It has come to my attention that The European Movement (EM) have continued a sustained smear campaign against me and my work, asking members and volunteers to censor my output, by stating that it was inappropriate and irrelevant, restricting its sharing on social media platforms across the UK and beyond. In elitist media circles this is known as ‘deplatforming’. The latest manifestation of this is shown below in the form of a Facebook post made innocently into the Warwick District for EU group by another person, who was unaware of my ‘ban’.
The person had recommended that members of the group view my Brexit social impact film. You can view it by clicking here to check whether it is inappropriate or irrelevant. I understand that it is European Movement policy not to publish my posts due to the alleged ‘damage’ I have done to the organisation. No further communications were received, despite the offer to discuss privately and the person’s posts put on approval, thus blocking any further communications.
This censorship has been widespread across all social media platforms across the UK and as far as Spain, possibly further. It seems that this was a deliberate policy on the part of Anna Bird (CEO) enacted via members of the Executive / EM Council / Grassroots for Europe senior figures over an extended period. There are two sides to every story and I have decided to record here (with the evidence) my side of the story. I have done this in the form of a Q&A, as it is a complex affair. Censorship and deplatforming are the realm of hard right Brexit extremists, but it seems that the left also use the tool to control the minds of activists and grassroots people.
What position did I hold?
I have held the position of Chair of The European Movement (Mid Kent) for some time before this took place and was fired unilaterally by the CEO without reference to the Executive or National Council, in contravention of EM policy. A review took place with Dominic Grieve QC and the National Council and I was exonerated, nonetheless Anna Bird persisted with her decision.
Why was I expelled?
The CEO of EM was clearly irritated by two things I can talk about and one that I cannot. These almost certainly informed my expulsion without reference to the National Executive or Council and against EM policy.
In 2020 I was encouraged to apply to become Branches Forum Chair by senior EM figures. During the election campaign, it emerged that a concerted smear campaign had been organised against me and leveraged underground in secret WhatsApp groups by various individuals who favoured the other candidate. Sadly, one of the main agents of this (Patrick Reynolds) did not know how to use e-mail properly and inadvertently mailed me a copy of the smear letter, see below. Please note that there were only two candidates for election, so the other person mentioned in the red box below but not named was myself. Those involved: Reynolds, Wancke, Gaskell, Jacobson, Hammond and Gordon ran away when I challenged them on the matter directly.
The key point about this letter is that I understand that it was sent to all 14 000 members of The European Movementdue to e-mail incompetence. This undoubtedly set the tone for everything else that took place and still means that people with whom I have had no contact are wary of me or block my content out of hand without any knowledge of what took place. I asked the other candidate, Yvonne Wancke, to ask these people to stop the smear campaign within her own campaign team. She refused. See her reply to me below.
I am not at liberty to discuss the reasons as to why Patrick Reynolds and Yvonne Wancke’s campaign team decided to do this. Suffice to say that there had been a previous legal challenge against EM which they lost, but which is subject to a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) or what is more usually referred to as a ‘gagging order’, so I have confined myself to subsequent matters to respect this agreement.
The second issue took place in 2021 when I was asked to attend the Reading Festival on behalf of the Young European Movement (YEM) to engage festival goers with anti-Brexit stickers and generally to raise awareness of YEM on their behalf. YEM sent a contract which explained that I could claim travel expenses. This I did, but EM ‘lost the claim’ multiple times over a matter of several months. Although I was complimented on my work at the festival, the process for follow up payment of expenses was shambolic.
I counted approximately 150 e-mails sent about the expenses claim. Eventually the YEM President invented the excuse that I was older than their target demographic, should not have been invited to attend and refused to pay the agreed expenses. Nine months later, after I issued Small Claims Court proceedings, they paid the trivial sum that was owed, claiming that they did not have my contact details as the reason for gross incompetence and inefficiency. This is, of course, incorrect. As Branch Chair, they had access to my e-mail, phone number, address and so on. I had sent the claim by e-mail on up to five different occasions with bank details / Paypal contacts and so on. The submission to the Small Claims Court explains more of the timeline and sequence of excuses used.
This case continues, as there are court costs and charges to be paid. Naturally it is a source of irritation to the EM CEO, as they are in the ‘Prince Andrew’ position, having paid up for breaking the contract but now trying to claim zero responsibility for what happened. In November 2022 I offered in court to waive all charges and settle for the £50 court fee, but the President of YEM said he was unable to authorise this amount of money. I can only presume that the EM CEO blocked his ability to settle. Two weeks after the court hearing, and apparently after a board level consultation with Lord Adonis / Heseltine et al to authorise the £50 payment, the YEM President offered to accept my offer of paying the £50 court fee, but asked for a no-blame clause on their part, when they are clearly culpable, having been fined £3000 by HMRC before.
Was my expulsion from EM handled correctly?
