Amid all the lies, why should we take Johanna Baxter’s tears at face value?

Johanna Baxter has accused Jeremy Corbyn of not protecting vulnerable colleagues [Image: Ben Pruchnie via Getty Images].

Johanna Baxter has accused Jeremy Corbyn of not protecting vulnerable colleagues [Image: Ben Pruchnie via Getty Images].

I’m not buying this, and I don’t think anybody else should either.

After Tuesday’s meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee – the party’s ruling body – a tearful Johanna Baxter made several media appearances in which she tearfully berated Jeremy Corbyn for opposing secret voting at that meeting.

Ms Baxter, who is a representative of constituency Labour parties on the NEC, said Mr Corbyn effectively wanted to lay her and her colleagues open to abuse from members.

At face value, it might be persuasive to some.

But in the midst of lie after lie from opponents of Mr Corbyn, we should not accept it without question – and under question her claims fall apart.

Look at the World at One interview that is featured in the article I quote below. At first, the only threats Ms Baxter mentions are legal.

She said NEC members were shown a letter threatening legal action if Mr Corbyn was not allowed on the ballot paper automatically; saying that court orders would be sought to reveal the result of secret ballots; and saying that general secretary Iain McNicol would be held legally liable for that high court action.

And she said Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham presented a proposal for mediation and said if the NEC did not adopt his proposal, the Shadow Cabinet would have to meet later that day to consider legal advice on the NEC’s decision.

She did not mention personal threats against members until she was prompted. The interviewer asked “To what extent was [the decision to vote in secret] driven by people’s worry that they would be threatened and intimidated?”

So This Writer is not convinced.

All along, the implication is that supporters of Jeremy Corbyn are responsible for the alleged intimidation, despite the fact that – as Ms Baxter acknowledged – he has already said he strongly disapproves of any such activity.

It occurs to me that we have seen far more unacceptable behaviour from supporters of the so-called (and failed) ‘coup’ against him.

Only yesterday (July 14), we discovered that Angela Eagle lied about her reasons for cancelling a visit to a hotel in Luton earlier in the week.

She had claimed it was due to threats from Corbyn supporters.

In fact, the hotel itself cancelled the meeting because staff had not been informed that it would be a political event.

A local online news source reported: “A spokeswoman for the hotel said: ‘We can confirm that the event has been cancelled as we were unaware of the nature of the meeting.’

“But according to other reports, Angela Eagle’s constituency office has claimed it has cancelled the event due to earlier threats being made.”

It’s another lie to add to the list.

If Ms Baxter had made her comments clear of this context – without the catalogue of lies connected to the ‘coup’ that she clearly appears to support – then they might have some credibility.

As it is, I strongly advise everybody who has heard her claims to ignore them.

Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised by a teary Labour executive member who accused him of not protecting vulnerable colleagues.

Johanna Baxter, a member of the party’s National Executive Committee, which last night voted on rules governing the high-stakes leadership election, broke down in an interview discussing the event.

She spoke out about the six-hour long meeting when senior Labour officials ruled Corbyn should be automatically included on the leadership election ballot.

“It was a very difficult meeting, it was highly emotionally charged,” Baxter said.

“There were a number of colleagues very upset, including myself, and there were a number of threats made… and a number of incidents that I thought were not acceptable.”

She recounted the tense meeting, and, verging on tears, chastised Corbyn for voting against a bid that allowed committee members to vote by secret ballot.

Baxter claimed the Labour leader had failed to protect colleagues subjected to threats from party members by calling on them to make their votes public.

Source: Labour Executive’s Johanna Baxter Tearily Recounts Tense NEC Meeting, Criticises Jeremy Corbyn


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41 thoughts on “Amid all the lies, why should we take Johanna Baxter’s tears at face value?

  1. Jenny Hambidge

    Why did they NEED a secret ballot? why was she more vulnerable than anyone else when feelings run high? This is SUCH bad publicity. I am more concerned about the ruling that there can be no meetings of CLP until after the election. To stop us mobilising for Jeremy? We are being gagged, or so it seems.

