In the past week Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development and Minister for Women & Equalities and former defence minister, performed (in the opinion of many Mumsnetters) one of the most abysmal Mumsnet webchats ever, now held in perpetuity in the influential website’s digital annals. (I wrote about it here.) The focus of the ensuing disappointment and ire has understandably been on her apparent disregard for sex-based protections and rights for women, and the safeguardng of children of both sexes, and her odd comments about the meaning of ‘mother’. Additionally there remains another nugget buried deep in the motherlode of Mordaunt’s thought-mine of doom, which goes to the heart of her credibility.Read More
It takes a certain set of tools to turn a golden opportunity to engage with hundreds of thousands of women on International Women’s Day into an unmitigated PR disaster, and Penny Mordaunt MP has somehow managed to pull it off. I’ve met Penny Mordaunt a few times in Portsmouth over the years while I was on Council-related business, and she has always seemed perfectly likeable and pleasant. But future Prime Minister material? Not unless courting disaster is now seen as prerequisite rather than unfortunate happenstance. This story involves a ‘webchat’ which followed on from a conversation between Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development and Minister for Women & Equalities, and Justine Roberts CBE, co-founder of the hugely popular and influential website Mumsnet.Read More
Housing is in the news - conditions, safety, shortages, rip-off rents, and rogue landlords. In Portsmouth, a city with a housing shortage, local tradespeople are talking openly about ‘600 student houses’ in the city lying empty this academic year. It’s certainly true that in my area many are unseasonably untenanted and hushed. It’s probably a relief for some beleaguered neighbours, and ought to be a welcome source of additional Council Tax revenue for the the Local Authority given that the landlords are liable to pay up to a city facing severe austerity cuts. Significantly, the terraced houses once let to students aren’t empty because of the huge ongoing building programme of privately built student ‘Halls’. This is not a policy victory. It’s a market failing. These ‘Halls’ supposedly have vacancies too, not least because of the eye-watering costs of renting them for students already dependent on scarily huge loans.Read More
You might recall from my recent piece, 'Hancock's Back', how The Guardian reported last week that Mike Hancock has been censured by the Council of Europe (PACE) for not giving evidence to its ten-month judge-led inquiry concerning politicians and Azebaijan. The reasons he has given to the media for his non-participation are (a) being unwell, and (b) not having anything to do with the Council of Europe any more. One would perhaps be forgiven for thinking that Hancock must have been debilitated throughout the whole period of evidence gathering and report writing up to that point.
But lo! He was risen - and to be precise, he was filmed, recorded and photographed at a conference in Paris on 9th February 2018.Read More
In a short piece in the Portsmouth News published last Saturday, its political reporter Ben Fishwick wrote about a recent conversation that he had had with former MP Mike Hancock, including some overbatim details of that conversation.
Hancock is reported to have said:
‘I’ve phoned him, I wish him all the very best.' ‘I wish him luck and I hope it goes well for him and working with Liberal Democrats and Labour.' 'I hope they work well together.'
What can we potentially gather from this reported conversation? And who is Hancock really talking to? I've come up with 8 things. (Just the eight?, I hear you ask …)Read More
Dear Former Lib Dem Colleagues,
Despite the Police talking to a couple of you, and despite the fact that many rational, reflective commentators are telling you to learn from and reflect on what's happened over the past few years, a number of Lib Dem Party members persist in posting online comments about Hancock's victim 'Annie' which are unnecessary and, frankly, pretty vile.
To these people I say: Stop. Just stop. You do yourselves no credit, and you bring down a once great political movement which I worked hard for for over 14 years.Read More
You really have to wonder how a married man can actually spend four years living in a small flat in London with his Russian lover and another Lib Dem MP, without anyone else seemingly knowing.
