Exclusive: Neil Coyle blasts allegations of “serious procedural infringements” in members’ open to letter to party chiefs as “utter nonsense”

Katherine Johnston (19 September, 2019) Politics

The signatories are pushing for Coyle to automatically face open selection

18677Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle

Neil Coyle has blasted claims of “serious procedural infringements” in his constituency’s trigger ballot votes as  “utter nonsense”, after 63 of his members, and counting, signed an open letter calling on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to intervene.

Coyle has staved off deselection after just one of his ten local branches voted in favour of open selection, and 100 per cent of affiliates, despite vocal opposition within the party from the pro-Corbyn wing.

Now allegations of underhand campaign tactics thrown from both sides on Twitter have escalated to an open letter sent to the party’s National Executive Committee.

 

Eight branches voted against open selection, and one returned a tie in the polls held this month.

Tonight it was announced all affiliates are in favour of Coyle continuing as the automatic candidate.

The letter’s signatories – which the News understands are mostly Momentum members –  claim the “procedural infringements” by Coyle and his campaigning team “made a material difference on the outcome of the vote as a whole”.

They allege:

  • Members’ details were misused by taxpayer-funded parliamentary staff canvassing support – which is against regulations that stipulate only the MP can access those member lists and use them in this process
  • The details of times, dates and locations for the polls were held back from some grassroots members, in order to give supporters of Coyle more notice
  • Some members allegedly did not receive any information of the polls at all and were therefore unable to vote
  • And – most sensationally – claims of intimidation by Coyle himself.

In one example given, Coyle allegedly “sent a text message late at night to a member saying that “the clock is ticking” and that he was looking forward to reading about the position they would be taking when they spoke at the trigger ballot meeting.

“The meeting heard from the member that they understandably found this text disturbing,” the letter said.

The group have called on the NEC to investigate, pushing for Coyle to automatically face open selection – meaning he could be usurped by another Labour candidate in the next general election.

Coyle launched a stinging attack on the claims, describing the letter as “utter garbage”, “nonsense” and “strewn with gaffes and errors”.

Speaking to the News today he:

  • Claimed allegations that canvassing had been done on parliamentary phones and using withheld numbers were “completely untrue” and said he has the records to prove it: “I am 100% sure that I have not broken any rules,” he said.
  • Slammed reports he attended the branch votes – against party rules – in an attempt to sway the poll in his favour, saying he was stood outside as is within his rights to meet and greet and was far from intimidating; being with his three-year-old daughter at the time
  • Branded the “offensive” allegations as tantamount to an attack on the NEC and London Labour – who oversaw the process – as well as the Procedures Secretary and CLP volunteers – and an attempt to smear him
  • Regrets any text messages that may have been “curt” or “brusque” to members, saying he was trying to be as clear and professional as possible but would “try harder”
  • Responding to the specific case of  “the clock’s ticking” text message, said the message was in reference to a prior conversation where he believed the member had already pledged their support, as he chased up further information

Coyle said; “I get that they are not happy with the result but most people are happy with it, and just want us to get one with the real issue – to be the party of opposition to Boris Johnson.

“The people who signed this letter are not even two per cent of the CLP membership, and there is no excuse for all this online hostility and negativity.”

Chair of Bermondsey and Old Southwark Labour, Gemma Doyle, had this to say:

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