No. Anna Bird claims that I was expelled for using bad language during my conversation with the YEM President. It’s absolutely true that, in sheer frustration, having been given the runaround by about four members of YEM over three months and about 150 e-mails, that I got the number of the YEM President and called them. They were not around to take my call so I left a voice message. Within the message I stated that ‘the payment process was a fucking mess’. This was twisted into the idea that I had abused him personally. This is untrue. I was very specific when I talked about the process being a mess. Abuse would have been something like saying the person had one leg longer than the other and / or that they had bad breath etc.
Anna Bird then acted unilaterally without reference to the EM Executive or Council. I was made aware by a senior EM figure that she and Lord Adonis had an hour-long meeting to consider the ‘Reading Gate’ affair. I had originally been invited to an EM Council meeting to present my case. At short notice I was uninvited without explanation and told that the item was not to be tabled at the meeting after all. I then received an e-mail to tell me that I had been defenestrated without reference to any meetings, committees or EM policy.
I had originally been invited to an EM Council meeting to present my case. At short notice I was uninvited without explanation and told that the item was not to be tabled at the meeting after all. I then received an e-mail to tell me that I had been defenestrated without reference to any meetings, committees or EM policy. Some members of the EM Council felt strongly that this treatment was disproportionate, given that EM’s own media relations staff swear regularly on public fora. It was also against neurodiversity. A special general meeting was called with The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve (former Attorney General) in attendance, where these matters were considered. I was sanctioned for the language used to describe the sheer incompetence and obfuscation, but it was not considered a matter for expulsion. Anna Bird ignored the EM Council recommendation and the judgement of Dominic Grieve. At the present time I believe I am in the Schrödinger Chair position i.e. both Chair and not Chair at the same time.
Was the smear campaign restricted to these incidents?
No. For example, I had been invited to an event featuring Gavin Esler by East Kent European Movement. I was subsequently uninvited, based on my decision to take EM to court for illegal acts. Below is the e-mail banning me from attendance. Mr Beevor clearly knew nothing of the real reasons for the court case, as he indicates that he has no idea why I took EM to court. Generally speaking, people don’t take people to court and win their case if there is no case to answer. Please note the ‘not so hidden hand’ of Chris Hammond in the cc list. He was part of the previous smear campaign for Team Wancke and this demonstrates the pervasive long-term nature of this campaign and its impact on people who have no idea what took place, hence the need for this transparency statement.
Did I try to sort this out myself rather than whingeing on here?
Of course I did. I wrote to Lord Adonis and Richard Wilson (Grassroots for Europe Chair) on more than one occasion. This was the result:
You may be wondering why Bremain in Spain and The National Rejoin March (NRM) joined in with the blocking here. This is a key point. The smear campaign on WhatsApp and other platforms coupled with how social media works means that people who do not know the story or the people involved spread the message without any real knowledge of what actually took place. In Bremain’s case, Sue Wilson (Chief of Bremain) is closely connected to Wilson and Adonis and Wilson worked behind the scenes on the NRM. The NRM know nothing of my work but took Sue Wilson’s word for it. When I challenged them on the matter, they too ran away.
Have I damaged EM?
No. One of Anna Bird’s claims is that I have damaged The European Movement. I have made a lot of suggestions on how EM can be a more effective national movement over the years and offered my services pro-bono as a professional business and OD consultant way back, something that most organisations I have worked for as a business consultant and author generally welcome. But I have not told lies, deleted inconvenient truths, blocked people who disagree with me or targeted personalities in my suggestions for better strategy, organisation and execution of strategy and so on.
In any case, all businesses and organisations are subject to a thing called customer feedback. If I were to challenge Virgin, Tesco, Currys, Pfizer, B&Q at al on matters of product design, customer service, strategy, innovation and so on, or make suggestions for improvement to their offering, most intelligent enterprises would at least look at the suggestions rather than shooting the messenger out of hand. Why then do EM believe that they should be excluded from such scrutiny? As a former Council board member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), part of our role was to be a ‘critical friend’, as the eyes and ears of the enterprise, to help it seize opportunities and head off or avoid threats etc. This is normal business practice and the reason why most companies have Non-Exec Directors.
Moreover, Richard Wilson’s own feedback in the private WhatsApp group demonstrates that I have not damaged EM. See below. Richard published some other messages in this group but then deleted them as they were potentially libellous. Anna Bird is a member of this group and thus had oversight of these messages. She chose to do nothing, allowing the rumour machine to grow out of control. More recently, Mike Galsworthy reported that EM has gone from strength to strength in an attempt in his bid to become Chair of EM to replace Lord Adonis. Over the period of the alleged damage, EM membership has increased by 2000, a healthy 14% set against an environment when most pro-EU / anti-Brexit activists have given up campaigning about Brexit faced with mass gaslighting by the Government and a virtual silencing of the media and political opposition on the subject of Brexit. Anna Bird has also reported outstanding EM growth under her watch just recently.
In the below message, Peter Packham requests that an article I wrote for London for Europe be censored. He is told by Emma Knaggs that it is up to groups whether they do this but clearly indicates a deliberate policy that had reached ordinary members of EM. She also has no idea why I had been defenestrated from EM but repeats the lie. Sussex for Europe booked me to talk at one of their events and also faced pressure to ban me from appearing in Brighton. They refused.
