Labour pains

Last month, I registered as a supporter of the Labour Party in order to vote for the leader and deputy leader. I am a lifelong Labour voter, and no, I don’t care what you think about that, and if you tell me what you think about that in the comments, I will let your comment through solely so that I can edit it to replace your drivel with the word “Bellend”. WordPress lets me do this, friends, so choose wisely.

The choice of candidates for Leader is as tempting as being asked whether you want a smack in the face or a kick up the arse, while the inevitability of Deputy Tom Watson is just horrible. There are few experiences as emetic as opening an envelope to find Watson’s huge smug face staring out at you. If only I had a dartboard. Nevertheless, if the party is going to let me participate in the process of choosing which leader will lose the 2020 election, it seems churlish to pass up the opportunity. I actively want to vote for Stella Creasy, so there is some crumb of meaning in there somewhere, apart from the fact that she’s not going to win.

When I signed up, the Labour Party required me to agree to receive communications from the party. There was no more to it than that, and no terms and conditions for me to consult before signing up. It was a fait accompli – sign up and get the messages or go away and don’t vote. This is a straightforward breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR). Communications from a political party are marketing. Regulation 22 states that marketing emails can only be sent if the recipient has notified the sender that they have consented to receive them. Consent is the same ‘freely given, specific and informed’ consent that you need for Data Protection. If there is any doubt about what that means for marketing emails, the Information Commissioner’s excellent guidance on Direct Marketing is – by ICO standards – uncharacteristically clear: “Consent cannot be a condition of subscribing to a service or completing a transaction”.

Labour cannot lawfully make the receipt of marketing emails and texts a condition of registering as a supporter. Every email and text sent to a registered supporter who has not actively and separately consented to receiving the emails and texts is a breach of PECR. The breach is particularly serious in my case, because in 2013 I exercised my rights under Section 11 of the Data Protection Act with all of the serious English political parties (and UKIP); this means that none of them can send me marketing, and so even the junk mail that each of the campaigns is sending me by post is unlawful. This is not my view; this is the view clearly expressed in the ICO guidance. The fact that I can opt-out is irrelevant. I should not have to (and anyway, I already have). Labour is arrogantly and cynically ignoring legislation that it passed when in government in order to hassle its most active supporters.

Inevitably, privacy champion Tom Watson has sent me the most emails, and demonstrated the least compliant approach. One of the emails had an option to tell Watson if you were going to vote for him, and so I clicked on the link to say no. I was then presented with a webpage asking me who I was going to vote for, as well as two pre-ticked boxes for ‘Send me email updates’ and ‘Send me text message updates’. A pre-ticked box doesn’t constitute consent (consent has not been ‘given’), but nevertheless, I unticked the boxes, clicked the box for ‘Stella’ and submitted.

Instantly, despite having told Watson’s campaign that I don’t want to vote for him and I don’t want to receive his email updates, I received a further email from Watson telling me how brilliant he is and how I should give him my second preference. There is no chance of this: not only will I never vote for Watson, I have always been fond of Ben Bradshaw, because he is Alan Dransfield‘s MP and he looks like he has skinned Hugh Grant and is wearing his face as a trophy. The second preference email was yesterday, and today, I have already received another email from a Watson supporter who has (no doubt spontaneously) written a paean to Watson that happens to include most of the examples the Watson campaign is using elsewhere. I am absolutely thrilled that the Watson campaign has apparently shared my email address with random strangers.

Needless to say, I have emailed Watson to point out his bad practice (and I didn’t use the word ‘hypocrite’, so see how I have matured) and more importantly, I have written a detailed letter of complaint to Iain McNicol, the party’s General Secretary. This is not my first rodeo with McNicol, so I know that all I will get is a reply stating ‘we’re perfectly entitled to do this and if you don’t like it, then opt out’. This reply is useful solely because the ICO understandably expects me to complain to the offending organisation first before going to them, and complaining to them is the only thing I can apart from write this blog for people who probably already agree with me.

