My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Ramsgate Live Exports Beginning of the End?

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has announced today that he will be launching a public consultation on live animal exports (see below), which could lead to a ban on this cruel and barbaric trade once the UK leaves the EU.

The consultation and ban are a direct result of hundreds of Thanet residents young and old, campaigning against the export  of live farm animals from the Port of Ramsgate  for the past seven years. Their tireless lobbying and protesting gained the support of tens of thousands of people from across the UK and further afield,  and persuaded the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming  to throw their weight and influence behind  the Ramsgate campaign. The Ramsgate campaign also led to all of the major UK political parties –  Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib-Dems, the Greens  and UKIP promising to ban the trade and secured the support of Thanet South MPs Laura Sandys and her successor Craig Mackinlay and Green Party  MEP Keith Taylor,  who in a  cross-party coalition worked together to raise public awareness of this appalling medieval trade in the EU and UK parliaments and in the media.

I am privileged to have been one of the founders of the campaigns to ban live exports from the Port of Ramsgate. Little did I know when I booked the St Laurence community hall for the first public meeting about live exports  in 2011, where the campaign would lead. Little did I know how many wonderful, compassionate, people I would meet during this long campaign, some of whom have become my friends. This campaign has been a brilliant example of how people power can change public opinion, the policies of political parties and ultimately the law of the land. But for the efforts and determination of the people of Thanet, the public consultation and eventual banning of cruel live animal exports would not now be  happening.


By Emily Beament, Press Association Environment Correspondent

The prospect of a ban on live animal exports has been raised by the Government, as it launched a call for evidence from industry and campaigners on the issue. Ministers said action on live animal exports, with more than 4,000 sheep transported from the UK to continental Europe for slaughter each year, was part of efforts to be a global leader on welfare as Britain quits the EU.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said "all options" for improving the welfare of livestock during transport were being considered, including a potential ban on live export of animals for slaughter.

The Farm Animal Welfare Committee has also launched a review into the existing welfare standards for animals during transport, while research on the issue is being undertaken by Scotland's Rural College and the University of Edinburgh. Mr Gove said: "We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world which we are strengthening further by raising maximum sentences for animal cruelty to five years and introducing mandatory CCTV in abattoirs.

All animals deserve to get the respect and care they deserve at every stage of their lives." This call for evidence begins to deliver on our manifesto commitment which aims to control the export of live animals for slaughter once we leave the European Union. "With all options being considered, I am keen to hear from industry, the devolved authorities and charities on all possible options and evidence on this vital issue."

British Veterinary Association president John Fishwick said the organisation looked forward to contributing to the call for evidence and seeing the results. "We believe that production animals should not be transported long distances to the abattoir but should be slaughtered as near to the point of production as possible. "Animals should be transported on the hook, as meat, not on the hoof, as live animals."It is vital that we maintain the UK's current high standards of animal welfare post-Brexit and seek opportunities to improve them."

Dr Marc Cooper, head of the RSPCA's farm animals department, said the charity had been calling for a ban on live animal exports "for decades"and this was a chance to end the practice for good. "It's unacceptable and completely unnecessary that live animals are exported and transported over long distances for slaughter or further fattening. "We would like to see live exports from the UK banned and a maximum journey time of eight hours introduced," he said.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Cllr Constantine & #Lushgate. An Appeal to Thanet Labour Party members

The Big Lie! Not for Charity for Constantine
Urgent appeal to all South Thanet Labour Party members with a right to vote for a Labour PPC this Saturday, April 7, 2018

Although I am not a member of the Labour Party, I’m a lifelong socialist and trade unionist and like millions of other people I desperately want to see a Labour Government and a Jeremy Corbyn premiership. I also want to see a good and effective Labour MP representing South Thanet who is honest, hardworking and morally robust.

Over the past few weeks I have published several articles about Cllr Karen Constantine, who is seeking selection to become the  Labour Party candidate for South Thanet constituency (see links below). These articles argue that, based on her behaviour, she has demonstrated herself to be dishonest, deceitful, hypocritical and bullying and  in my opinion, unfit to be an MP.

I am now writing again about the possibly unlawful and certainly  immoral sale of Lush cosmetic products last year, by Constantine and her election agent Kaz Peet, to raise funds for her  KCC election campaign#Lushgate,  as the scandal became known on social media, has never been properly resolved. The evidence at the time and since, shows Constantine to be a loose cannon operating, unilaterally, outside of Labour Party procedures, and reinforces other criticisms I have already made about her especially alleged  bullying, deceit, and unethical behaviour.

