Cllr Kath Pinnock arrived in Portsmouth, and seems to have departed again already, having scrutinised/schmoozed with (it depends on your point of view, as I’ll explain) local Liberal Democrats. In my last blog, I dealt with the point made by Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson that Cllr Eleanor Scott would not be able to contribute to the inquiry. It seems that he was wrong on that point, and that Cllr Pinnock actually has met Cllr Scott.
That leaves unresolved the issue of whether Cllr Pinnock’s visit does any good (I call it a “visit” deliberately – as we shall see, it would be ridiculous to keep calling it an “inquiry”).
It is standard procedure in the Lib Dems to hold an inquest when they lose control of a council, and that was the real basis for Cllr Pinnock’s visit. It was not primarily a bullying inquiry at all, it was a counselling session for defeated councillors.
Certainly local Lib Dems were tweeting in the most ecstatic terms about Cllr Pinnock before she had even got home to Yorkshire:
Independent review confirms no bullying in Portsmouth Liberal Democrat party and council group
— Simon Dodd (@SJDodd13) July 1, 2014
The cheery photo below is the one which makes me wonder how rigorous a process Cllr Pinnock’s “inquiry” is. Kath Pinnock is the laughing lady in the purple cardigan in front. She picked a lovely time of year to come down and get some holiday snaps:
— Nassar Kessell (@nassar_kessell) July 1, 2014
Cllr Pinnock herself seemed very happy with the state of affairs:
— Kath Pinnock (@KathPinnock) July 1, 2014
In this tweet from Cllr Winnington, we see that in fact Cllr Pinnock was reporting not to Nick Clegg or Tim Farron in the first instance, or any of the other people Cllr Scott has taken her concerns to, but to the local party she was allegedly investigating. How on Earth does that make her inquiry “independent”?
@Backinpompey Kath gave her initial findings to local party members yesterday.It was significant that no bullying was evidenced within party
— Matthew Winnington (@mwinnington) July 2, 2014
It was being presented by Portsmouth Lib Dems as being a proper investigation into the long-standing claims of bullying and intimidation. They claim it was “independent”, though how far a friend of Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s from the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors is genuinely independent seems questionable. Cllr Scott said on Radio Solent on Monday that she had been promised an inquiry reporting back to Tim Farron – that isn’t what she has been given at all by having Kath Pinnock come down. Nobody outside the delusional world of Liberal Democracy sees the Pinnock visit as an adequate response to the crisis facing Portsmouth Lib Dems.
Then there is the question of whether her visit leaves Portsmouth Lib Dems any nearer “closure”. This is the view of a Portsmouth Lib Dem councillor, posting on an internet message board under a pseudonym (I’ve posted the full text below the image):
“No surprise. She’d been steadily burning bridges over the last few months, including after Hancock lost his seat. The reason is merely an excuse seeing as the person carrying out the review is in the city now and she was available to speak to Eleanor. If she was going to make the statement she has you might have thought it would be empowered by being upset with what the review person has said rather than, er, guess.
Still she’d pissed off just about all the local party, even those of us who got on well with her and may have had some sympathy with some of her stance re. Hancock, so she never would have been re selected anyway nor been welcomed back into the group.”
From that we can tell that no matter what the outcome of a proper inquiry, should there ever be one, or the outcome of Kath Pinnock’s visit, local Lib Dem councillors are not prepared to accept they have done anything wrong, or to make amends to Cllr Scott. It doesn’t matter if an inquiry finds local Lib Dems have abused Cllr Scott, they would never be prepared to admit wrongdoing and accept her back in her rightful place. Cllr Scott’s resignation is dismissed as “an excuse”.
The website the message I quoted above is http://vote-2012.proboards.com and it hosts some very interesting discussions, which I have often read since I came across it. I came across it because a poster on that site quoted an earlier blog of mine in a message on the board, and I started getting hits on my site from the link posted.
So who is “Khunanup”? In ancient Egyptian mythology, he was a peasant who campaigned to obtain justice for himself after being abused and ignored by his overlords (one of whom stole his donkey, and then pretended no such thing had happened). There is an absurd irony in that choice of name for themselves online given the facts of the Hancock and Scott cases. Khunanup won in the end, and got not only his donkey back, but also the job and property of the man who robbed him. The actual identity of “Khunanup” becomes clearer in this post on the same website:
I tweeted earlier the two comments about Cllr Scott having “pissed off just about all the local party” and “she never would have been re selected anyway nor been welcomed back into the group.” This got a rapid response from someone in the Lib Dem party who has pledged to help get the stinking mess cleared up:
@stucrow Name the Councillor so I can act on this.
— Nassar Kessell (@nassar_kessell) July 2, 2014
@stucrow Name the councillor, this is completely unacceptable and I will take it up with the LP exec.
— Nassar Kessell (@nassar_kessell) July 2, 2014
Lib Dems are big on evidence when it comes to investigating wrongdoings (or on pretending there is none when it suits their purposes). I think there’s some fair evidence here, and I await with interest the outcome of Nassar reporting this issue to the local Executive. Well done to him for taking a stand on this.
These comments from Cllr Winnington destroy any basis for believing that Cllr Scott would ever get a fair hearing from the local party, or that her visit constitutes the sort of thorough and independent inquiry the allegations of bullying and intimidation against Portsmouth Lib Dems merit. You’ll notice that Cllr Winnington was one of those most enthusiastic about the outcome of Kath Pinnock’s visit. No wonder, given the views he expresses pseudonymously!
The Pinnock visit was a whitewash in so far as it was an inquiry at all. The BBC’s Jessica Parker has revealed that in fact there will be a further inquiry into Portsmouth Lib Dems:
— Jessica Parker (@MarkerJParker) July 2, 2014
The sense that the Lib Dems are still in denial grows yet further with the news that senior Lib Dem Susan Gasczczak has today quit the party. She was one of Lord Rennard’s accusers and has been scathing in her condemnation of Rennard, and also of the Lib Dems’ internal processes:
“Even though I have complained, and raised this for over 7 years, the party still do not see the complaint as an issue”
I hope for Susan’s sake, Eleanor Scott’s, and that of any other women who are still in hiding as a result of Rennard and Hancock, that Clegg finally takes his head out of the sand and orders a proper independent inquiry into the culture and practices of the Lib Dem party nationally.