    1. Tim

      Ms Baxter had been threatened and intimidated online and in person. (She has emails and tweets enough to prove the former and possibly witnesses or recordings which would substantiate the latter.) Have you already forgotten the recent murder of Jo Cox MP, in Yorkshire, in the most brutal way imaginable? Why does it matter whether the ballot was secret or not unless people voting in certain ways were going to be held to account in some way, shape or form by persons unknown? Most ballots, from joining a golf club to selecting an MP, are secret. I really don’t understand what the heck you’re going on about.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        When our representatives vote on our behalf, the votes are held in public. MPs’ names are always recorded. Councillors vote in public. They must be accountable; they must be prepared to justify their choices.

      2. Gravity Takes Its Toll

        I mean voting intention should be secret BEFORE any ballot is taken to avoid undue influence being exercised over the voters. In the same way, if you like, as when MPs vote for the leaders of their parties, many of whom remain tight lipped and do not announce their preference before the ballot for leader has been taken. This is a sensible precaution to avoid excessive pressure and/or influence being directed at “weak links”, i.e., people who could be swayed by threats or inducements, to “persuade” participators in a ballot to cast their vote in a particulars ways in order to change the final outcome. What happens after the ballot, when what’s done is done, is less important.

        A bit like jurors in a jury, if you like, in order to ensure impartiality.

        No ballot should be subject to intimidation or horse trading..

      3. tim

        @Tim on, Have you heard about the left Sweedish minister assasinated in 2003 2 days befor the referendum because like the Jo Cox case was from the left and the out was ahead in the polls.
        Don’t you think something does not add up.
        Here the MPs are elected by the voters, and if they take a decision on behalf of the constituants it is fair to be able to see witch MP voted for who and why otherwise let the constituants vote for their preferred leader, if the MPs are puppets us the “pleb” had enough wearing that t-shirt inside and out with time.

    1. rupertrlmitchell

      We are not at war! When decisions of this nature cannot be carried out openly and in front of the people they affect something is very seriously wrong; it is entirely undemocratic!

      1. Gravity Takes Its Toll

        I’m deadly serious! I could well be that moderate people coolly disposed towards Corbyn will slowly and quietly haemorrhage away from Labour, if he remains leader for a very long time and all hope is lost, until those who remain will be predominantly pro-Corbyn. And the Labour party as we know it will be dead in everything but name.

      2. Tim

        It took Labour twenty-four years from its formation in 1900 to forming its first minority government in 1924. As things stand it might be longer than a quarter of a century before Labour has a hope of getting back into government under Corbyn, if the party is electable at all as far as the foreseeable future is concerned. Not so much back to its roots, Mike, as back to the blossom on the tree that formed the seed from which Labour grew.

  2. David Woods

    Why would they want to hide the way they vote?
    If they really have such major concerns over Jeremy Corbyn why would they not want to shout ‘loud and proud’ and be identified as being against him!
    Speaks very poorly not only of them but also of their commitment to their constituents but to their political party too!

  3. Ged Mcnamara

    Hi Mike, I totally agree with your advice, Johanna Baxter studied and gained her law degree. This is not a person who would feel “threatened” by “due process” (As in the issuing of the letter putting Iain McNicol on notice for his threatening to with old all the legal advice sought).
    Her unprofessional use of emotive language as a person studied in law can only be seen as deliberate manipulation of the public sympathy.
    She not only attempts to manipulate sympathy but in her first interview on the radio she out right lied. She claimed she has had her personal contact details shared on line, inferring people unknown had done this to her as an act of intimidation. Not so, she herself posted her contact details in a questionnaire she sent out publically days prior to this supposed hastily arranged meeting (my friend shared it on her wall two days prior to the meeting and a fully day before some of the Union NEC had even been told about the meeting). It was apparently her wishing to gauge the views of party members on the position of Jeremy being on the ballot by right or not and was clearly designed to give the impression that she (Johanna) was listening to members.
    I do however believe she did feel genuinely upset, but more likely by her feeling guilty of being drawn into something that was excilating beyond anything she’d imagined, and was quiet possibly feeling threatened by those who would now feel that she had failed in her task of keeping Jeremy off that ballot by right.
    You probably already know the info I’ve mentioned but if you hadn’t its certainly in line with your article and perhaps something requiring further investigation (if you find any spare moments in among the twists and turns of this sorry farsical mess this fails coup creating.