And then, a tribunal of SIAC - the Special Immigrations Appeals Commission - apparently believed Zatiliveter's account concerning what it judged to be an 'enduring' relationship. Go figure.Read More
I've been researching Gertrude Bell's role in WW1 recently; and, in re-reading some passages by her and about her, I’ve been reminded of the denial of the Armenian genocide by the then prominent Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock - and I feel fucked off all over again by the Liberal Democrat Party’s tolerance of his stance. The Lib Dems are not the Party you'd expect to be in denial about one of their own MP's genocide denial; but it seems that Hancock could get away with pretty much anything - including (in my opinion) indirectly traducing the memory of not just Bell but also British war hero Lt Col Charles Doughty-Wylie VC who was in the frontline, saved thousands of lives, and recorded in detail his prevention of the 'dry run' of the genocide.Read More
Five very important men sat in a small room in the heart of the Parliamentary estate in London on a warm afternoon on 3rd June 2013. One of them was accused of sexually harassing and abusing a vulnerable female constituent, 'Annie'. Three of the other four had either been written to by her, or had met her to hear her allegations in person. They were all high-fliers - four Members of Parliament and a hotly-tipped successor, senior figures with illustrious careers behind and ahead of them. Or so they thought.Read More
Vince Cable has been a bit quiet lately on the scandals of sexual harassment of women and young men that is wrapping itself round Parliament. I've not seen anything at all from Alistair Carmichael MP, the Lib Dem whip who supposedly 'investigated' the circumstances whereby one of their own MPs crossed the line (and then some) with a vulnerable constituent, 'Annie'. I find it strange behaviour - especially when the Lib Dems reckon they care about women's well-being and mental health. I've got a whole archive of Lib Dem leaflets telling me just how much they care - all with photos of women being looked at very caringly indeed by a Lib Dem politician or a health practitioner.
For me it is a glaring Liberal Democrat dichotomy that whilst the party's members regularly boast of their support for mental health initiatives in their literature, many of their number have participated - and continue to participate - in behaviour that denigrates and demeans people with mental health issues, and some of them seem to have a real issue with women. In fact I think it's more than a dichotomy - it's a disastrous hypocrisy that feeds into an unpleasant narrative that anyone who has ever spoken of having a mental health issue, must naturally lack credibility and integrity, and be a liar and a 'nutter'.Read More
"There's no excuse for the continuing existence of this pattern of dysfunction, where women are thrown under buses that failed their ethical MoTs years ago."
It's been a while since I resigned as a matter of conscience from the Portsmouth Liberal Democrat machine - well, to be honest it was less of a well-oiled machine at that point and more like a charabanc with the wheels coming off - and it's been many months since I particularly had cause to think about it.But in the last few days I've been reading about the Football Association's (mis)handling of the Mark Sampson case, particularly the allegations of his poor conduct involving women, and the saga has perhaps inevitably planted elements of the Hancock debacle at the forefront of my brain again.Read More
"The back-drop to this was the old enmities and a council culture of complaints and complaining, and Phil Shaddock and Lee Hunt were no strangers to this. There's plenty in the public domain about the antagonistic relationship between Phil Shaddock and Lee Hunt. In fact you only have to Google both their names together to see them enmeshed forever in cyberspace, bound together for eternity by the crawling tentacles of searchbots, their story one of high emotion interspersed with bizarre action sequences - and, of course, the Standards Board for England."Read More
Personally, I wish I could look forward to seeing Tam Langley's name on the ballot paper, but sadly it's not to be. Instead I wish her well - the one who got away.Read More
More than one of Paul Nuttall's autobiographical claims - or as he would have it, biographical claims - are currently being contested. I'm not surprised, to be honest. But it isn't just UKIP that has the reality of its members' web pages and public claims being under the spotlight. Every political party hosts biographical pages full of 'facts' about its leading lights - and they are all subject to scrutiny in the online age in a way that they previously weren't.
Recently I decided to have a look at Mike Hancock's Wiki page, the claims on it, the relevant references at the foot of the page, and the supposed sources for those claims, and I contacted the NSPCC, Mencap and the Liberal Democrat Party to see what they had to say. They were all aware that I might relate their responses on this Blog. The results were, shall we say, illuminating, and seem to suggest that while Hancock was a Liberal Democrat MP, the Liberal Democrat Party hosted material about him on its website that is easily contestable - and it makes you wonder how much more of this stuff in going on.
Here's Hancock's Wiki page - an exceptionally well-referenced piece - as it existed last month, on 25th January 2017. I'll pick out the relevant bits - you don't need to read it all - it's simply here for completeness and accuracy.Read More
I would like to apologise to the world famous, brilliant, awesome fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. When the chips were down - and those would be Cllr Lee Hunt's chips, that Cllr Mike Hancock MP pissed on - instead of naming a beautiful road after you, Mr Gaiman, which the Cabinet could have done, honouring you and your family - perhaps a sweeping route where Portsmouth seems to reach across the water to Portchester Castle as the sun sets behind the haunting, towering Roman and Mediaeval stones - well, instead you got to unveil a street sign placed in front of a hedge in a teeny-tiny bus-only road in Southsea. You were a great sport about it, and maybe you really didn't mind about the bus lane thing, but I honestly wish we could have done better for you.
