Friday, 31 May 2019

Corbyn's Cronies (2)

Paul Mason asks an impertinent but perfectly fair question of the Labour Party's Corbyn supporting Chair, Ian Lavery.


Corbyn's Cronies (30/05/19)

Labour Party chairperson Ian Lavery is a big Corbyn supporter and just like Jeremy it seems he's none too keen on standing up for the views ordinary Labour members and supporters when it comes to Brexit.

Read the report below from the Politics Home web site which explains how Ian Lavery (a controversial figure) has ignited another fierce Labour row by attacking supporters of a democratic People's Vote on the final terms of any Brexit Deal or No Deal. 

Ian Lavery, by the way, had the gall to accept a £72,500 'redundancy' payment even though left his job at the NUM trade union voluntarily to take up another well paid job as a Labour MP at Westminster - see post below dated 22/10/17.

Labour Brexit splits erupt as party chair attacks ‘sneering’ second EU referendum supporters

By Nicholas Mairs - Politics Home

Labour’s Brexit splits have burst into the open after party chairman Ian Lavery accused campaigners for a second referendum of "sneering" at Brexit supporters.

Ian Lavery has been outspoken against a second EU referendum - Credit: PA Images

In a thinly-veiled warning to Jeremy Corbyn, he said Labour should forget about a so-called 'People's Vote', whis he claimed was backed by "leftwing intellectuals" who know nothing about the working class.

Mr Lavery said any such vote would alienate supporters in traditional Labour heartlands and would be won by Leave again.

WATCH: John McDonnell demands Labour supports a second referendum in all circumstances

Fresh Labour splits as Len McCluskey accuses Tom Watson of anti-Corbyn plot over second referendum

Tom Watson warns Jeremy Corbyn Labour will lose election unless it backs second referendum

His comments came amid reports that Mr Corbyn is planning to throw his weight behind calls for a referendum on the final Brexit deal, as demanded by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.

Following Labour's dismal performance in the European elections, Mr McDonnell said: "So we're saying quite clearly if there can be a deal, great, but it needs to go back to the people, if it's a no-deal then we've got to block it.

“And the way we're doing that, I think, is by going back to the people and arguing the case against it because it would be catastrophic for our economy."

Asked if that meant he backed a referendum in all circumstances, Mr McDonnell replied: "I think it is, yeah."

Labour's conference last year voted to keep the option of another vote "on the table" if it were unable to trigger a general election or if it were needed to halt a "damaging" Tory Brexit.

Writing in the Guardian, Mr Lavery insisted the party’s position had been “fairly straightforward” but said it had been “difficult to hold the line” as pro and anti-second referendum Labour MPs made public their own views.

“Labour lost voters in all directions and polling appears to show middle-class voters moving to the Lib Dems and Greens, with working-class people moving to the Brexit party,” he said.

“As someone who has opposed a so-called public vote, not least because Parliament has no majority for it in principle and nobody has the faintest idea what we would actually put on the ballot, I have been doggedly attacked by certain sections of the party, as well as those on the outside.

“It does feel that a certain portion of “leftwing intellectuals” are sneering at ordinary people and piling on those trying to convey the feelings of hundreds of thousands of Labour voters.

“Perhaps, in reflecting on the results, we should consider the effect all of this has had.”


Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry have also called for another referendum.

But Mr Lavery added: “We cannot win a general election by simply fighting for the biggest share of 48% and, while some polling data suggests more people left Labour for the Greens and the Lib Dems, it is equally concerning to see leakage to the Brexit party.

“Remember, we not only need to hold on to what we got in 2017, but we need to win over even more people.”

In a swipe at the official operation pushing a second referendum, he added: “Given that it is associated almost entirely with the Remain campaign, it does raise the question as to why its proponents don’t simply issue a call to remain, rather than agitating for another referendum that could easily be won by Leave?”

But a former Labour frontbencher told PoliticsHome: "The man tasked with co-ordinating our general election campaign believes we should ignore millions of Labour-inclined Remain voters and instead get in to a three-way fight with the Brexit Party and the Tories for Leave voters who are mostly hostile to us. Genius."

Cronyism vs Trade Unionism (22/10/17)

"Since when was trade unionism about filling your boots at the members' expense?" - seems like the obvious question to ask in light of this damning BBC report into the activities of Labour MP Ian Lavery, a high-profile member of Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet.

