Constructive dismissal? Playing the ‘race’ card? Desperate Chi Onwurah disgraces herself

Chi Onwurah: Desperate, demeaned, ridiculous [Image: David Parry/PA Archive].

Chi Onwurah: Desperate, demeaned, ridiculous [Image: David Parry/PA Archive].

Anyone who has actually been in a ‘constructive dismissal’ situation would rightly be outraged that Chi Onwurah has accused Jeremy Corbyn of it.

Her attempt to play the ‘race’ card against him as well degrades her story to the point of ridicule.

It has been said that Mr Corbyn wanted to give Thangam Debbonaire a shadow ministerial role in January but, on being reminded that she was undergoing treatment for cancer and was too ill to take the job, realised it would be a mistake and cancelled the appointment.

If this is the case, then it makes perfect sense that he did not tell either Ms Debbonaire or Ms Onwurah, whose job was being divided. She had been doubling up as a shadow minister for business, innovation and skills and also a shadow minister for culture, media and sport. It seems clear that any change would relieve pressure on Ms Onwurah and confer a mark of confidence on Ms Debbonaire.

The rest is all whispers. Somebody whispered to Ms Onwurah and Ms Debbonaire that Mr Corbyn had been planning the changes but had gone back on them. Both MPs have now claimed that Mr Corbyn somehow forced them to undergo a prolonged period of uncertainty over exactly what their jobs now entailed.

I don’t see it.

If he didn’t notify either of them, officially, of any change then there wasn’t any change. There was no reason to suggest he had left them dangling and no reason to feel ill-treated.

To suggest such an episode was an attempt at racial discrimination is to invite ridicule – especially as Ms Debbonaire was promoted to the role of shadow culture, media and sport minister on her return to Parliament.

For constructive dismissal to have happened, certain conditions must be met.

For example, did Mr Corbyn force Ms Onwurah to take a pay cut? This seems unlikely; acquiring two portfolios never implied she would have two paycheques every month.

Okay, how about dramatic changes to duties, hours of work or location of work? Hmm… no.

Ignoring complaints? We have no documentary evidence to suggest that any were made.

Conduct that undermined trust and confidence? Ms Onwurah cannot offer proof of any such thing. All she has is rumours she heard that Mr Corbyn had been planning to do something that did not happen.

Even if she had proof that Mr Corbyn had been mistakenly planning to give part of her brief to Ms Debbonaire – and didn’t – that would not be enough to show constructive dismissal. Random mistakes are not enough – she would need to show a sustained campaign to undermine her.

Oh, and there’s an element of timeliness necessary to support a claim of constructive dismissal. The employee needs to resign within a reasonable time of the trigger incident – not several months later. And that means Ms Onwurah would have needed to come up with a complaint of her own – not wait for Ms Debbonaire’s story to come out and then devise an elaboration.

You see, This Writer has intimate knowledge of the law when it comes to constructive dismissal.

Ms Onwurah’s story simply wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. Neither did Ms Debbonaire’s.

They present themselves as people with a grudge against Mr Corbyn, clutching desperately at what they think is their only opportunity to damage him.

And what have they achieved?

I have previously discussed Ms Debbonaire.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I used to consider Ms Onwurah to be a good MP, with a level head and important points to make.

After this, I can only regard her with disdain.

Not because of her work; certainly not because of her race; but because she decided to demean herself with this ridiculous allegation.

In September Jeremy gave me the job of shadow minister for culture and the digital economy. In the January reshuffle he gave half the job to Thangam Debbonaire. As the leader, he had every right to do so; unfortunately he omitted to tell her or me. When he realised what he had done, he gave the role back to me, without telling Thangam. So far, so annoying, but to be fair uncertainty is part of every reshuffle.  However Jeremy then went on for the next two months refusing my insistence that he speak to Thangam, indeed refusing to speak to either of us, whether directly or through the shadow cabinet, the whips, or his own office. No one knew what he wanted us to do, no one was clear on what we should be doing.

Jeremy made it impossible for two of the very few BME women MPs to do their jobs properly, undermining both us and Labour’s role as the voice of opposition to the government.

If this had been any of my previous employers in the public and private sectors Jeremy might well have found himself before an industrial tribunal for constructive dismissal, probably with racial discrimination thrown in – given that only five per cent of MPs are black and female, picking on us two is statistically interesting to say the least.