Please don’t ever forget that the Lush charitable donations which were syphoned off  by Constantine and her election agent Kaz Peet,  were destined for homeless and vulnerable people. Yet they calously and disrespectfully  sold off these charitable gifts to raise funds for Constantine’s slefish political advancement in the Kent County Council elections.  The big, and unforgivable,  lie was that despite telling all Labour Party members that she was selling the Lush cosmetics to raise funds for her campaign, she chose to exploit the goodwill of the public by saying the proceeds would be going to charity!  When she was found out she is allged to have threatened a barworker at the Churchill Tavern with the sack via the Licensee, and that her life would be made a misery by all of Karen’s supporters and that Karen would take legal action against her. The bartenders alleged misdemeanour – telling the truth to the BBC!
I will set out the story for you again. You have other fine candidates to vote for, please don’t make the mistake of supporting someone who, I believe, has, and most probably  will continue to, bring the Labour Party into disrepute because of what many people regard as her unacceptable behaviour.


The products.
In a Facebook post dated 4th February 2017, Thanet Labour Councillor Karen Constantine and her election agent, Kaz Peet, announced that they had received a consignment of Lush cosmetic products which would be sold and raffled to raise funds for Constantine’s forthcoming Kent County Council election campaign.

Three days later (7th February 2017) Constantine and Peet drove to a warehouse in London to pick up more of the Lush produce.  Constantine published several pictures on Facebook on that day showing her car filled with Lush cosmetics under the heading “Bringing home the fund-raising booty”. She wrote that a “stack of Lush” had been “donated to the local Labour Party for the KCC campaign” and looking at the pictures she wasn’t kidding.  Based on its retail value, there was probably several thousand pounds worth of Lush produce stuffed into Constantine’s car.

Within a day of her arriving in Ramsgate with the “fund raising booty” (8th February 2017) Constantine announced on Facebook that a “Lush for Labour sale will take place on 18th February at 2pm the Churchill Tavern, Ramsgate. All Lush goodies with be heavily discounted”. In the days that followed several reminders about the “Lush for Labour” sale were  posted on Facebook and an e-mail, which included details of the Lush sale on 18 February 2017 at the Churchill Tavern and a raffle of Lush goods said to worth £500 at a Labour Party training event, was circulated to every member of Thanet Labour Party. 

The Donor & donation conditions.
The Lush products were donated to Constantine and Peet by Jenny Matthias and Peter O’Grady of the London based charity Food for All. Food for All had been provided with what Matthias describes in a video as “thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds worth of Lush” by another organisation, the Kindness Offensive, who had received the products direct from Lush. 

Lush, a highly-respected, ethical, cosmetics company is well known for donating products to charity. Lush’s terms and conditions for their donations state that products can only be passed on to “service users (clients/ patients) of homeless shelters, hospices, women's refuges, children's groups, overseas aid” etc, and that these products cannot be used for fundraising (such as raffle prizes), gifts or handouts for supporters, or be sold”. I spoke at the time to the manager of the Kindness Offensive who told me that when the products were handed over to Food for All it was  made very clear to the charity that the products could only be used for the purposes set out in Lush’s conditions of donation, but Matthias and O’Grady appear to have ignored this advice.

A charity is prohibited by law from donating goods, services or money to a political party or to a candidate in an election.  Charity Commission guidance states that “Charities must never support particular candidates even if those candidates belong to a range of political parties” and “Charities must not assist candidates with their election campaigns, financially or otherwise”.  

Election law also prohibits election candidates from accepting donations of goods or money from charities. It is perfectly clear that Food for All should not have donated the Lush products to Constantine and that Constantine and Peet should not have accepted the 2 separate donations of Lush products - more about this later.

Constantine’s Deceitful Churchill Tavern sale.
Lush Products On Sale at Churchill Tavern Bar All Money Goes to Charity - A Lie
On 18th February 2017 the sale of Lush products was held at the Churchill Tavern. As mentioned previously the sale was advertised extensively on social media and in internal Labour Party e-mails to members,  where it was made clear that “All proceeds go towards the local Labour party KCC election campaign!”.

On the day of the sale it appears, however, that its purpose, at least as far as the non-Labour Party customers in the pub and passers by reading the chalk boards outside were concerned, had been changed.  Instead of being a Labour Party election fundraiser to raise money for Constantine’s KCC election campaign, the event was now described as a sale of Lush goods to raise money for charity as the photographed signage shows – not an event to raise money to fund Constantine’s KCC election campaign. 