Now the NUM Northumberland Area has not been a trade union, in the normal sense, for many years because most, if not all, of its members are long retired and so did not require the usual kind of trade union support or representation at the workplace.  

Yet its grandly named 'General Secretary' apparently received a salary worth tens of thousands of pounds for a period 18 years and also had the gall to accept a £72,500 redundancy payment, even though Mr Lavery left his employment voluntarily to take up another well paid job at Westminster as a Labour MP.

The whole business stinks to high heaven if you ask me, which the Labour leader must realise as a former trade union official himself.

The affair also has echoes of the £400,000 'loan' provided to the Unite boss Len McCluskey in order to help buy a swish new apartment in central London, even though McCluskey (67) had been living and working in London for 26 years. 

No one can reasonably defend using members' money in this way.

Ian Lavery MP received £165,000 from trade union

By John Sweeney and Ed Brown - BBC Newsnight

Image copyright - SHUTTERSTOCK

MP Ian Lavery received £165,000 from the 10-member trade union he ran.

We have learned this from the trade union regulator which has now released a report into Mr Lavery's actions as general secretary of the NUM Northumberland Area.

He will now face questions on his record over a number of disputed payments by the union he ran.

Mr Lavery, who is the chairman of the Labour Party, denies any wrongdoing.

Ian Lavery is a coming power in the land, Jeremy Corbyn's general election joint co-ordinator and chairman of the Labour Party. If the Conservatives fall, he's most likely destined for high office. But, perhaps, for one thing: his refusal to answer a simple question asked by BBC Newsnight last year: "Did you pay off the mortgage?" BBC Newsnight asked him nine times without getting a reply. 

Media caption - Newsnight's John Sweeney confronts Labour MP Ian Lavery

The answer, it turns out, is no. He didn't pay off his mortgage. The union of which he was general secretary for 18 years, the NUM Northumberland Area, paid it off and paid him much more besides.

Last year, both Jeremy Corbyn and the parliamentary watchdog cleared Mr Lavery. He denies any wrongdoing.

The reason we know more about Mr Lavery's peculiar mortgage arrangements is because the trade union regulator, the Certification Officer, Gerard Walker, examined the books after investigations by BBC Newsnight and the Sunday Times. Mr Lavery ran the NUM Northumberland Area for 18 years until he stepped down in 2010 to become the MP for Wansbeck.

The regulator's findings are available online.

The regulator found that that the Northumberland Provident and Benevolent fund had lent Mr Lavery £72,500 to buy a house in 1994. 13 years on, the union Mr Lavery was then running forgave the loan to Mr Lavery. So he was £72,500 the richer.

But there's more. He'd been paying into an endowment fund to pay back the capital cost of the house. It had underperformed, but it still paid out £18,000. The regulator found Mr Lavery kept that too.

And that's not all.

The regulator found that in 2005, Mr Lavery sold a 15% stake in his house to the Union for £36,000. In 2013 the house was worth less, so he bought it back from the union for £27,500 - a notional profit of £8,500.

And then there's Mr Lavery's "termination payments", totalling £89,887.83. However, that total is a matter of some dispute between him and the union.

The regulator says that neither Mr Lavery nor the union could provide documentary evidence of the process or the decision by which Mr Lavery was made redundant - or why, given he was leaving for a job as an MP, he needed any redundancy payments at all.

Adding £89,887 he received for his undocumented redundancy package to the £72,500 for the forgiven house loan to the £18,000 he was gifted from his endowment, that totals £180,387.

But, then, it seems Mr Lavery and his old union fell out. The union recently realised it had overpaid Mr Lavery's redundancy by £30,600. The regulator's report shows that the union asked for it back. Mr Lavery disputed £10,600 of it - and said he'd only give them £15,000. When the regulator asked the union why they settled for this, they simply replied that they were mindful of Mr Lavery disputing it and the potential legal costs:

"Mr. Lavery was adamant that £15,000 was his final offer, we were left with little choice but to accept."

So our running total of dosh from the union to its one-time general secretary is reduced by £15,000 to £165,387. That's a bob or two in anyone's language.