Source: Labour MP: In any other job, Jeremy Corbyn would have faced an industrial tribunal

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18 thoughts on “Constructive dismissal? Playing the ‘race’ card? Desperate Chi Onwurah disgraces herself

  1. jaguarjon

    I notice that these renegades’ stories have notable similarities, each containing one or more accusations of alleged cardinal sins peculiar to Labour’s values. I suppose the intention is devalue JC’s qualities and integrity. They seem blasé about what this tells us about their lack of same.
    Their statements have the flavour of collusion about them.
    They relate to allegations some time in the past because their intention is to release them one at a time for maximum impact. So, naturally, it looked like old news because it was.

  2. I Crawford

    These racist, sexist, antisemitic and abuse smears are also under-mining the progress in making this behaviour socially unacceptable.

  3. NMac

    As “jaguarjon” has said, the drip-feeding of these often ridiculous allegations have a strong whiff of collusion about them. Personally, I don’t even bother to read them any more. They are nonsense and I have just placed my on-line vote for Jeremy.

  4. Alice Kilroy

    And I wonder what today’s whinge from the right of the Labour Party will be ……………………..

  5. Tim

    I don’t think for a moment that Corbyn is racist. The confusion is probably down to his indecisiveness and/or poor management skills.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      In this case, if we’re to believe Ms Onwurah, it’s because of gossips saying things they shouldn’t have, with no reason to do so. It’s not indecisiveness – Mr Corbyn was (allegedly) considering something but decided against it, on advice. And it isn’t poor management.
      It’s deliberately offensive behaviour by people who weren’t doing THEIR jobs properly.

  6. casalealex

    I can’t help but wonder if the PLP have their own ‘think tank’.

    Set up to trawl MPs who are willing to collude with those
    who are anti-Corbyn, in their drip-drip accusations of the Leader’s
    so-called racist comments and decisions etc.

    The next three weeks will undoubtedly be used by these people
    to undermine the evident will of the majority of Labour members
    that Jeremy Corbyn remains the Leader of our Labour Party.

  7. Fibro confused

    I’ve lost count of where we are at with shadow bench fiction stories, are there enough left to drip feed one a day till the ballot closes? The damage they are doing to themselves and the Labour party is going to take a huge amount of work to put right, even if Jeremy were not to be the leader. They’ve shown themselves in full public gaze to be schemers liers and completely untrust worthy to those who have no idea and are not interested in the full story. You know the people who have given up voting.

  8. mike dobson

    Are political parties exempt from the same employment laws that protect people in other jobs? If not, she should start proceedings against JC. Why make a retrospective point about what may or may not have happened in a previous role? If she genuinely means what she has implied she should be outraged to such an extent (both personally AND on behalf of other BME employees) that action is a necessity. Very odd.

  9. James Kemp

    No Mike they are not. BUT important issue here is you need to put the case in a certain time period and have proof. Not whispers and no facts like in this case. Plus who is Jeremy meant to have hurt not this lady as if you read it she said she was told by another unnamed person that jeremy was planning this when he wasn’t.

    So nothing to base a constructive dismissal case on here as there was no case only whispers and as before another smear. To throw in the race card knowing the work Jeremy has done for BME issues is extra vile!

  10. Mick Vincent

    Again the missing man is Tom Watson. It is his job to sort out these things apparently they complained to the Shadow Cabinet which is the correct route. Tom is in charge and should have sorted it. Why aren’t they complaining about our Deputy Leader.

  11. Colette Linehan

    I am confused, this seems to be a non issue and as someone has previously mentioned, all these litle ‘outings’ seem to have the same whiff about them, trying to find the trigger that will sow doubt in the mind of Corbyn supporters. I for one, know exactly what it feels like to be completely undermined for a prolonged period by a manager, I am only now four years later beginning to get my confidence back, this does not sound anything like my experiences. The similarity in the tone of Thangams open letter as to her reson for voting against Corbyn and that of my MP Kerry McCarthy were palpable. Sadly there are those who will believe this, however, contradictory so much of it is. I am guessing Portland Communications may well be behind so much of this, however, what concerns me is the level at which it’s set, it smacks of the school bullying network. The neurotic teenage girls and boys who liked to decide who was and wasn’t popular, woe betide anyone who befriended one of their chosen unclean.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It should be a non-issue – you’re right.
      But the fact is that some people – notably people of colour (as I understand it, that’s the correct term) – have been willing to take it at face value and I have been criticised for pointing out the inconsistencies in the story. I think Ms Onwurah was relying on people having an emotional reaction, rather than an analytical one. That’s why I feel the need to comment on these tales as they turn up.

Comments are closed.