EXCL Top Labour MP slams Jennie Formby for putting senior party official on gardening leave

Posted On: 
6th April 2018

Labour's new general secretary has been criticised by one of the party's most senior MPs over her decision to place a top official on gardening leave.

Jennie Formby took over as Labour general secretary on Tuesday.
PA Images

PoliticsHome revealed yesterday how Dan Simpson, the acting secretary of the Parliamentary Labour Party, had been told not to return to work while he serves out his notice period.

The surprising move took place on Jennie Formby's first day as Labour's most senior official.

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It has now emerged that John Cryer, chairman of the PLP, has personally expressed his unhappiness with Ms Formby and accused her of showing "a worrying set of priorities".

In an email to MPs seen by PoliticsHome, Mr Cryer says: "I am writing to update you following yesterday’s decision by Jennie Formby, the Labour party’s new general secretary, to disallow Dan Simpson from working his notice period as the PLP Secretary and Director of Political Services, and force him into a period of ‘gardening leave’, rather than remaining in the service of the PLP until the summer as had been previously agreed.

"Since this was communicated to Dan and to myself, I have made it absolutely clear to Jennie that to use her first day in the job to effectively remove our secretary with immediate effect shows a worrying set of priorities. 

"Our secretary has always enjoyed the confidence of the PLP, a confidence that has been necessary to carry out the demands of the role. This confidence has been derived from the fact that the PLP have been instrumental in their appointment. We, through the chair, have always chosen who we trust to conduct affairs on our behalf. It is deeply troubling that we have not been afforded that right on this occasion."

Mr Cryer said Ms Formby plans to replace Mr Simpson with Ben Foley, who manages Jeremy Corbyn's relationship with Labour MPs, until the full-time PLP secretary, Sarah Mulholland, returns from maternity leave.

He added: "While I am deeply disappointed that no interview or due process has taken place, I know that Ben will work hard for the short period up until the summer recess to manage the support that is provided to our frontbench.

"Myself, and colleagues from the Parliamentary Committee, wish to thank Dan for his tremendous record in the party – over ten years of outstanding service. I have asked him to attend our first meeting back after recess so that we can thank him personally. I hope you will be able to attend to show your support."

Ms Formby was already under fire for removing Mr Simpson as he was Labour's most senior Jewish official.

Senior party sources insisted that Mr Simpson's religion played no part in the decision to place him on gardening leave.

But Ruth Smeeth, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, said: "Dan has been an excellent member of our team, and I'm incredibly concerned by the optics of the first act by the new general secretary being to put on gardening leave the most senior Jewish member of staff employed by the party."