigation does not confer confer ‘an assumption assumption of guilt.’ guilt.’ Our client client was told to ‘quote case number CN-0217 on all correspondence’. On 23 July 2018, our client emailed you saying:
Jennie Formby Labour Party 1 August 2018
‘It has been more than three days since you called me and sent me your letter so can you tell me today what I am alleged to have done please? If you are not able to tell me, can you tell me why and when you will be able to tell me?’ He never received a reply. In the meantime, the Party had already surreptitiously briefed a journalist at the Jewish Chronicle Chronicle about the complaints complaints against Mr Austin. Austin. This led to a story being published published on 18 July 2018 headed ‘Jewish Labour MPs fear they are being drawn into 'civil war' with Jere Jeremy my Corb Corbyn yn’ ’ (www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/labour-jewish-mps-verge-1.467347 ). According to the newspaper: ‘….. The JC has learned there was a second confrontation between pro-Israeli MP Ian Austin and pro-Corbyn Labour MP Ian Lavery on Tuesday. Mr Aust Austin in is alle allege ged d to have have told told Mr Lave Lavery ry to “get “get out out of my face face”” afte after r allegations of intimidation by the left-winger. Labour Party sources disputed claims that it was Mr Austin who was subjected to intimidation from Mr Lavery. One senior Party source insisted: “Mr Austin's account is hotly contested, with sources close to Mr Lavery saying the aggression and intimidation came from Mr Austin." The same source source claimed claimed Mr Milne Milne had not “driven” “driven” the case for discip disciplin linary ary proceedings against Dame Margaret.’ The quot quotes es from from the the ‘seni ‘senior or Labou Labourr Party Party sour source’ ce’ make make it clea clearr that that the Party Party was was preju prejudg dgin ing g the compl complai aint nts s agai agains nstt Mr Austi Austin n who, who, for for the the reco record rd,, had had not not give given n an ‘acc ‘accou ount nt’’ to the the Jewis Jewish h Chro Chroni nicle cle or to any othe otherr news newspap paper er befor before e this this story story was was published. With no response from your office and the developing media interest, our client contacted the the Chie Chieff Whip, Whip, Nick Nick Brown Brown MP, to try to obta obtain in some some basi basic c info informa rmati tion on about about the complai complaints nts that were being being made against against him. Mr Brown and our client then met on 24 July 2018. At the meeting, Mr Brown said that he wanted to help resolve matters. Mr Brown gave some brief information to the effect that there were complaints from Ian Lavery MP (the Chairman Chairman of the Labour Party) Party) and Chris Williamson MP, but no substantive substantive details. Our client denied that he had done anything wrong and, in particular, rejected the claims that he had had ‘inti ‘intimid midat ated’ ed’ Mr Lavery Lavery or ‘bera ‘berate ted’ d’ Mr Corby Corbyn n (who (who appar apparent ently ly objec objecte ted d to something that our client had said to him but about which Mr Corbyn had, apparently, not formally complained complained to the Party). Mr Brown ended the meeting by saying that he was intending to write a letter to our client. Subsequently Subsequently Mr Brown wrote the letter letter dated 26 July 2018. Headed ‘Proceeding ‘Proceedings s and behaviour in Parliament’, the letter stated: ‘As you know, know, two complaint complaints s have have been been lodged lodged against against you with the national national Labour Party relating to incidents in Parliament on Monday 16, and separately, Tuesday Tuesday 17 July. The inciden incidents ts took place in front front of other other MPs in Parliamen Parliament. t. Essent Essential ially ly the complaints are the same, that you approached other MPs unasked and asserted
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Jennie Formby Labour Party 1 August 2018
your point of view in a loud and aggressive manner thereby creating an incident. There have been other incidents of a similar nature and my intention in this letter embraces them as well. I want to clarify a crucial distinction between criticism of colleagues, including our party leadership, and shouting aggressively in a public space, let alone the House of Commons. The former is acceptable, acceptable, the latter is not. ‘I am writing formally to warn you against any repeat of such behaviour in the future and reprimand you for these incidents.’ Mr. Brown went on to state that: ‘there have been a number of complaints about your behaviour sent to me and the General Secretary of the Labour Party’. 2.
Failure Failure to comply comply with rules rules of natural natural justice justice and procedu procedural ral fairnes fairness s The history outlined above reveals a Kafkaesque failure by the Labour Party to conduct its its inve invest stig igat atio ion n in acco accord rdan ance ce with with stan standa dard rd norm norms s of fair fairne ness ss.. Witho Without ut bein being g exhaustive, we highlight the following: 2.1 2.1
You You alleg alleged ed in you yourr letter letter of of 19 July July 201 2018 8 that that our cli clien entt was ‘in ‘in brea breach ch of of rule rule 2.1.8’ 2.1.8’.. The rule has not been set out nor has it been explai explained ned how our client’s client’s conduct has allegedly broken the rule.
No resp response onse was ever ever sent sent to our clie client’ nt’s s email email of of 23 July July 2018 2018 askin asking g for for detail details s of the complaints against him or when he could expect to receive such details.
