Constituent gets visit from police for asking questions of MP

Steve Reed OBE, the Progress MP for Croydon North/Lambeth South [delete to taste] has resorted to filing a formal complaint to the borough police commander about a constituent, after the resident had the audacity to ask questions of their elected representative.

Steve Reed MP: is now part of Labour's shadow Home Office team

“Excuse me occifer, but one of my constituents keeps asking me awkward questions. Can you have a word?”

One of Reed’s constituents had four police officers turn up at their home last month, following the MP sending a letter to Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Andy Tarrant, in which he accused the Croydon resident of using “abusive, threatening and inappropriate behaviour” towards him.

This news, coming just days before Croydon North Constituency Labour Party holds a leadership nomination meeting, will do nothing to restore grassroots members’ faith in their local MP, after Reed refused to answer their questions about his stance over party leader Jeremy Corbyn at their recent annual meeting. The following weekend, Reed resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, claiming that he had consulted his CLP members.

With members talking of “a real sense of fear” over the way that their CLP is being run, the idea that Reed is bypassing regular policing channels and appears to be using his position as an MP to go directly to the borough’s top cop when he’s been asked a few troublesome questions is unlikely to be well received.

“I am truly outraged by Steve Reed,” said Genevieve Murray-Dinsmore, Croydon North CLP’s women’s officer.

“I was shocked to hear about the distress caused to a young constituent. I think sending the police to a constituent’s home was a real lack of judgement by Steve Reed. One of the people living there was traumatised by it.”

'Outraged by Steve Reed': Genevieve Murray-Dinsmore, Croydon North's women's officer, is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn

‘Outraged by Steve Reed’: Genevieve Murray-Dinsmore, Croydon North’s women’s officer, is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn

The police visit arose because Reed sent a letter to the constituent last month, using his official House of Commons headed notepaper.

In his letter, MP Reed wrote, “The only form of communication I will accept from you in future is written letters sent by post, and I will only respond to these if I consider them reasonable. Neither I nor my staff will reply to your emails, you will be blocked on social media, and if you phone my office staff have been instructed to advise you to put your comments in writing and to then end the call. If you come to my office in person, my staff have been instructed to call the police immediately. If you attempt any other form of harassment, I will call the police immediately.

“I consider your behaviour to be threatening and abusive.”

Since his rapid return to the backbenches, Reed is paid a basic £74,962 per year salary to do his job of representing the residents of his constituency. He also receives expenses towards the running costs of his offices at Westminster and Thornton Heath, where he has at least three state-funded staff members to help undertake his constituency casework.

Clearly, since Yorkshire MP Jo Cox was murdered this summer, elected representatives are entitled to exercise caution in their dealings with the public. Yet they also need to strike a balance to ensure that they fulfil their obligation to serve their constituents.

Owen Smith on his unannounced visit to central Croydon yesterday with Steve Reed OBE

Steve Reed is backing Owen Smith for the Labour leadership

Gavin Barwell, the Croydon Central MP, had a panic button installed in his constituency office after a visitor lost their temper during a meeting.

Other MPs have been suspected of exaggerating perceived threats in an attempt to avoid being held to account: infamously, Croydon South’s former Tory expenses-claimer, Tricky Dicky Ottaway, made a 999 call for back-up when he was “threatened” by a bunch of pensioners lobbying him at one of his surgery meetings.

In Reed’s case, he has form for calling on officials to keep tabs on people who he has decided might be  “troublesome”. In 2012, just before he became an MP, when he was still leader of Lambeth Council, Reed instructed Town Hall officials to spy on the emails of his colleague councillors, which in one case resulted in a Labour councillor resigning from the party.

Yesterday, we contacted Reed to give the MP an opportunity to explain why, in his recent dealings with a constituent, he had resorted to what may appear an extreme course of action.

Among our questions, we asked:

  • Can you explain why you opted to involve the Borough Commander, rather than going through the usual channels to file a complaint to the police?
  • Do you often feel threatened when your constituents approach you to seek your views and support for matters of importance in Croydon North, London and the nation?
  • How many constituents have you blocked on social media since being elected as an MP in November 2012?
  • How many complaints of harassment have you made to the police since 2012?
  • How do you respond to the accusation that your resorting to complaining to the Borough Commander can be seen as an abuse of your position, and a form of intimidation and bullying?

Apart from the auto-generated acknowledgement, Reed has not responded to any of those questions.

Reed, a long-time vice-chair of Progress, the Blairite party-within-a-party, was able to find the time, however, to grandstand on social media last night, stating, “Problem is we’ve imported the politics of hate of the SWP, TUSC etc, who are infiltrating us via Momentum.” Pots and kettles, anyone?

The constituent visited by the police at Reed’s behest has been told that there will be no further action taken. “What frustrates me is having a Labour MP in one of the most deprived areas of London who clearly does not care about listening to his constituents and feels threatened by a differing point of view or debate,” they said, not seeming the slightest bit threatening.

They maintained that, apart from once calling Reed a “bastard” on Twitter, in their correspondence and occasional meetings in person, they had never made any direct threats against him or otherwise been abusive.