A year ago, when we started questioning Mr Lavery on this matter, Jeremy Corbyn gave him the benefit of the doubt and the Parliamentary commissioner cleared him of wrongdoing, which he has always denied. Since then, Mr Lavery has risen in Labour's ranks to be one of the Labour leader's closest and most trusted lieutenants.

Image copyright - GETTY IMAGES

Now that we know just how much money he got from the trade union he used to run, it's fair to ask whether this man is a fit and proper person to be chairman of the Labour Party.

Ian Lavery told BBC Newsnight in a statement tonight:

"Under my stewardship, the union always complied with the rules and the Certification Officer signed off every year's transactions. As the Certification Officer's report makes clear, no member of the union, past or present, has made a complaint about the financial affairs of the union. I am pleased that the Certification Officer has decided to not appoint an inspector or take further action.

"This report should draw a line under almost two years of allegations and innuendo directed at me and my former colleagues. Our legacy is helping miners and their families when others abandoned them, bringing millions of pounds of compensation into the Northumberland Coalfield. I remain immensely proud of our record."

Team Corbyn (10/05/17)

I listened to Ian Lavery (Labour's elections coordinator) deliver a 'warm-up' speech ahead of Jeremy Corbyn appearing on stage to launch the Labour Party's election manifesto.  

Now I don't know Mr Lavery, but he sounded like a poor man's Arthur Scargill to me full of angry and windy rhetoric about the great sacrifices made by previous generations of Labour supporters.

I've heard this kind of 'standing on the shoulders of giants' speech more times than I care to remember, but Ian Lavery brings a whole new meaning to this slogan when you consider the circumstances under which he left his job at the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers).

If you ask me, someone who leaves their job to become a well paid Member of Parliament is not entitled to a redundancy payment because they are resigning from their post voluntarily - so why do they need or deserve a huge sum of NUM members' money.

Yet one one Jeremy Corbyn's key supporters thought it was OK to accept a £140,000 payment from a largely defunct union with very few active members given the decline of the mining industry. 


Team Corbyn (18/03/17)

Ian Lavery is a big Jeremy Corbyn supporter who was promoted to the role of election coordinator recently after yet another shadow cabinet reshuffle that was forced upon the Labour leader because the vast majority of MPs have no confidence in him.

The standards watchdog at Westminster has required Ian Lavery to apologise to the House of Commons over his failure to disclose benefits from his previous employment as general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) for the Northumberland area from 1992 until 2010.

But the real story is that Ian Lavery received £140,000 in redundancy payments even though he resigned from this job to take up a more lucrative position as a Labour MP.

On top of that Ian Lavery received a cheap mortgage from the NUM which by that time had a tiny membership and even more incredibly this subsidised mortgage was mysteriously written off.

Read the reports below from the Politics Home web site and the BBC, but if you ask me there are remarkable similarities between Ian Lavery and Len McLuskey, another big Corbyn fan who regards himself as a left-wing socialist.

Labour MP Ian Lavery cleared of wrongdoing over subsidised mortgage

By Sebastian Whale - Politics Home

Labour MP Ian Lavery has been cleared by the parliamentary watchdog over allegations he failed to register benefits received from his previous union employer.

Ian Lavery at the 2016 Labour party conference - Credit: PA Images

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards refused to uphold claims by Tory MP Paul Scully that Mr Lavery should have published redundancy payments and the terms of a mortgage on his property.

But the probe did find two instances where the shadow Cabinet Office minister breached the MPs’ code of conduct by failing to declare a relevant interest.

Mr Lavery has agreed to make an apology to the House of Commons for the breaches, which the commissioner said would be an “appropriate outcome” following the investigation.

The Labour frontbencher was general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) for the Northumberland area from 1992 until 2010, when he stood down and was elected MP for Wansbeck.

According to documents seen by BBC Newsnight last year, Mr Lavery received a £72,500 mortgage in 1994 from the union's benevolent fund, repayable at less than half the market interest rate.

He also allegedly received around £140,000 in redundancy payments from the union.

The Standards commissioner found that Parliament’s rules in 2010 had not been “sufficiently explicit” for Mr Lavery’s failure to register the redundancy payments to constitute a breach.

Mr Lavery received redundancy payments in instalments until May 2013.
Further, the probe found that Mr Lavery’s mortgage had terminated three years before he became an MP so it was not considered a registrable benefit.