I can only assume that by deceiving pub customers and passers by, into wrongly believing that the event was a charity fundraiser, people who would not normally donate to Labour, may have been persuaded to spend their money.  According to a statement made to the Labour Party and the BBC at the time, a woman who worked at the Churchill claimed that it was Karen Constantine who was behind the decision to cover up the true nature of the Lush sale at the Churchill Tavern on 18th February 2017. The statement says that -

Prior to the sale I was asked to draw up a notice as we do on the chalk board that is placed outside the entrance to the pub. Karen told me what to write and that it should be 'Lush Party' and clear that proceeds were going to 'charity'. It was also booked as Lush Party. I did not know then that the money was for Labour. The staff had been briefed many times that it was a fund-raiser for charity, although no charity was specified although one of the girls serving had told a member of the public that it was for Macmillan. The next I heard was that it had been on the BBC News on Monday the 27th February. I was livid when I found out. I have a strong sense of morals and integrity and couldn't believe how we had been lied to”.

Proceeds of the sale.
After the sale was completed Constantine announced on Facebook that £600 had been raised. The statement of the Churchill Tavern worker also states that further sales of the Lush product continued during the evening of the 18th February “at a birthday party held at the pub, to which Karen agreed and during Sunday 19th February at the bar”. The purpose of the sale continued to be described to unsuspecting customers as being for charitable purposes, rather than its real purpose – to raise money for Constantine’s election campaign.  This claim is supported by a picture taken at the bar of the Churchill Tavern. The Churchill worker adds “I heard that these additional takings amounted to between £50-60 and this was given to Karen Constantine.”

In addition, several messages were posted on Facebook by people who were unable to make the sale at the pub and who asked if product could be held back for them and that they would pay for it later. It would therefore appear that at least £700 was raised by the sale of Lush products either at the Churchill Tavern on 18/19th February or by sales to people who couldn’t attend the pub event.

Furthermore, in a short video published shortly after the Churchill sale it is announced that only half of the Lush product had been sold at the pub.  Some, but not all, of this unsold product  was undoubtedly bought by those who could not make the pub sale. In addition to this unsold product, Constantine and Peet were also holding back £500 worth of cosmetics which were destined to be raffled at Labour Party training event (see above) scheduled to be held after the pub sale.  So, what happened to all the cash and the unsold product?

Constantine and Peet rumbled
On 20th February Constantine was contacted by a journalist from a national newspaper and challenged about the morality of selling off charitable donations destined for the use of homeless and vulnerable people, to raise funds for her election campaign. Within hours of this contact Constantine’s election agent, Kaz Peet, announced that “due to unforeseen circumstances” the money raised from the sale of the Lush products would be donated to two local charities - Oasis and the Thanet Volunteer Bureau.

I understand that Constantine and Peet failed to provide Labour Party officials and members with an explanation about this sudden change of destination for the Lush money until after I had published a blog on the matter and the BBC and Thanet Extra had become interested in it too.  No receipts or other documentation have, to the best of knowledge,  ever been produced  by Constantine or Peet to show exactly how much money was raised by the sale of the Lush products and how much of this total  was donated to Oasis or the Thanet Volunteer Bureau. Without such evidence how is it possible to know whether some of the Lush money may have been improperly used to fund Constantine’s election campaign or used for other non-charitable purposes?

Last but least, what happened to the large amount of Lush produce which was not sold. Where did it go?  Once again both Constantine and Peet have been publicaly  silent on this issue. Why? Surely in an embarrassing situation such as this the right thing to have done would have been for Constantine and Peet to have provided an open and honest account about what happened to the cash and Lush products. But they didn’t, which begs the question what do they have to hide? It is also important to note that failing to  return  the proceeds of the Lush sale and any unsold product  to either the Charity Commission or back to Food for All was a breach of Electoral  Commission rules

The excuses don’t add up
With my blog and the media on their tail Constantine and Peet began to manufacture excuses for what many people would regard as ripping off charitable donations for Constantine’s personal gain. In a press release issued via the GMB trade union, not the Labour Party, Constantine said "I fully apologise for not knowing the election funding laws regarding charities. Once the law was made clear to me and I realised there was a mistake I took immediate steps to ensure monies raised were donated to local charities. I am sorry that this happened and unreservedly apologise. This will not happen again.". The question must be asked if this apology was genuine and truthful. I, for one,  have my doubts about how truthful Constantine's explanation was.

First, on their appointment as candidate and agent for the 2017 KCC election both Constantine and Peet were, just as I was, automatically issued by the Returning Officer with a copy the Electoral Commission publication Local elections in England May 2017: Guidance for candidates and agents. This document sets out the rules governing election donations and spending and stresses that it is the responsibility of both the candidate and agent to be familiar with these rules. On the question of donations from a charity the document says that “charities are not usually allowed to make political donations under charity law”.