Of course, the most the ICO will probably do is tell Labour to stop emailing me, which makes them (at least in this context) the world’s most convoluted unsubscribe button. But nevertheless, rather like voting for Creasy even though she’s going to lose because I honestly think she is the best candidate, I will complain about Labour’s habitual breaches of PECR because they need to be called out on it, even though no enforcement will follow.


  1. Wirral In It Together says:

    I was a Labour voter but stopped in 1997 when me and my mate Gareth saw the writing on the wall, unlike the rest of the lefties I knew who wouldn’t listen to us and carried on doing it, to their (eventual) despair and heartbreak.

    On the subject of Tom Watson, I’m a retired member of UNITE and this gave me the option to vote for leader and deputy leader. I though yeah, I’ll go for Corbyn and a. n. other. So I registered. That’s when the junk mail started arriving. In amongst it I’ve had a direct plea from Tom Watson to vote for him and a plea from Ricky Tomlinson (local to me – targetted marketting?) asking me to vote for his buddy, Tom W.

    But I won’t until Tom W unblocks me on Twitter.

    I told him about his party’s disgraceful theft of £736,756.97 from 16 of Wirral’s learning disabled supported living tenants and he ran away.

    Yet Ricky tells me he’s courageous!!

    p.s. I liked your post but can’t agree on the Ben Bradshaw / Alan Dransfield thing. Dransfield engages with the system and fights it – often against a phalanx of lawyers and judges. Bradshaw engaged with it to protect and defend it. Cheers !

    • Thanks for your comment. We do have to agree to disagree over Alan Dransfield as he is plainly working for the system. Everything he does helps organisations to say no to more people.

      • Alan M Dransfield says:

        I don’t know who is the bigger liar / bullshiter you or Judge Wikeley . A close run thing.
        I have proven without a shadow of doubt the Exeter Rugby bridge is devoid of any lightning protection period hence the vexatious decision could only be reached by a perverse mindset

      • We’ll see what the Supreme Court thinks about that, if you ever get there.

      • Alan M Dransfield says:

        What do you mean when you say I am working for the system. What system

  2. Reblogged this on xtraxtra67.

  3. Wirral In It Together says:

    But he’s engaged with the system, unlike millions who can’t be bothered.

    A grown up, businesslike, comprehensive and non-vexatious system of justice / FOI Act would embrace ALL queries / complaints and address them,properly, not simply deter approaches by the man on the street through the setting up of barriers – in the form of delay, charges for access, impenetrable language, failure to regulate, Section 14 cop-outs, etc.

    • FOI isn’t the justice system and it’s a mistake to run them together. FOI is not a means of getting redress or righting wrongs. It is simply a process of information being disclosed to the public. We agree about the delays and the failure to regulate, but once again, we will never agree on Dransfield. His legacy is beyond doubt: more vexatious refusals all round.

      • Alan M Dransfield says:

        You are 100% correct about my vexatious legacy.
        Why do you think I am fighting this vexatious decision so vigorously.
        You have failed to mention the As Built H&S File which is the concrete proof Whikely stitched me up. In particular this Devon CC document confirms the Rugby bridge has been devoid of any lightning protection on the Bridge since 2006. I lay down a challenge to one of the UK Top FOIA experts aka Tool Time Timmy Turner.
        The challenge is as follows.
        Open the ABHSF on your PC and run a searching under LIGHTNING and you will not find one single entry. To be on the safe side also run a search under 2/3 different ways to spell flash of light in a thunderstorm and you will get
        Zilch returns,which confirms that my original Foia was indeed in the public interest and the document also proves the DCC and ICO lied thru their teeth and PERJURY was committed.
        This document also proves the FTT made a correct and legal decision when they held my FOIA request was strait forward , benign and in the public interest.
        So Mr Smart ass put your money where your mouth is and accept my challenge.
        BTW the ABHSF WAS available to Judge Wikely and the CoA but they chose not to look at it.
        My challenge should only take you 5 mins to do.
        I have told you before that my true legacy will be the SAVIOUR of the FOIA not the killer .
        My request cannot be exempted under section 14 of the act now the ABHSF has been published .
        You are the FOIA guru and Top Gun but you are also a gibshite who THINKS he’s an FOIA expert.
        It’s now 11/04hrs and I would expect you to have completed your challenge in the next 5 mins. But the generous man that I am ,I will allow you 24 hrs to complete this challenge. Your time starts NOW😜

      • Which part of Section 14 says that your request cannot be refused?