But elsewhere in the investigation, the commissioner considered whether Mr Lavery should have noted in the Register of Members’ Interests that the NUM had held a 15% of share in his property until May 2013.

The commissioner concluded that under the circumstances it was a registrable benefit under the Miscellaneous Category.

It also found that Mr Lavery should have declared a relevant interest when tabling a Written Question in March 2013 about the future of the deep-mine industry.

“Mr Lavery has acknowledged his two breaches of the rules and of the Code of Conduct, and he has agreed to make an apology to the House for them,” the commissioner wrote.

“Subject to him doing so, I consider that to be an appropriate outcome and have concluded my inquiry under the rectification procedure.”
Mr Lavery denied any wrongdoing when the allegations surfaced in April 2016.
Labour MP Ian Lavery denies wrongdoing over NUM mortgage

By John Sweeney & Ed Brown - BBC Newsnight

BBC UK Politics

Image copyright - LABOUR PARTY

Labour's trade union spokesman Ian Lavery has denied any wrongdoing after BBC Newsnight learned he received a heavily subsidised mortgage.

The mortgage was from the benevolent fund of the National Union of Mineworkers in Northumberland.

Mr Lavery was the general secretary of that union from 1992 to 2010, and also faces questions about redundancy money he received when he left.

He says the mortgage was a "private" matter and denies any impropriety.

In total Ian Lavery faces questions about £250,000 of payments the union's books suggest he received from the NUM, Northumberland Area during his period there.

Newsnight has established that Mr Lavery received a £72,500 mortgage in 1994 from the union's benevolent fund repayable at less than half the market interest rate.

On Tuesday, he refused to comment on whether the outstanding mortgage had subsequently been written off by the union. "The union and myself came to a financial agreement in 2007 with regards to the mortgage which will remain private between myself and the union."

Mr Lavery stepped down as general secretary of the Northumberland Area in 2010, taking over from Denis Murphy as MP for Wansbeck. Mr Murphy took over the running of the union which now has just six members.

During Mr Lavery's tenure as general secretary, more than half of the union's £2.5m income came from sick former miners who the Union helped with compensation claims and who donated a portion of their payments to the union.

Mr Lavery has already faced questions from the Sunday Times about what appear to be more than £140,000 of redundancy payments to him, as well as about why he received a mortgage from union funds.

He has been referred to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner by a Tory MP for alleged impropriety over his redundancy.

Newsnight has established that the "sweetheart" interest rate on the mortgage provided by the union's Provident and Benevolent fund - just 3% compared to market rates of around 8% - would have saved Mr Lavery thousands of pounds in interest payments over the life of the mortgage.

However, Newsnight has also identified a sum of £109,911 written off in the union's books in 2007. This is almost exactly the figure Mr Lavery would have owed on the £72,500 mortgage if he had made no, or very low, payments over the 13-year period. 

Image copyrightPAImage captionEllington Colliery in Northumberland just before it closed in 2005

On Tuesday he refused to say whether any of the mortgage had been written off insisting he had absented himself from any discussions regarding the mortgage and behaved in a proper manner throughout.

He said: "The NUMNA accounts were professionally audited and accepted by the Certification Officer on an annual basis," adding, "I refute any allegations of financial irregularities."

A second puzzle relates to Mr Lavery's redundancy. He acknowledges he received £62,000 in redundancy payments but insists he doesn't recognise a second payment of £85,426, logged on the union's books in 2013.

He said: "The £85,000 which you keep referring to as a mystery payment, that is something that the accountants will have come up with. I'll tell you three times, four times, five times, I don't recognise that payment."

But the payment is recorded in 2013 as "past general secretary redundancy costs". Mr Lavery started at NUMNA in 1992. His successor, Denis Murphy, took over in 2010 so the phrase "past general secretary redundancy costs" appears, on the face of it, to apply to Mr Lavery. 

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Britain's wealth was, once, powered by coal - but miners paid a heavy price in ill-health. The government set up a compensation fund for miners suffering lung disease and other illnesses which has paid out more than £4 billion.

Mr Lavery, a former miner himself, is proud of his union's success at winning compensation for its members. On their compensation forms, miners could tick a box to gift a fraction of their money to the union.

