I am grateful for the co-operation of Ms Clarke in the writing of this article
A long and completely unnecessary ordeal came to an end yesterday at Cardiff Crown Court for Jenny Lee Clarke, who had been accused of theft by Swansea East Labour MP Carolyn Harris. I have reported on this case more than once over recent years, but for latecomers to the story, hereâ€™s the background.
Before the 2015 UK general election both Carolyn Harris and Jenny Lee Clarke worked for the Swansea East Labour MP SiÃ¢n James. Some time in November 2014 Harris humiliated Ms Clarke over her â€œdyke bootsâ€� before attacking her and pulling out clumps of hair. This being just another â€“ if perhaps the worst â€“ in a series of incidents of Harris seeking to insult and humiliate Clarke over her sexuality.
We have evidence for this behaviour in the fact that SiÃ¢n James MP spoke to Harris, warning her about making homophobic remarks.
Witnesses to the attack included Labour councillor Paulette Smith (Clydach), who gave evidence at the trial.
Harris asked Clarke to forgive her and perhaps in the hope of confirming her remorse made Clarke her office manager after she became the new MP for Swansea East in May 2015. The rapprochement didnâ€™t last long. Following a grievance raised on January 15 and ignored, and then eight hours spent giving a statement to the police on January 27, Clarke was sacked on January 28.
Her replacement is alleged to have found evidence that Ms Clarke had given herself an unauthorised pay rise and also shortened her working week by forging Carolyn Harrisâ€™ signature on a form to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). This is the charge against Jenny Lee Clarke.
Clarke insisted this had been done on the instructions of the new MP, arguing that â€œShe (Harris) never liked paperwork. She left me to do everything.â€� As for the form â€˜discoveredâ€™ by the new office manager, Clarke is adamant, â€œI didnâ€™t sign it â€“ I just wrote her name. Many letters and other forms have my writing on them â€“ I have never attempted to write her signature, not at all.â€�
Interesting in this context is a document Jenny Lee Clarke compiled from her diary and from where we learn that as early as 2013 Carolyn Harris seems to have bullied her way into control of SiÃ¢n Jamesâ€™ office, and by April 2014 we can see that Ms Clarke was not happy with being told by Harris to deal with IPSA.
12.04.12 â€“ C.H demanding I do IPSAâ€¦â€¦..the rates were paid Â£1693. L.B Â£862.50. Reconciled Barclay Card
May 2012 â€“ completing database of IPSA claims
06.01.14 â€“ Was going to speak to C.H regarding I.P.S.A I wasnâ€™t comfortable!
(The â€˜L.B.â€™ referred to is Lawrence Bailey, former Swansea mayor and porn addict, PR advisor to Carolyn Harris , and of course columnist for the pro-Labour â€“ to the point of being swivel eyed â€“ Evening Post.)
Ms Clarke informs me she will be contacting IPSA asking that body to re-open its investigation into certain cash withdrawals made by Harris.
Understandably angry with the way she had been treated over many years, culminating now in her dismissal, Jenny Lee Clarke went to the media with the story of the assault she had suffered in November 2014. Most â€˜papers went with it. Here are reports from the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sun, and Pink News.
The story was also covered in Wales, but with an interesting twist. A day later than the London â€˜papers WalesOnline ran the story, but now the emphasis had shifted â€“ it was no longer a homophobic attack but a case of fraud. With Carolyn Harris (or the public purse) now the victim.
Which is when it gets a bit curious, and rather disturbing. Martin Shipton told us that police are â€˜probingâ€™ the office manager Jenny Lee Clarke, but where did he get that information, and should he have used it in such a blatant attempt to save face for Carolyn Harris, and the Labour Party?
Whatever the source of Shiptonâ€™s information, his report was the first Ms Clarke knew of any investigation. Is that any way to find out that the police might soon be knocking on your door? Four months eventually passed before Ms Clarke was arrested on 24 July. Charges were not laid until October.
Yet Gypsy Rose Shipton knows all!
Then followed a series of delays as the case was put off time after time until it eventually came to trial in July 2018. Should it ever have taken so long? Was there interference from the South Wales Police PCC, the former Labour MP, Alun Michael, in this very political prosecution?
Come to that, did Michael have a hand in deciding that Clarkeâ€™s complaint of January 2016 was classed as common assault, and therefore â€“ due to the fact that the complaint was made more than six months after the alleged offence of November 2014 â€“ could not be proceeded with? A different offence, with a longer expiry period, could have resulted in Harris being prosecuted.
Though given that the offence being complained of was a homophobic assault, and therefore a hate crime, why wasnâ€™t Carolyn Harris arrested and charged?
While Jenny Lee Clarke was sinking into depression, not knowing whether she might end up in prison for a crime she hadnâ€™t committed, the MP for Swansea East was busy preparing for the trial by ingratiating herself with the Gay community.
Now the obvious question is â€“ how many such events did Carolyn Harris attend before she was outed as a homophobe in the London newspapers? Ms Clarke tells me that she cannot recall Harris taking anything other than a hostile interest in Gay matters before the prospect of a trial loomed.