What does reputational damage really look like?
In one single tweet, Lord Andrew Adonis caused more damage to The European Movement than anyone else that I can recall. Adonis launched a campaign to demonise Tories holding seats in the red wall area of Britain. In doing so, his indiscriminate campaign targeted former remain Tories such as David Lidington and others who had remained loyal to EM and the cause of rejoining the EU. This led to the departure of The Conservative European Forum (CEF) from The European Movement, with figures such as The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC placing distance between themselves and the EM and Lord Heseltine having to act as a bridge to hold the fractured organisation together. If you are a Labour voter you may well say “so what if the Tories are expunged from EM?” However, Brexit is a cross-party issue requiring skilful advocacy within all political parties. Andrew’s tweet disenfranchised remain voting Conservatives in one move. My activities, claiming immoral and indecent behaviour in elections and illegal accounting practices pale into insignificance by comparison and are completely justified in any case.
The accusation that I had ‘thwarted’ the EM’s efforts is reminiscent of the recent interview by Isabel Oakeshott and Richard Tice with Lord Heseltine, where Oakeshott suggested that Heseltine had thwarted Brexit singlehandedly. It’s a ridiculous accusation, since Leavers have held the levers of power for the last six and a half years and have had plenty of time to execute Brexit. Simply to say that Brexit hadn’t been done because someone else without power chose to moan about it is faintly ridiculous. It is just as ridiculous to suggest that I singlehandedly thwarted the EM, an organisation of now 17 000 members, with an international reach and budget to match. A colleague remarked that they were surprised that EM had not suggested that I started the war in Ukraine and / or to have brought aliens to land hot air balloons in the USA or sent Liz Truss to mediate in China.
Cock up or conspiracy?
A reasonable question to ask would be “Is all of the above this just a series of unfortunate events or a deliberate policy?”, in short, cock-up or conspiracy? The reason I favour a planned deliberate campaign (conspiracy if you will) can be summed up as follows:
- The physical evidence of smear letters sent to all 14 000 EM members, only some of which can be reported here.
- Many WhatsApp exchanges, only some of which are reproduced here.
- The fact that people who could not possibly know of my activities or who I am have an impression of what I do without having ever experienced or seen any of my work.
Anna Bird indicated that this was a policy decision in a reply to the person who complained about the censorship. She says “but many, like Warwickshire, have chosen not to engage or to share his content”. The word many implies some kind of top-down briefing rather than a gradual diffusion through people who actually know me, in the same way that Patrick Reynolds applied the ‘send to all’ button in his smear campaign.
Conclusions and next steps
I’m a firm believer in truth and transparency and have written this detailed report in the spirit of balancing what is taking place here. It is up to others to judge for themselves what is taking place and to decide where the truth lies. I have been libelled for raising legitimate moral concerns about electoral processes and raising a Small Claims Court case about illegal accounting practices at The European Movement.
It is now incumbent upon The European Movement to make amends for the spread of fake news and various deletions, distortions and generalisations that have occurred, wilfully in my opinion. I will be writing to the Executive and some others asking them to issue a full unreserved and public apology to put things right in due course.
A long and sordid tale of scheming and unsavoury shenanigans, sadly.
I wrote several weeks in private and again to Anna Bird, cc Caroline Lucas, Heseltine, uncle Tom Cobley and all. They remain tight lipped. If they don’t wish to resolve the matter in private I will do it for them in public.
Thank you for your long detailed report on this saga. It has always bothered me that there seems to be an unseen boundary line that the EM operates that ensures that it is nevber quite fully successful in getting their message across, yet also manages to claim that it is a growing organisation. It often feels as if there is wool be pulled over a great many eyes. It bothered me – and I may have missed it, and have certainly not followed up on his subsequent trajectory – that Andrew Adonis departed just at the point when the public opinion data began to turn in favour of “alignment with the EU” – I have the greatest respect for Michael Heseltine in holding much together, but the reasons for departure of people like Andrew Adonis should be clear and transparent……there is a strong sense of “What on earth is going on?” about all this.
There is a strong sense of top-down we know best’ism about the way that EM operates…….it does not bode well. If the Chair of organisations like Next and Tesco are saying that Brexit is damaging everything, and yet the EM does not move – then something is psycho- structurally wrong with the organisation….if there is a such a condition for an organisation to find itself in.
You have my continued full-hearted support. I can imagine you wowing those young people at Reading without so much as a single hidden agenda!
Thanks for your comment John. Regards Adonis, he shot his bolt when he destroyed the cross party element of EM. It has not recovered. Brexit is a cross party disease and Patience was the only sensible choice to reach into the places they needed to be present in. I know Mike well. He is a good chap, but if you cut him in half, he bleeds Labour, thus he represents continuity.
But we’ll see what happens. Regards my involvement in EM, I think it is now irrelevant and my time is better spent with other agencies such as UKICE.