Surely, as someone who was a Magistrate at the time of the election, Constantine would have made sure that she was fully conversant with the Electoral Commission guidance?  And surely, she would have known from reading the guidance that it was wrong to have accepted and sold the Lush products, which been donated to her campaign by charity Food for All?  In addition,  a letter published on Facebook by Thanet trade unionist, Stuart McCann, says-

As you know Karen was involved in what became known locally as Lushgate. Karen claimed she was unaware of the rules on charitable donations. At first sight that seems fair enough, but at the time the scandal broke in the local press, I was dining with redacted an old friend and colleague of Karen’s from her RCM days. He said to me that he was surprised at Karen as she had been on the same seminar as him about charitable donations and she would have been aware of the rules”.

In an unrelated post on Facebook in 2016 Constantine also claims to have worked with charity sector managers on “governance, competency and professionalism” matters. This work must, almost certainly, have involved Constantine becoming familiar with rules which prohibit   charities from becoming involved in political activities, which would have alerted her to the fact that the Lush donation to her campaign was impermissible.  Last but least its inconceivable that the as a Labour Party candidate in three  local government elections in Thanet in 2015, 2016 and 2017 she did not receive any training from the Party in election fundraising and spending and the rules which govern it.

Bearing in mind this evidence, I do not believe Constantine’s claim of “not knowing the election funding laws regarding charities” is plausible, credible or truthful. The fact that she appears  to have deceived people about the true purpose behind the Lush product sales at the Churchill Tavern, suggests to me that dishonesty  is likely  to come easy to her and on this  basis it is probable that she may also have  attempted to deceive the media and the public by claiming she didn’t know  the election funding laws regarding charities”, when she did.

Whether or not Constantine was telling the truth when she claimed not to know the laws regarding charitable donations to election candidates, both she and her agent, Kaz Peet, must certianly have known that it was morally and ethically wrong to take charitable donations  destined for use by homeless and vulnerable people and then  sell these products to pay for the advancement of Constantine’s   political ambition. As self-proclaimed socialists and Jeremey Corbyn supporters the pair must also have known that this action was utterly reprehensible and against all the basic principles of a movement which was established to defend the poor, deprived and vulnerable.  Or maybe they were just so self-absorbed with personal ambition and  advancement that their moral compass had been jettisoned?

What makes this  immoral charity cash-grab even more repugnant, is that Constantine didn’t  need the #Lushgate money to fund her election campaign. This is person who, unlike the people she deprived of their charitable donations, is a property millionaire!  She owns and rents out a 3-bedroom property at 3 Hartlepool Court in London’s prestigious docklands and owns and rents out a 2-bedroom house in Olvera, AndalucĂ­a, Spain. I have no doubt that, like all good socialists and Magistrates, she fully declares all her rental income to HMRC. But if you know different please let me know.

Bullying & Intimidation  
I have heard from several sources in the Labour Party that Constantine and some of her supporters have allegedly  used bullying and  intimidation to secure their aims. I was told, for example, that efforts by Party members to hold Constantine and Peet to account over her  fundraising activities met with resistance, evasion, complaints and threats including a threat by Constantine to return the proceeds of a Labour Party Art Auction if she could not retain the lions share of the cash for her own campaign.

But worse than this is the alleged treatment of the barworker at the Chruchill Tavern who, after bravely appearing on the BBC to  “whistle-blow” Constantine’s deceitful and untruthful passing off of the Lush sale as a charity fundraiser,  was  suspended from her  job. According to her statement, which was sent to the Labour Party, her manager (a friend of Constantine’s)  told her that “Karen was an “effin barrister” and she would take legal action against me and take me to court. She would rally all her friends and Labour party supporters and make life very difficult for me”.  I am  led to believe, that Constantine, then employed as a trade union official,  was pushing  for the barworker to be sacked for exposing her deceitful actions. Had it not been for the intervention of several Labour Party members,  who persuaded Constantine of the folly of her  ways, the person concerned would have almost certainly lost of her job for telling the truth about the sale of the Lush products.

In this and other recent articles (see links below) I have put forward evidence which, I believe, suggests that Cllr Constantine is dishonest, deceitful, hypocritical, bullying  and lacking morals. She is also known, by many, to be someone who piggy-backs on the campaigns of others such as the Live Exports, Street Lighting and the QEQM Stroke Service campaign, to grab the glory. I believe her to be a politician who, based on her behaviour, has shown herself to be thoroughly disreputable and unfit for public office.

Although it is entiirely your own decison, if you are voting for a South Thanet Labour PPC on Saturday 7th April. I implore you to not to vote Karen Constantine. You have other, much better candidates to choose from and of course the #Lusghgate scandal will follow her wherever she goes dragging both herself and, sadly,  the Labour Party into disrepute

Here are the links to my previous Constantine articles. I hope they help you to make wise choice if you are involved in the selection process. There is more to come.

Dodgy CV
Piggy-backing other people campaigns
Denounces but grabs county councillors 15% allowances rise.
Dodgy endorsements
My Original #Lushgate articles

#Lushgate in the news