It is is uncle unclear ar whet whether her Mr Mr Brown Brown’s ’s let lette terr was int intend ended ed to cov cover er any any or all all of the the same ground ground as the matters matters that are being being investig investigate ated d by you. you. He does not refer to ‘an investigation’ nor does he cite case number CN-0217.
Mr Brown’s Brown’s letter letter refers refers to ‘the ‘the Parl Parliame iamenta ntary ry Labour Labour Party Party Stan Standin ding g Orde Orders’ rs’.. The relevant Order was not identified and it is unclear whether the complaints against our client have been, or are being, dealt with under the Party’s Standing Orders or whether there is in fact still an investigation under ‘rule 2.1.8’.
It is uncle unclear ar from from Mr Brow Brown’ n’s s lette letterr wheth whether er there there are are ‘two ‘two compla complain ints’ ts’ or or more. more. Mr Brown states that ‘there have been other incidents of a similar nature and my inte intent ntio ion n in this lette letterr embra embrace ces s them them as well’ well’.. He goes on to refer refer to there there having been been ‘a number of complaints’, complaints’, ie more than two. We have already noted that Mr Brown referred at the meeting with our client to a complaint about our client ‘berating’ Mr Corbyn.
Mr Brown Brown’s ’s lett letter er state stated d that that our clien clientt knows knows that that two compl complai aint nts s have have been been lodged lodged against against him. Mr Brown mentione mentioned d that that complain complaints ts had been received received from from Mr Lave Lavery ry and Mr Willi William amso son n but but he has has been been given given no deta detail ils s of the the complai complaints nts.. There There was also mention mention of the complaint complaint from Mr Corbyn Corbyn,, and Mr Brown Brown’s ’s lette letterr appea appeare red d to be takin taking g that that compl complai aint nt (‘a (‘a numbe numberr of [oth [other] er] complaints’) into account when issuing his reprimand.
Our client client has had had no opportu opportunity nity to defen defend d himsel himselff again against st the the compl complain aints ts being being levelled levelled against against him.
It was was compl completel etely y inapp inapprop ropriat riate e and contrar contrary y to the rules rules of natu natural ral justic justice e to issu issue e our client with a warning and reprimand without telling him what he has done wrong. It is also utterly at odds with your statement that an investigation investigation does not
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Jennie Formby Labour Party 1 August 2018
make make any any assu assumpt mptio ion n of guil guilt. t. investigation.
Mr Brow Brown’ n’s s findi finding ngs s clea clearly rly pre-ju pre-judge dge any
Mr Brown Brown’s ’s lett letter er state stated d that that he he also also inten intends ds to to issue issue his repriman reprimand d to ‘the ‘the small small numb number er of othe otherr offe offend nder ers s in the the same same way way’. He did did not not stat state e who who thes these e offe offend nder ers s were ere or why why thei theirr alle allege ged d cond conduc uctt is rele releva vant nt to our our clie client nt’s ’s investigatio investigation. n. Please do so now. now.
What What makes makes matter matters s worse worse is that that the press press appea appears rs to have been been given given more more information information about the complaints complaints than our client. client. We have already mentioned the Jewish Jewish Chronicl Chronicle e article article published published on 18 July 2018 which which leaked leaked news of the complaints complaints about Mr Austin. This was attributed attributed to a ‘senior ‘senior Party source’. This was followed by an article by Kevin Maguire in the New Statesman on 25 July 2018 (www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/07/commons-confidentialraab-s-first-trip-brussels-even-eurostar-wasn-t-without ) which falsely accused our client of screaming at colleagues, a charge that will be rebutted by independent evidence. evidence. We note that these allegations allegations have never even been put to our client by the Party in its investigation. On 26 July 2018, another another story broke in the press, press, this time in Skwawkbox. Skwawkbox. They ran a story about a complaint from Mr Williamson (‘Exclusive: second MP lodges complaint v Austin – over two separate incidents: https://skwawkbox.org/2018/07/26/exclusive-second-mp-lodges-complaint-vaustin-over-two-separate-incidents). As stated stated above, above, our client client has not been notified notified of the detail of Mr Williamson’s Williamson’s complaints. complaints.
This process has been a farce and a disgrace. It has plainly been designed designed to silence our client client for his legitimate legitimate,, honestly honestly-hel -held d critic criticisms isms of Mr Corbyn Corbyn’s ’s failure failure to address address the scourge of antisemitism in the Labour Party. 3.
Next steps Should the Party consider it appropriate to proceed with these complaints, we request that you provide provide us without delay with precise precise details details of the following: following: 3.1
The substa substance nce of the complai complaints nts agains againstt our client. client.
The releva relevant nt rules rules or Orders Orders whic which h our our clien clientt is allege alleged d to have have contr contraven avened. ed.
The status status of Mr Mr Brown Brown’s ’s repri reprimand mand and how it impac impacts ts on your your investi investigat gation ion..
Who will will be condu conducti cting ng any any inves investig tigati ation on and and your your confir confirmati mation on that that it will will not not be anyone in Mr Corbyn’s office (who will almost certainly be a witness by virtue of his complaint to Nick Brown and the briefing to the Jewish Chronicle).
Your Your assura assurance nce that the Party Party will will not not be further further brie briefing fing the medi media a on this this matter matter..
We reserve all of our client’s rights and await your urgent response. Yours faithfully