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McDonnell calls for suspended activist to be re-instated

John McDonnell

Labour parliamentarian John McDonnell has called for the re-instatement of Keith Henderson, secretary of Clacton constituency Labour party (CLP). Mr Henderson has been suspended from the Labour party as a result of anonymous allegations made against him, the details of which he has not been informed of.

Members of Clacton CLP have speculated that Mr Henderson has been suspended in order to prevent him going forward to the panel of approved candidates for the 2013 county council elections.

In a letter to party general secretary Iain McNicol, Mr McDonnell, the firebrand MP for Hayes and Harlington, wrote:

Strong concerns have been expressed that in the past the officialdom of the party has used various bureaucratic measures including spurious investigations and suspensions to prevent members on the Left of the party from securing elected office.

Just at a time when the party’s standing in the country is rising and we are commencing the detailed preparations for the campaign that hopefully will return us to office, the last thing that anyone would want is a display of internal divisions in a constituency that Labour could win both in local and parliamentary elections.


  1. Norman Jacobs says:

    I am a member of Clacton CLP and I am in absolute agreement that any investigation into the matter should be out in the open and that there should be no behind closed doors decisions taken without giving the person being accused the opportunity to state his or her (in this instance, Keith’s) case. But the rest of what you say is not what this issue is about.

    I don’t honestly know whether Keith has been told why he has been suspended, and, if he hasn’t, I agree that is totally wrong. But what is being investigated has nothing to do with his candidacy for the County Council elections and everything to do with our former CLP Secretary’s candidacy, Jon Salisbury. This is not an issue of right v. left nor of Progress trying to interfere. As a member of Clacton CLP let me explain the background to this case.

    Jon Salisbury had been our CLP Secretary for a number of years and his partner, Tracey Osben, Treasurer, for a couple of years (I think – I can’t remember precisely). I would say that both of them are, in Left/Right terms to the Left of the party. Together they put in a lot of work, organised campaigns locally etc. etc. At the 2011 AGM, which was held in June 2011, Tracey decided she no longer wished to stand for office and Jon was defeated in the vote for Secretary by Keith Henderson, with his father (Keith Henderson snr) being elected Treasurer.

    Shortly after the change-over, one of the new officers (I’m not sure who) noted that the Insurance Documents relating to our party office at 52 Meredith Road in Clacton gave the insured address as Jon and Tracey’s address. On querying this, the officers were informed this was a clerical error on the part of the insurance company and new documents were issued. The issue was subsequently raised several times during the year when allegations of fraud and/or gross negligence against Tracey were raised even though the Insurance Company had admitted the error was theirs.

    In (or about) June this year (2012), Jon Salisbury’s application to stand as a candidate in the Essex County elections was referred to the Clacton CLP by Essex County LP and a report on his suitability asked for. At a subsequent Constituency E.C., it was agreed not to say anything about the insurance issue as this had now been settled. In spite of this, Keith Henderson, as CLP Secretary, then raised in the report to Lorna Trollope, Secretary of the Essex County LP, once again the issues of fraud and gross negligence over the insurance, this time implicating Jon Salisbury in it in an attempt to stop him being selected as a candidate. Lorna Trollope was so concerned that fraud may have been committed that she contacted Regional Office to ask them to involve the police. Regional Office explained that this had all been sorted out back in August 2011. When Tracey found out that this allegation was still being made she was distraught and threatened to sue Keith Henderson for libel. It was at this point that several members of the Clacton CLP contacted Regional Office to express their disgust at what had been happening. As it happens, Regional Office (including Alan Olive) were still reluctant to launch any investigation and it was only because of pressure from some of the members, concerned at what had happened to such loyal members as Tracey and Jon, that they eventually agreed to launch an investigation. So it is quite untrue to say that the investigation is as a result of Regional Office trying to “witch-hunt” Keith. Incidentally, Regional Officers have contacted and spoken to as many active members of the Constituency as they can, and Carl Morris came to the last all members meeting to explain what was happening, so it is not quite right to say this is all taking place entirely behind closed doors with members of this constituency being kept in the dark.

    I don’t know whether Keith has ever been officially told the reason for his suspension, and, if he hasn’t, I agree, as I said above, he should have been, but I believe it is also true to say that he knows full well why there is an investigation and that it is a result of his letter to Lorna Trollope. It is not, as you suggest, linked to his selection as a candidate. It is as a result of him trying to put the boot into another candidate by reproducing something he knew to be not true, thereby causing great distress. If Keith wasn’t wanted as a candidate because of his views why put him on the panel in the first place and then go through all this rigmarole to get him suspended? Surely it would have been easier just to not select him.

    If he had never sent that letter to Lorna Trollope there would never have been an investigation nor would Keith have been suspended.

    It is absolutely not true to say that Jon Salisbury is a member of the Progress group, nor is he a friend of either Alan Olive or Carl Morris. Nor was his application late. I’m afraid these are just little embellishments made by Keith to bolster his own case. Given my own political views I am utterly opposed to Progress and what they are doing inside the Labour Party, but this is absolutely not the issue in this case.

    Finally, I would like to add, that we all agree that it is wrong to accuse soemeone and then find them guilty without giving them the chance to defend themselves. At no time during the year from August 2011, when the mistake on the insurance document was first discovered, to the time Keith wrote his letter to Lorna Trollope, almost a year later, was Tracey ever informed of what was going on nor that she was being accused of fraud and/or gross negligence and so given the chance to defend herself. Surely you can’t believe that is right and a defensible position.

    I know there is a lot of detail here, but I think you need to understand that this issue is not just a simple matter of Left v. Right and the influence of Progress, both of which have very little to do with the situation we are in. If anyone needs support it’s Tracey, not Keith.

  2. Keith Henderson says:

    Having been suspended from holding office in the party or standing for public office in the name of the party since 27th July, following the launch of an investigation as a result of ‘allegations’ that have been made against me, I have been repeatedly asking for the substance of the allegations and supporting evidence to be made available to me.
    I am deeply shocked that when I am made aware of charges that may have been made against me it is not from those charged with conducting the investigation, neither is it through a confidential communication but rather by a third party that could only have gleaned the information second hand, on a website that the general public has access to.
    The Labour Representation Committee and the left in general have been very supportive of the demand for natural justice and that charges against me are made clear and that a time limit is placed on the investigation and that the selection process for choosing Labour candidates for the Essex County Council elections is suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
    The implication that rules can be manipulated to prevent individuals for standing for public office or holding office in the party has also initiated a discussion as to whether the current rules need amending to prevent such abuses in future.
    I do not intend to comment on some of the wildly inaccurate and misleading statements that have been made by Norman Jacobs and his colleagues, that is a matter for an internal investigation however I would like to make one point, if John McDonnell’s sensible suggestion to mediate over this issue was listened to in the first place those who have chosen to besmirch my name in public and who have and are bringing our party into disrepute would not have had an opportunity to do so.
    If the investigation, following allegations, (if they exist), had been undertaken competently and without bias the matter could have been properly dealt with.
    As it is we are going to be portrayed as split and divided which is only beneficial to those who oppose our party and those who put their personal interests above those of the Labour movement.

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