Labour Councillor Mary Murphy has escaped any punishment for substantially altering and then circulating a MCFly story about the Hulme by-election (see details here and here). On October 21st, following a formal complaint by MCFly, a ‘Code of Conduct for Members Standards (Assessment) sub-committee’ met to consider the case. On a majority (two to one) decision the committee decided to… do nothing. Why? Well, it’s easiest to quote the relevant bit.
The majority of the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee reached this conclusion on the grounds that:
- the e-mail that forms the subject of this complaint appears to have been sent by the Member from her personal hotmail account, rather than from the Member’s Council e-mail address, and
- the e-mail that forms the subject of this complaint does not appear to have been signed by the Member as coming from “Councillor Mary Murphy”, and does not make any reference to the fact that the author of the e-mail is a member of the Council
So, let’s be clear here. There is a process that members of the public are supposed to go through if they feel Councillors have behaved badly. MCFly found out that Mary Murphy had clumsily and semi-literately altered a MCFly story so to imply that MCFly endorsed the Labour candidate in a by-election. She circulated this to voters during the by-election from an email account with her name, that she has used for some time and everyone on the list knows is her. MCFly complained to the relevant authorities with supporting evidence. And because she didn’t use her official account, and ‘sign’ it, she can… do what she likes.
And this is how the Council regulates itself.
And they wonder why people regard local politicians with contempt and disdain.
Mary Murphy’s ‘defence’ is that she thought the alterations would appear in a different colour. When challenged on the alterations immediately after posting them to the Online Discussion group she did not say “oops, have the alterations not come through? It’s a spoof gone wrong.” Nor at any point since has she made any public retraction. She never used the other resources available to her (Hulme Labour website for example) to publicly retract her actions or apologise for them. The standards sub-committee has not, it seems, bothered to consider this omission on the part of the Right Honorable Member.
The decision by the Standards Sub-Committee (which MCFly had to chase the relevant authorities to get, by the way – we’d probably still be waiting if we hadn’t asked), also contains the gem that “even if they thought that conduct complained of might have been carried out by the Member in her official capacity, if there were to be a local investigation of the complaint and the Member were to be found to have breached the Code of Conduct, the most likely sanction resulting from a local investigation would be a requirement for the Member to make an apology to the Complainant. Since the Member has already apologised to the Complainant, the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee did not consider that, even if the conduct complained of had been carried out by the Member in her official capacity, it would be appropriate to refer the matter for local investigation.”
This covering email states that decision text “for your own personal use. The “information in the decision notice should be treated as confidential for the purposes of any further proceedings and should not be disclosed, it also contains personal information regarding third parties and again this information should not be disclosed.”
Well, a) you never said when I started this process – if you’d said that I wasn’t going to be able to circulate it, I’d have never bothered to start proceedings. You can’t retroactively impose a gagging order, it doesn’t work like that
b) I ain’t gonna bother to appeal – why waste more time?
c) There is nothing third-party in here at all, other than the name of the Chair of the Sub-committee. I’ll cheerfully xxxx that out and post the whole decision here.
d) I also sent you an example of Mary Murphy falsely accusing MCFly of sending abusive emails to Nigel Murphy in the run up to the May Local Elections. You’ve ignored that.
A few questions then…
For the clowns who came to this decision
- What would it take for you to consider actions to be in your remit? Councillor Murphy was writing from an email account she uses all the time to a residents group where a bye-election was being held, issuing distorted information about local media support for Labour. What more do you want? How does this fall outside the “Members should not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour” rule? Eh? It’s there in Section A of the Code of Conduct for Members. Would you like me to send you a copy, since two of you had patently not got yours to hand when you made this ‘decision’?
- Do you understand why local politicians are regarded with such contempt and disdain? Do you understand that actions like yours add to the picture of group of self-serving and mutually-protecting unaccountable sleazoids?
- Do you care?
- More concretely, (and we will be submitting this as a Freedom of Information Act request) in the last five calendar years, how many complaints have been made, how many have been rejected as not within the remit of your little fig-leaf panel, and how many have been upheld?
For Mary Murphy
- If it were, as you claim, a spoof gone wrong, how come you didn’t say that when you were challenged online?
- If it were, as you claim, a spoof, why did you sign it off with “don’t all shoot the messenger”?
- Why have you not posted anything on the Hulme Residents Online Group saying it was a spoof?
Why have you not publicly apologised for creating (whether accidentally or on purpose) such a misleading impression?
- Do you accept that your accusation, made at the Town Hall during the May Local Elections count, that MCFly had sent abusive emails to Nigel Murphy was wrong? Do you (publicly) apologise for that accusation?
For Nigel Murphy and Amina Lone (Labour councillors in Hulme)
- How can you condone your fellow councillor’s actions?
- Does not your silence imply support for her?
- What action will you take?
For the Labour Party leadership
- Will you publicly apologise for the actions of one of your elected members?
- Will you publicly censure her for her actions?
MCFly is not holding its breath for any answers at all…