I suppose we could give her the benefit of the doubt and believe that her persistent and very public homophobia was some kind of defence mechanism, her desperately holding the closet doors shut. With the mauling at the hands of the London prints triggering the burst of emotional energy that allowed her to emerge.
An alternative, and less charitable view, might be that sheâ€™s another scheming politician who went through the motions of befriending gays and others because she thought it would come in useful when she had her moment in the witness box. â€˜Homophobic! Moi?â€™
I understand Jenny Lee Clarke is considering suing Carolyn Harris for unfair dismissal, sexual discrimination and a few other relevant charges. I wonder if Mrs Harrisâ€™s new Gay friends will rally to her defence?
If I was Ms Clarke I would also lay a complaint against the police for not properly categorising the offence so clearly described to them in eight hours of questioning at Swansea Central police station on January 27, 2016.
There are just so questions needing answers. Here are just a few:
- Where, how and with whom did the decision to accuse Jenny Lee Clarke begin? (And I mean accuse, not prosecute.)
- Will there now be an investigation into whether Carolyn Harris or anyone else knowingly made false accusations?
- Should IPSA â€“ and perhaps the police â€“ investigate how Carolyn Harris organises her office and her staff, to establish if she delegates work in ways that make her staff â€“ on her instructions â€“ break the law, or House of Commons rules?
- After her complaint made on January 27, 2016, why did South Wales Police not pursue what was clearly a hate crime?
- Will Jenny Lee Clarke receive an apology from South Wales Police for putting her through the wringer for over two years for what was clearly an accusation motivated by the desire for revenge?
- Will Jenny Lee Clarke receive an apology from the Labour Party?
- Did the trade union Unite properly advise Ms Clarke during the period of her dismissal? What Ms Clarke described to me as â€œshit representationâ€�. Might Unite have been more concerned with protecting the reputation of a Labour MP and the wider party?
- Will anyone compensate Jenny Lee Clarke for what sheâ€™s endured?
- Will Martin Shipton of Labour-supporting Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror) tell us how he learnt that Jenny Lee Clarke was being investigated before she herself knew?
- Jenny Lee Clarke lives in the Gower constituency. Will her MP Tonia Antoniazzi stand up for her constituent and condemn the disgraceful treatment she has received over the past two years?
- Is Carolyn Harrisâ€™ position as Corbynâ€™s spokesperson for women and equalities any longer tenable?
- Is Carolyn Harrisâ€™ position as deputy leader of the Labour Party in Wales any longer tenable?
- Can Carolyn Harris remain MP for Swansea East?
STOP PRESS! I hear that back in the city of my dreams the book is open on Carolyn Harrisâ€™s successor. Front runners are:
Nicola Louise Edwards, 31, who failed to get elected for the Gowerton ward last year but is said to be fiercely ambitious. Being the grand-daughter of the formidable Lillian Hopkins, and daughter of current councillor Dai Hopkins (Townhill), she is not without influence in the now smoke-free rooms.
Also mentioned is council leader Rob Stewart. As it was put to me, â€œHeâ€™s got no job, lives at home with his mam, so why notâ€�. Call me picky, but I might demand better qualifications from my tribune. But then, this is Labour, and this is Swansea East . . . currently represented by Carolyn Harris. What more need I say?
The rank outsider is former Llansamlet ward councillor, former Sunderland North MP, Hero of the Revolution, Bob Clay. During his brief sojourn in Swansea he drew up plans to remove Harris but now faces expulsion himself. Given his vieux compagnon closeness to Corbyn he might yet gallop over the Briton Ferry Bridge at the head of his Trotskyite legion to scatter the hated Harrisites. (Unless the bridge is closed to traffic, as is so often the case.)
Then again, there are widespread fears that Carolyn Harris will take some shifting. Which I can well believe.
The real issue here, as with so many of the other problems in Wales today, is the Labour Party. The old, decrepit and corrupt Labour Party.
Reminiscent of some mangy old predator that can still stand upright and make a bit of noise but is no longer able to fend for itself, surviving only due to the weakness of rivals and their inhibiting memories of the fearsome beast it once was.
But now, as the end approaches, the truth can no longer be hidden. Labour is finished.
This episode is just another footnote to the volume that lists corruption financial and moral, careerism, cronyism, refusal to serve the Welsh national interest, turning Wales into the pauper of Europe, willing participation in the Britification agenda, mismanagement of public funds including the inability to recognise a shyster when he approaches with a flashing neon sign on his head saying â€“ â€˜SHYSTER!â€™
Itâ€™s time to put the old beast out of its misery; and with it the fleas, parasites and bloodsuckers that compound and exacerbate its decline and our misery. For it no longer has the power nor the will to serve Wales. Weâ€™d be better off without it. As in the wild, he will soon be replaced and forgotten.
P.S. At the time of publication the only article on the WalesOnline website was the same PA report by Rod Minchin that appeared on the BBC Wales website and elsewhere. No doubt something more forensic and informative by Gypsy Rose Shipton will eventually appear.
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