The last pit in Northumberland closed in 2005 and it now boasts just six members but gifts to the compensation fund kept the union afloat. Donations from former miners amounted to more than £1.6m over the period of Mr Lavery's tenure.

In response to Newsnight's story, Mr Lavery issued the following written statement: "For the record, I am immensely proud of the fact that the National Union of Mineworkers (Northumberland Area) were able to gain rightful compensation for tens of thousands of miners, former miners and their families.

"The government and the industry were vehemently opposed to paying compensation for industrial diseases but the National Union of Mineworkers were ultimately successful. Thousands of miners received the compensation they deserved because of the time, effort and commitment of the NUM and its officials, who brought test cases that were opposed at every turn.

"It is estimated that more than £4 billion nationally - and tens of millions of pounds in Northumberland alone - was paid out in the form damages for those who had worked in the coal industry.

"I am incredibly proud of the role I played in achieving this on behalf of former miners who would have been left high and dry without the work the NUM carried out on their behalf. I simply refute out of hand any suggestion of financial impropriety."

Len Has No Answers (22/02/17)

According to the report below from Politics Home Len McCluskey is complaining at being called out over his £400,000 loan from Unite members to help his buy a swish new pad in central London.

Now relocation schemes for employees moving to London are commonplace, of course, but Len has worked and lived in the capital for 26 years and as Gerard Coyne fairly points out:

"Len McCluskey has had not one but three home loans during his time at Unite. Other senior union officials have had similar large benefits. I will end this practice because I don't believe that union bigwigs should get perks that the members who pay our wages don't receive."

Good for Gerard Coyne and doesn't McCluskey sound just like Jeremy Corbyn with his terrible whining about the 'right-wing' media.

Len McCluskey accuses Unite rival of 'smears and lies' in general secretary election

By Kevin Schofield - Politics Home

Len McCluskey will today accuse his Unite leadership rival of peddling "smears and outright lies" in the increasingly ill-tempered election campaign.
Len McCluskey is aiming for a third term as Unite general secretary.
Credit: PA Images

The veteran left-winger will also say Gerard Coyne has been "skulking behind slurs and using the right wing media to demean our union" ahead of the crunch vote.

Mr McCluskey's outspoken comments come just days after Mr Coyne dubbed him a "greedy boss"over a £400,000 deal to help him buy a flat in central London.

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Len McCluskey in fresh blast at Unite rival Gerard Coyne

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Momentum urge members to join Unite to vote for Len McCluskey

The "shared ownership" arrangement with Unite enabled Mr McCluskey to purchase the £700,000 property in a fashionable part of central London last year.

But Mr McCluskey - who is seeking his third term as the union's boss - will hit back in a speech to supporters in the West Midlands, where Mr Coyne is Unite's regional secretary.

He will say: "I am incredibly proud to have received the nominations of so many branches in the West Midlands, and over 1,000 Unite branches across the UK representing members working in all sectors of the economy.

"It is the best validation from members, because it demonstrates they approve of what I am doing for Unite and want the union to carry on in this vein – proud, democratic and independent of outside interference.

"Members and the reps working hard on their behalf, day in and day out, don’t recognise the smears and outright lies that my opponent Gerard Coyne is peddling.

"My support reflects that they want a general secretary leading from the front on the issues that matter to them, not skulking behind slurs and using the right wing media to demean our union."

Unite insist that equity share schemes like the one they agreed with Mr McCluskey over his flat are commonplace, particularly for trade union officials moving to London, that they are properly authorised and generate large profits once the properties are sold.

But Mr Coyne said: "Len McCluskey has had not one but three home loans during his time at Unite. Other senior union officials have had similar large benefits. I will end this practice because I don't believe that union bigwigs should get perks that the members who pay our wages don't receive.

"I find it offensive. And to be honest I find it remarkable when I hear Len McCluskey talk about greedy bosses on the TV and radio. The truth is the man who talks about greedy bosses is a greedy boss himself."

A spokesman for Mr McCluskey said: "This is a shared ownership arrangement. Len McCluskey has not received a loan from the union, the union has invested in property. The property will be sold when Len McCluskey leaves employment and the union will make a profit for its investment. The arrangement is entirely transparent and fully authorised."