  4. tim

    As it been said many time before, certain “politicians” missed their vocation, they should try acting!

  5. mohandeer

    After all the lies and back stabbing from the Right Wing elitists in the Labour Party, I think it safe to say that the rift which their actions and words have caused can never be reconciled. Does anyone seriously believe that if these Tory Lites remain in the party that Labour will win in 2020? Blair’s Right Wing ideology lost millions of voters from the LP, many of which voted Tory(because there was nothing much to tell them apart), now these right wing elements have managed to alienate millions again against the LP. If the Tories were ever clever, which they are not, they could call another General Election and at the present juncture, they would walk it with a landslide victory.
    This split/party divide is a chasm that no sticking plaster is ever going to cover. The simple truth is, that millions of would be LP voters couldn’t ever again, trust the right wing elitists calling themselves the Labour Party.
    100 LP Right Wing MP’s need to be deselected and kicked out of the party for bringing it into disrepute and hi-jacking it from the socialist democratic membership.
    While they remain, the LP is doomed.

  6. James Kemp

    Her ‘performance’ was disgusting all crocodile tears and allegations against Corbin supporters. Now we find the truth no bullying or threats only suggions they follow the rules of the party they claim to represent. If you ignore the rules when it doesnt suit you and make a how of yourself on TV personally i don’t think you should be on the NEC and will be casting my vote later and they won’t be for any blairite.

    As for the CLP’s not being able to meet that is blatant gerrymandering so Egale cannot be de-selected and what the heck is happening ignoring the will of the CLP’s like in Brighton and Manchester!

    What does it say about the Right side of the party that thinks power at any cost is worth it, no real policies or convictions they will stick to. Give me old fashioned socialism any day…

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’m not saying there weren’t threats. I just don’t think they should have had as much of an effect as she claimed.

  7. Tim

    It seems to me that on this blog anybody critical of Jeremy Corbyn is guilty until proven innocent, eh? Shouldn’t Ms Baxter’s allegations be taken seriously and investigated by sane and impartial parties to determine whether some sort of appropriate action should be taken before she is dismissed? Why should we take Johanna Baxter’s tears at face value? We shouldn’t. But nor should we dismiss them either. The matter should be properly investigated.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      In fairness, it seems she has been contacted by some unsavoury characters. But that happens to anybody in public life. It might be a good idea to investigate these malcontents.
      I wonder how many are in the Labour Party at all.

    2. tim

      @ Tim, You mention “properly investigated”, may i add also to investigate her on her vote for or against Syria war, just to see how many tears she shed for the women who got threatened with bombs and killed, dismembered, disfigured, etc….. during this war and the illegal Iraq war.

    3. Tim

      The point isn’t about voting, or the way anybody voted about any particular issue, but about groups and individuals threatening and abusing people in order to try to intimidate them into casting future votes according to the dictates of the threateners and abuser. So many people on this blog seem to have their moral sense cross-wired since poor old Jezza waddled onto the scene.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Whatever do you mean?
        Are you trying to excuse NEC members from accountability?

      2. Tim

        Members of the NEC should be free to cast their votes without being pressured or bullied in the same way as everybody should be allowed to cast their votes in any ballot. People acting as representatives of other should be accountable to those people but not threatened with lynching, violence or rape if they decide to vote contrary to the wishes of some of those they represent. Otherwise why bother with committees at all and just put everything, no matter what, before the membership in a series of never ending referenda?

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        The only email that Ms Baxter quoted that contained anything directly threatening was “We know where you live” – which is unacceptable. Do you know who sent it or what their reasons were? Of course not.
        We expect certain standards from our representatives, and distorting the evidence to create a false impression certainly falls well below those standards.
        Read this for more information:

  8. hanspan

    She appeared genuinely shaken, and I feel sympathy for her and for anyone else that feels threatened by thugs from whatever source. I am not willing to assume her fear is an act, as I think that makes me as bad as those who suppose that victims of any other sort of attack are making it up.

    However – in the same way as we should not bow to terrorism – I don’t feel democracy should bow to threats.

