EXCL Labour hit by bullying row over treatment of senior female official at key meeting

Posted On: 
17th February 2018

Labour has been hit by a bullying row over the treatment of a senior female official at a key meeting aimed at agreeing party policy.

A meeting of Labour's National Policy Forum descended into farce.
PA Images

A furious row broke out over attempts by to elect a new chair for the party's National Policy Forum as it gathered in Leeds this morning.

Katrina Murray, the NPF's vice-chair, was dramatically over-ruled on the floor of the meeting by Andy Kerr, the chair of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee.

Left-wing group Momentum suffers series of selection defeats

Momentum oust Labour disciplinary chief in first show of strength since NEC victory

EXCL Labour MPs demand party members get say on Brexit in challenge to Jeremy Corbyn

Critics accused the party leadership of seeking to postpone the vote because Ann Black - who was ousted as head of Labour's disciplinary body last month amid claims she was not loyal enough to Jeremy Corbyn - was set to win it.

Eyewitnesses told PoliticsHome that Mr Kerr had interrupted Ms Murray as she addressed NPF delegates shortly after the meeting got underway.

Labour MP Lucy Powell shouted "you bully" at the former trade union official as he insisted the ballot could not proceed.

Amid farcical scenes, a vote challenging Ms Murray was then held, with Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry among those who voted against her.

The meeting was then adjourned for half an hour while Ms Murray and Mr Kerr discussed the situation behind closed doors.

It was then confirmed that the vote to decide the new NPF chair would not be taking place, meaning Ms Murray will carry out the role in an interim capacity until a replacement for departing chair Ann Cryer is chosen.

Labour MP Luciana Berger made clear her anger on Twitter.



Another Labour MP who was present at the meeting said: "This morning symbolised the old school male union bullying that is determined to keep Jeremy Corbyn's people in control no matter how bad it looks to the outside world.

"Women delegates were coming up to Lucy Powell to thank her for trying to stand up to Andy Kerr, but in the end the burly ex-union guy took the female chair of the National Policy Forum into a room and kept her there until he got his way.

"This hideous spectacle has underlined that the new Momentum tendency may have the muscle to dominate but they risk destroying any hope we have of convincing the public we are a credible alternative to the Tories."

Richard Angell, director of moderate campaign group Progress, said: "The bullying of the most senior elected member rep on the National Policy Forum is appalling. Katrina Murray should be applauded for standing up for party members.

"The union bosses and Momentum leadership should use the strength of argument not the use of strength. Democracy, not mob rule, should be used to make decisions in Labour.

"Again, those who argue for party democracy have subverted it because they were not going to the outcome they wanted. Shameful really."

Katrina Murray herself tried to play down the row, tweeting a picture of herself with Mr Kerr and the message: "Thanks to everyone with their good wishes but honestly, as you can see - as a trade union woman - I can deal with it."

A senior Labour source said the bullying claims against Mr Kerr were "unfounded".

He said: "Katrina Murray tried to act outside of the rules and Andy Kerr intervened. For elections to be valid, seven days notice is required according to party rules.

"That's why the NEC ruled out an election at its first opportunity. NPF officers can't call an election as it would have breached rules. The NPF can't overrule the NEC."