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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