A Brighton Labour Party member accused of spitting at a college caretaker at a packed meeting has made formal complaints as he attempts to clear his name.
Matt Tully, 36, said today (Monday 18 July) that he did not spit at anyone although a Labour Party staff member accused him of doing so in front of several party members.
The accusation was made at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party at City College, in Pelham Street, Brighton, on Saturday 9 July. It came after Mr Tully complained about fire doors being locked.
Mr Tully has complained to City College about the caretaker and to the Labour Party after the accusation was tweeted by, among others, council leader Warren Morgan.
He said that he had not ruled out legal action – such as a claim for defamation of character – adding: “It is my intention to pursue this and I will consider my options. I just want to do things in the correct way.”
He asked Councillor Morgan to retract the allegation on Twitter, identifying himself as the person accused of spitting. He said: “I identified myself (on Twitter) because I wanted the rumours and false allegations to stop.”
Councillor Emma Daniel said that she had spoken to the caretaker at the meeting. She said that he told her that when he went to shut the doors “one guy was pretty horrible and spat on the floor in front of me”.
Councillor Daniel said that she reported the claim to party staff and executive members and said that she had “no idea who the person was” until he identified himself on Twitter.
She added: “It’s best just to let people run an investigation properly.”
Since the AGM the local party has been suspended by Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) after “many complaints and reports of concern”.
An email, reporting the suspension of the local party, said: “These allege abusive behaviour by some attendees as well as reports that the ballot results were not properly reached.”
The election of a new executive committee – predominantly supporters of Jeremy Corbyn – at the AGM has been declared void.
The old executive committee remains in office until a new AGM and election in the autumn after Mr Corbyn learns whether he will be replaced as Labour leader.
The local party was suspended on Thursday (14 July) and yesterday (Sunday 17 July) Baroness Maggie Jones, who lives in Hove, spoke out on the Sunday Politics South East on BBC One.
She said the AGM “was a badly organised meeting”, adding that she “did witness one of the officials being very upset because he had to deal with a spitting incident”.
She also said that there were “entryists” at the meeting, indicating that they included those elected to the executive committee at the AGM.
One of them, Mark Sandell, who was elected to chair the local party, denied the claim on the same edition of the Sunday Politics.
Another, Phil Clarke, said that he had stood against Labour in previous elections and that this was known when he joined the party.
Like all the candidates, he said, his name and candidacy was published eight days before the AGM, adding: “No complaints were raised and nobody took issue with me standing.”
He said that the real reason that the local party had been suspended was because the NEC “did not like Jeremy Corbyn supporters being elected at a fabulous and well-organised meeting attended by more than 600 members”.
Greg Hadfield, who was elected to the post of secretary, has put together a dossier about the meeting and the claims.
Councillor Daniel said: “I think Greg has compromised the investigation by getting involved.”
But Mr Tully, in his formal complaint to Labour Party general secretary Iain McNicol, said that Councillor Morgan had subverted natural justice through his involvement.
He alleged that the council leader had “brought the party into disrepute” by alleging that staff at City College were spat on, adding: “These irresponsible allegations, which were quickly rebutted by others present, were nevertheless repeated without any concern for natural justice or the complaints procedures of the Labour Party.
“At least three other members of Councillor Morgan’s Labour group (of councillors) repeated the allegations, assumed them to be true and ignored my protestations of innocence.”
Sussex Police said that no complaint had been received of spitting at the meeting while City College has received a complaint – but from Mr Tully, not about him.
Having been identified while in the meeting and concerned to clear his name, Mr Tully added that Councillor Morgan’s allegations had “caused me immense distress”.