Monday 3 April 2017

An Open Letter to Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party

Dear Mr McNicol

Having voted Labour all of my adult life (I am in my late 50s) I joined the party last summer. Since then I have become an active member in several ways. For example I have canvassed door-to-door, taken part in the January station-based railway campaign and in the ongoing save the NHS campaign. In addition to paying my £5 a month subscriptions I have donated additional monies to the party on several occasions and I have written several pieces for my branch (Truro and Falmouth) Blog. Here is the link to one such piece for your information which I hope you will agree is supportive of current party policies and values:

I know that there are many, many longstanding and newer members who are doing similar and much more.

With this in mind I am increasing distressed by the behaviour of some Labour Party members and MPs, including senior figures, which is, I believe, not only abusive but also bringing the party into serious disrepute. There are many examples here, and I am aware of others that have raised issues and concerns with you over recent months. My focus in this letter is a couple of examples on social media over the last few days. The first involves the trolling on twitter of Richard Burgon MP by fellow Labour MPs Ian Austin and Neil Coyle (and others) which followed Mr Burgon’s tweet (01.04.17) about an encounter with constituents in a supermarket. A series of tweets from Mr Austin (including ‘What nauseating sanctimony from @RichardBurgon …’ and ‘When parliament goes back I’m going to ask saintly @RichardBurgon to run a training course for the rest of us (sic) how to shop in a supermarket’) clearly attempted to ridicule, whereas one from Mr Coyle appeared to be commenting inappropriately on Mr Burgon’s physical appearance (Why does Tesco Seacroft have no pies left?). The second example again involves Neil Coyle  MP who on Friday (31.03.17) responded to a tweet from LBC journalist Iain Dale. Mr Dale wrote ‘I wonder whether this is Jeremy Corbyn’s time? Mr Coyle retweeted this adding: ‘Corbyn’s ‘time’ is c1.42-1.43. To limit the damage he causes’.

I have worked (and studied) in, and for, a number of large institutions (universities and hospitals) for the last 38 years. From this experience and my training and work as a sociologist I am aware of the inevitability, and indeed of the value, of the discussion and debate of differences. Having worked in junior positions and at management levels I have often observed, and sometimes experienced, work based disrespect and bullying. As a manager I have several times been involved in counselling those involved.  And yet I am shocked by the examples given above, which go way beyond internal difference of opinion. The offence such childish and vitriolic attacks likely causes not only those targeted but also those MPs, party members and supporters who are labouring daily to promote the values of the party and its policies should be of serious concern to all of us who work for and support the party. In every organisation I have worked such behaviour, which is not only personally offensive, but additionally inglorious in terms of the reputation of the Labour Party, would not be tolerated. In this instance, such public disloyalty has wider implications in terms of its potential impact in forthcoming, and future local and general elections. Given the clear and obvious rising inequalities and injustices suffered by increasing numbers of individuals as a result of the current Conservative Government; the Government’s incompetent Brexit ‘strategy’; the current and alarming threats to the NHS, social care, the prison service, the education section (from nursery to HE), the benefit system and so on and so forth; that MPs can believe such activity and abuse is acceptable is astonishing. Given the impact such conduct could have long term for many people across the UK, such public displays of disloyalty to the leader of the party, the shadow cabinet and the general aims and values of the party, are inexcusably foolish and immoral.  

With all of this in mind I would be grateful and reassured to hear from you that such activity will no longer be tolerated.

I look forward to your reply

Yours in solidarity

Gayle Letherby 


  1. Brilliant letter. Sums it up so eloquently and so politely I can't imagine anyone would want to take offence. Thank you so much. It was a sordid day indeed. Mr McTernan was insulting and John Woodcock. As I said myself: Richard Burgon is worth 100 of these ignorant bullies.

    1. Thanks so much Annie. I agree, extremely upsetting and so, so inappropriate.

  2. Thank you so much Annie. I agree, extremely upsetting and so, so inappropriate.

  3. This is vile and childish behaviour completely undermining the highly problematic issues we face with benefit cuts, underfunding the NHS and the lack of policies in place leaving the EU. They must be held accountable. This is a time in which zero tolerance for misconduct needs to be input.

  4. Great letter. I've finally got round to writing something similar