    If our representatives are being threatened then they should be protected and the purpetrators should be dealt with – strongly.
    But all supporters of a particular party or ethos or individual should not be tarred with the same brush. Just becuase I support “Bob” does not make me the same as all others who support “Bob” and does not mean I condone the actions of a few “Bob” supporters that behave like repulsive bullying thugs – no more than all Muslims support ISI or all Christians support the Westboro baptist church.

    If we follow this route then what next? Do we end up in a positon do all MPs decisions start to be secret incase they are considered in danger? How will that help democracy?

    1. hannah Moynehan

      So I’ve had 2 days to read things around this and I have to say I have rather less sympathy than I did when I wrote that.

      I’ve seen that she gives her own personal contact details out freely on her blog – so insinuating people were spreading her details and that was somehow dodgy seems misleading at best.
      I’ve seen her showing a picture of herself happily reading the “more than 1000 messages” she had received, with her cat – no sign of fear or concern.
      I’ve seen only one message that I would consider personally threatening – saying “we know where you live”. Has this been reported to the police? I hope so.
      Other than that I’ve seen only messages that threatened heckling or other not necessarily polite but hardly alarming things.
      I did see a reference to there being other members of the NEC that felt threatened and something about someone’s car having a window smashed in but that was one random reference and I can’t find anything to support it.

      So I now think its probably the making of a mountain out of a molehill, and I can’t help strongly suspect that it was and is for political gain 🙁

  9. Tony O'Malley

    Johanna was trying to manipulate opinion away from Jeremy and his supporters by using that old chestnut about the left being violent and intimidating. I understand that she sits to the right of the Party and I have read somewhere that she has links to or sympathies towards the Fabian Society. It was herself that posted details of her personal email address and private mobile number online when she requested members of Labour CLP’s to contact her with their views about the then upcoming NEC vote regarding the leadership ballot. She seemed awfully proud to receive over 2000 messages in return. So proud in fact that she posted a pic on Facebook of her reading those messages with her cat and a mug of cocao (or other hot drink). Did she look upset or threatened?…NO!, Did she claim that any or many of the emails were threatening?….NO! She made no complaints at all because she was using the photo to demonstrate how committed she is to her role on the NEC, a role that, incidently. she is presently seeking reelection to (!). How strange then that the following day she should be complaining all over the media about how others had published her private contact details on Social Media and that as a consequence, she had been inundated with over 2000 ‘threatening’ or ‘abusive’ messages from Jeremy Corbyn supporters and that this led her to be so distraught! You couldn’t make it up, but she did and certain elements of the media (including Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News) just lapped it up and spread the intended message without any attempt to properly investigate! No proper evidence to support Johanna Baxters claims have yet been published….why is that?

    Copy of doc showing she released her own personal details…

    Copy Tweet showing her reading the emails/tweets that she had actively solicited….

    I posted these concerns to Cathy Newman’s (Channel 4 News) blog, but it was removed and left unanswered!

    The above is all factual. Now I speculate.

    Johanna is anti-Corbyn. The role she fills on Labours NEC is to support CLP members, the majority of whom are fully behind Jeremy Corbyn and that is confirmed by my own examination of her twitter feed! In order to hide to the people she is supposed to be representing on the NEC, she felt it necessary to get behind the notion of a secret ballot, so her ‘constituents’ would not be able to see how she had voted against their wishes and interests. The makey-up stories of threats, etc, ws just cover for her and her cynical, undemocratic and manipulative actions!

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Did you not read the comment? Mr O’Malley went into the facts, in details, then stated very clearly where he was speculating.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        You know, Mr O’Malley does actually distinguish between the factual content and speculation in his comment.

  10. Barry Davies

    I see no reason why there should have been a secret ballot, and in what way is any member vulnerable, unless they are voting against the wishes of the people they purport to represent.

  11. C Richardson

    Suspect her performance had more to do with getting a sympathy vote in the NEC elections… she stands to lose her seat if she upsets people, hence her desire for a secret ballot. She is virulently anti-Corbyn, but wanted this to be kept as secret as possible.
    Please dont vote her back onto the NEC.

Comments are closed.