This story, for me, began at an Informal Cabinet Meeting (i.e. behind closed doors) one morning and it would have been around the early part of 2013, looking at subsequent news reports. Lee - the then Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure - was excited. That was Lee's style - forceful, excitable, loud and brash. He had news to tell us and he wanted us all on board with his idea, which was to name a road in Portsmouth after Neil Gaiman. It was to be a 'big win' of positive publicity.
And this proposal turned, as agenda items so often did at these meetings, into a ridiculous squabble.Read More
I've often wondered why Hancock's wildly inappropriate text messages sent to vulnerable constituent 'Annie', which emerged in late 2010 and which he never denied sending, weren't enough for any kind of action from the Liberal Democrat Party at that time, given that he was a Cabinet Member of Portsmouth City Council with oversight of policies and practices which affected the lives of vulnerable people.
The Liberal Democrat Party, either locally in Portsmouth and federally, or both, could and should have acted on the behaviour which Hancock admitted to in 2010 - irrespective of any other pending matters. In fact as far as I can see, those pending matters became a handy excuse for inaction, and helped set up a convenient screen that the local Party and the federal Party chose to hide behind. For years. They left a victim in painful limbo for years. That the Police weren't charging Hancock was transmogrified by leading Lib Dems into 'alternative fact', as they tried and tried to cast a spell upon us all that no wrongdoing had been shown to have taken place. And at a number of points the inaction and delay in dealing with the wrongdoing were blamed upon the victim having complained.
This was the deception that was spouted by Lib Dems from Portsmouth up to London and repeated ad nauseam. So to some extent, this is an essay about the nature of collective denial, protection, fear and illusion-making within a group of people, using what is to me a very stark example of wrongdoing at its heart. For me, living through it, as a colleague of both Hancock and the Council Leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, both forceful characters, it was troubling and worrying, and life within the Council Group became a toxic miasma of shape-shifting and discordant echoes. The day I finally resigned was a bitter-sweet liberation.Read More
I want to write about Hancock and 'The Mystery of the Blue Letter', because I personally think it's pretty revealing of the mindsets of the Portsmouth Liberal Democrats who allowed it to happen. It's also the tale of a very funny co-incidence - a real-life 'you honestly couldn't make this shit up' moment - and I've taken the trouble to create an oscar-worthy re-enactment of a particular scene which took place on my own doorstep, using a model (well, a bemused friend), for your entertainment. I hope you enjoy the story.
So what's the significance of a 'blue letter'? It's the invention of Lord Rennard and a classic Lib Dem campaigning tool, and the 'blue letter' will always hold a place in Lib Dem election folklore and Lib Dem hearts & minds. That Hancock used and was allowed to use a blue letter to campaign and defend himself from 'ALL' the complaints against him - including the 'crossing the line' activity that just over three weeks later he admitted to doing - is pretty extraordinary, especially given he wasn't even standing as a Lib Dem.Read More
I'm going to keep this piece blunt, because no-one likes a pity party. (Although if anyone wants to throw me one, I think you can work out the name of the new cocktail that could be served by the end of this post. Or indeed this paragraph,) This is an account of the unexpected blow that was landed on me in my early days of becoming a city councillor - the nasty, misogynistic lie of my supposedly being 'caught' doing Sex-In-The-Men's-Toilets of the civic offices with a male councillor - a lie promulgated by some of my own Liberal Democrat colleagues. I was, effectively, falsely accused of committing an indictable offence by colleagues - actual city councillors - attempting to strip me of my dignity. I'd not experienced behaviour like this ever before in my professional life. Smearing. Lying. Objectifying. Isolating. I want to tackle it head on in this piece. It's time.Read More
Politics does attract good people who want to choose to do good things, but it also provides an undeservedly comfortable home for the toxic and the devoid of conscience - those with all the hallmarks of the sociopath and the narcissist.
There are some Grade A Toxins in politics who manage to hide in plain sight. Charming and charismatic when they choose to be, they volunteer and steer themselves and their followers into influential positions. All the while, the background soundtracks of their brains and their internal documentary-makers are congratulating themselves on their powers of persuasion whilst helping themselves to everything - and everyone - that they feel entitled to claim.Read More
My major diversion away from archaeology and into politics not only lasted longer than I expected (2002-2015) but ended very differently than I expected, with a media gaze upon me because of my resignation from a job that I valued immensely. This narrative blog has been a fair while in the making, given that I resigned on the 25th January 2014 from the Liberal Democrat Group and Cabinet in Portsmouth over the Mike Hancock saga, but sometimes it takes a while to build up to catharsis, for all sorts of reasons.Read More