Croydon North CLP in 2015 supported Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership. Reed backed his fellow Progress vice-chair, Liz Kendall, and this year is backing Owen Smith. Croydon North CLP has an all-member meeting on Monday to decide which candidate gets its nomination this year.


About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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18 Responses to Constituent gets visit from police for asking questions of MP

  1. Reed does seem to shoot from the hip. After a very innocuous but pointed reply to one of his FB posts I was effectively ordered to remove my comment “or else”. I didn’t remove it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Banning the term Blairite? How stupid. It avoids much harsher terms for the Tory Trojans

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Linda Vaux says:

    Unless he can produce unequivocal evidence of the claims he is making, he should be arrested for wasting police time and for harassment.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Terry Kelly says:

    A poster boy for the PLP coup, a real charmer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Marie Meaden says:

    Reed obviously believes he is above the Law, above his constituants!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Most important and unanswered question. What did said constituent write that the MP felt threatened? I doubt that he wrote a friendly “How you doin’?”

    Like

    • Read the piece. The constituent maintains that, with the exception of a single word in one tweet, what they did was not threatening nor abusive. And Reed opted not to take the opportunity to explain himself. Again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t get me wrong. I think he most likely overreacted based on his general behaviour and sending police after someone for no reason is clearly not right, but I tend not to judge till I know all the facts. Where is the link to the tweet? I couldn’t find it in the article. That I have read twice btw, because I was looking for evidence that supports the constituents position. Just pointing the finger at someone isn’t doing it for me. I am not trying to defend the MP, I just want proof to make the point you make against him stick.

        Like

        • Linking to an abusive tweet. We couldn’t possibly do that.

          The “proof” is that we have Reed’s letter to his constituent (which we have quoted from extensively), and the police visit.

          Liked by 1 person

          • So the constituent was abusive.

            Like

          • Only if you believe Reed. The constituent says otherwise, and is quoted in the article. If only you bothered to read it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • We are not talking about religion (believe) here. It doesn’t matter what I or anyone else believes. Journalism is about facts. The facts are: Reed wrote a letter (which is proven) and send police after someone. That person denies any wrong doing (which is not proven). I am not going to hang someone (figuratively speaking) because you said that someone else said something about someone else, even so the person accused is a massive dick.

            Like

          • Actually, no, there is no proof that the constituent did any wrong. The constituent denies it absolutely.

            Doubtless Reed might, retrospectively, get all his publicly funded staff, who depend on him for their jobs, to provide statements, and maybe a few of his Progress chums, too, to back up his claims.

            When we asked Reed to outline his concerns, the MP with accountability issues was unable or unwilling to do so.

            But at the moment, we only have Reed’s word for that.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Joe Buckley says:

          This was my first comment on reading the article. Presumably he would have had to supply some justification before the police would act. Without the slightest suggestion of what the offending correspondence contained its hard to have an opinion.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. The classic reaction of someone with narcissistic personality disorder with a grandiose delusion. The spying on emails as well as his reaction to perceived criticisms reveals an overwhelming need to control others.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I noticed the reference to Council officials ordered “to spy” on councillors’ emails. The original Inside Croydon post ( https://insidecroydon.com/2013/12/19/mp-reed-ordered-investigation-of-councillor-emails-at-lambeth/) gives a more nuanced description:
    “Kingsley Abrams, who was then councillor for Vassall ward, was suspended from Lambeth’s Labour group in May 2012 as a result of the investigation, which found that he had passed information to a group which was protesting against cuts being made to services at Reed’s ‘co-operative council’.”
    The same entry includes these two paragraphs:
    “In May 2012, Lambeth Council had reported that, ‘Where we suspect any non-compliance by any officer or member there is an unqualified right to investigate the use of the council’s IT systems which is sanctioned by the council’s internal audit team’.”
    “A recent discreet investigation was carried out, following concerns of confidential information being leaked, with emails from a handful of officers and members audited to ensure they were adhering to the ICT protocol. It was as a result of this investigation that a councillor was found to be acting in contravention of this policy.”

    Just to be clear I know none of the people involved; or any of the detail. I live in Haringey, north London, have been a Labour Party member for decades, and was a councillor for 16 years until 2014. I am not a member of Momentum (Is there a membership?) And I’d no more join the Progress Party than the Tories.

    I’d like to point out two things.
    First as councillors, we all agreed to respect and not to to pass on confidential information to outsiders. I never did and I could understand and support the reasons why. Though it also pissed me off sometimes when reports and documents were marked “confidential” apparently as the bureaucrats’ default position. And sometimes used to hide things which should have been public. On one occasion it was used to ‘gag’ me and another councillor after we were grudgingly allowed access to information on a need-to-know basis, but only on the condition that we couldn’t have copies or tell anyone. The information appeared in a public report a few months later showing there was no need for secrecy in the first place.
    I assume as part of the same control freakery that new Haringey councillors are no longer allowed to show a non-council email address as their public point of contact. So their emails to and from residents or, say, campaigning groups could be subject to investigation by council staff.

    My personal view was that correspondence between a councillor and residents and local organisations should no more have a council member of staff with “unqualified right of access”, than my meetings with them should have always had a council officer in the room.

    As far as I know no Haringey councillors had their homes bugged.Which is good. But please be aware of the slippery slope.

    Liked by 1 person

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