      • Alan M Dransfield says:

        so that’s your response to my challenge is it.
        How many times did you finding lightning

      • I didn’t bother to look. Why would I? The Court of Appeal says your requests are vexatious; that’s good enough for me. You wanted them to make a decision on your case, and they made it. The problem here is that S14 is necessary to stop angry men like you abusing the system, but your efforts have emboldened organisations to refuse legitimate requests. I can only hope that the Tribunal continues to mop up your mess, overturning those wrongly labelled vexatious.

      • Alan M Dransfield says:

        you stated” I can only hope that the Tribunal continues to mop up your mess, overturning those wrongly labelled vexatious.”

        460 case in fact all based on Dransfield. But prey tell me why they have to clean up any mess if my vexatious request was CORRECT.

        You failed my challenge Tool Timmy Turner and the fact you failed my challenge proves my assertion you are a GOBSHITE or a fraud,i suggest the latter.

        You can only redeem yourself by telling me HOW MANY TIME did you find lightning in the DCC document.

      • Alan M Dransfield says:

        You failed my challenge Timmy.
        I am not interested in any other statements you wish to make about my vexatious case.
        Just answer the question / challenge, in which I repeat for clarity.
        How many times did you find the world Lightning in the As Built HS File which I sent?
        If you don’t complete my challenge , your silence will be interpreted by me and other readers that you are a fraud.
        You are not as smart as you think you are TTT.

      • I’m not here to do your bidding, Mr D. Given you have nothing to say about the topic of this blog, any further comments will not appear.

  4. Alan M Dransfield says:

    Confused who is the bigger fraud, You or Bradshaw.
    You being fond of him speaks volumes

  5. Matt Bradley says:

    I’m not convince that one can characterise campaign message from leadership candidates to a membership organisation as “unsolicited marketing” – I could be mistaken, but these would seem to me to be fairly essential membership information.

    After all: if one isn’t interested in, or prepared to receive information about the candidates to that leadership election, it does rather beg the question why one is a member of said organisation at all!

    • I’m not a member, I’m a supporter. Asking me to run a phone bank (which Tom Watson’s campaign emailed me about without ever finding out if I was a potential voter) isn’t ‘essential membership information’. I want a vote; I don’t want junk mail, and Labour knows well how the PECR law works because they passed it and they’ve previously been the subject of enforcement action under it (as have the Conservatives, LibDems and SNP).

  6. Alan M Dransfield says:

    You still have explained what SYSTEM I am working

    • My apologies. Assuming that you mean “You still have NOT explained what SYSTEM I am working for”, what I mean is, you couldn’t have done more to help the establishment to turn down FOI requests if it was your intention to do so.

  7. I’d be curious to know the URL of the website Tom Watson sent you given previous practices either he or his colleagues have used.

  8. ‘Implied consent’ always seems to have been an accepted concept for the Labour party. Just look at the lengths Labour went to in order to defend it in RIPA when they were in government, even when dragged through the courts by the EU commission as a result of the UK government giving answers that the EU commission weren’t satisfied with.

    The depressing part of that whole particular episode is the correspondence between the UK (then Labour) government and EU commission. Once you strip out all the meaningless fluff from their answers to the EU, you’re left with little more than ‘we take privacy very seriously’. Unfortunately for us over recent years we’ve found out how true that is: it seems that they see privacy as something to wipe out completely.

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