One favored place for reprimands was the balcony outside the leader’s office, looking over the River Thames, sources said.
A source told HuffPost UK: “She would say: ‘You, on the balcony, now.’ Everyone would know she was going to give you a bollocking, and it was without rhyme or reason. ”
Another said: “She screamed at me on numerous occasions for not doing what she wanted. She would corner me in a corridor and try and intimidate me. ”
Murphy’s lawyer denied the claims.
Another former staff member said that Murphy would use office desk moves to exert control over and undermine staff who stood up to her.
“She had no tolerance of anybody who was competent,” they said. “People who were good at their jobs hit a ceiling. It’s more subtle and insidious than just being bawled at in the office, but it’s the same end result.
“I would have no hesitation in describing her as intimidating. There were five people I would say had jobs whittled away around them at various times – cut out of decisions.
“You’d discover [that in] an area you were in charge of, she’d sorted out a meeting you weren’t invited to or you’d discover that your responsibilities were kind of reallocated.
“She would bestow upon younger members of staff great responsibilities which basically meant they did her bidding.
“There is no way she should be going in the Lords. That would be the nail in the coffin for Corbyn. He will be beyond rehabilitation if he does that, quite frankly. ”
Murphy’s lawyer denied that Murphy used office moves to undermine staff. “The office naturally underwent changes as would any vibrant fluid office with teams that grew and diminished in size in response to needs and resources,” he said.
Many staff were prompted to raise concerns jointly after an incident that they claim took place during the 2019 Christmas party at the leader’s office in the Commons.
Murphy took aside a junior adviser whom she accused of allowing a Liberal Democrat staffer into the party, and proceeded to scream at her in front of multiple witnesses for more than a quarter of an hour. The aide was reduced to tears before colleagues intervened on her on behalf, it is alleged.
“It was absolutely horrific,” said one of those present. “It felt endless. Eventually two other members of staff said: ‘You can’t do that.’ They were very brave in doing so. ”
Murphy’s lawyer said that it was untrue that she had shouted and screamed at a member of staff for minutes during the Christmas party. (Joint letter) The incident sparked collective action from staff, who got one of their union representatives to submit a joint letter on their behalf to general secretary Jennie Formby.
The letter, which was anonymous but ended with the sign-off “ members of staff from the leader’s office ”, set out a catalog of complaints.
It alleged “bullying and intimidation of staff by SMT [senior management team] members, including shouting in the office and berating staff in front of colleagues, either in person, over e- mail or over WhatsApp ”.
It further claimed there was a divisive and toxic culture fostered in the office, including pitting staff against each other , and creating unnecessary animosity ”.
Other allegations included“ weaponising of complaints made by staff, including ‘fishing’ for potential complaints and encouraging staff to make complaints against colleagues ”and“ a lack of faith in HR procedures to resolve problems ”.
The letter did not name Murphy directly but several of those who endorsed it have told HuffPost UK it was aimed at her.
Those involved explained in the letter that they did not want to go public and wanted to see the issues resolved internally.
“As committed trade unionists, we are raising concerns, and directing them in writing to only the very few people who have the authority to do anything to address them – the executive directors in the lead er’s office and the general secretary, ”the letter said.
The letter set out a series of recommendations for action including compulsory management training and an external confidential review of management culture.
It also suggested “clarity be given to staff in policy and press teams regarding their management relationship with the chief of staff ”.
“ We all regret the need to send this letter anonymously: something which unfortunately demonstrates a widespread culture of fear in the office meaning staff are afraid to speak up or even discuss problems they are having in the office, ”it read.
“ We believe even more colleagues would have signed if we had felt comfortable discussing it more broad without fear of repercussions. ”
But when Formby replied to the trade union representative who had forwarded the letter, she made clear that she did not feel it appropriate to h andle anonymous complaints and that formal grievance procedures should be used instead.
“As the allegations made are anonymous it is impossible to ascertain whether or not they are true, ”she wrote.
“ This is not only worrying in relation to members of staff who may be feeling anxious or unhappy; It is also very unfair to the SMT [senior management team] against whom the complaints have been raised but who are in no position to explain or defend themselves. ”
Formby countered that “a significant number of individuals in LOTO have made contact wishing to distance themselves from the letter, with several of these people saying that they do not recognize the behaviors that have been outlined”
She stressed that as a lifelong trade unionist she was in favor of “openness on all issues relating to staff without any fear of repercussions”.
In a series of accounts to HuffPost UK, staff have described how Murphy would breach confidence about colleagues’ alleged health problems. One former staffer was referred to by her as “a drunken crank”.
“She was obviously trying to discredit them. That’s her thing – divide and rule, ”one said. “I heard her say things like: ‘They’re having a mental crisis.’”
Two witnesses described how shocked they were that Murphy had discussed the miscarriages of two female members of staff.
Junior female staffers were also handed menial tasks or personal errands for Murphy, in one instance having to pick up a pair of shoes from her home.
Another of those who signed the letter said: “You can be a forceful personality and you can organize things better, but this was different. ”
One current staffer said:“ She tried to intimidate me . It does make you think to stay out of her way. She will talk about ‘doing in’ people who stand up to her. ”
An ex-member of the leader’s office added:“ My own personal experience of it was constant rearranging of the office and splitting people up if she thought they were getting too close and creating power bases she couldn’t control. There were desk moves regularly. Total paranoia.
“I was screamed at on numerous occasions for not doing what she wanted. [There were] accusations of leaking to the press, completely unfounded. She would start giving people jobs to other people.
“She would often corner me in the corridor and have a go at me if she disagreed with something I had said and try and intimidate me. It was either aggressive whispering or a very angry, almost lost control, shouting she would do. ”
Some former and current staff claimed Murphy had a lack of respect for Corbyn himself, and would be dismissive of him in private.
At one meeting in the early planning of the Labor Live festival in , the so-called “ JezFest ”that went on to incur large losses, several staff were present when Murphy – according to one source – said:“ Jeremy has just come and spoken to me he’s said he doesn’t want it to be in London and he wants the tickets to be cheaper. But we are going to ignore him. ”
Labor Live went on to take place in north London. Tickets were originally £ 038 for adults but, following reports of poor sales, were reduced to £ days before the event.
“The message from that was if you have criticisms, don’t voice them – dissent is not welcome, even from the leader. And there was a lot of dissent over Labor Live. ”
Murphy’s lawyer said that she denied ignoring Corbyn over the LaborLive event. “Any statement that our client gave a message or indication that ‘if you have criticisms, don’t voice them – dissent is not welcome, even from the leader’ is untrue,” he added.
‘Supportive of staff’
However, several friends of Murphy have stressed that they have seen no evidence of bullying conduct.
They insist that she is very supportive of staff and goes out of her way to promote workplace rights, including strong trade union representation, and to help female colleagues in particular feel empowered .
Murphy’s lawyer provided HuffPost UK with a series of supportive statements from staff who had worked with her.
Joe Bradley, who worked closely with Murphy and is now operations director for the Rebecca Long-Bailey leadership campaign, said: “These allegations are absolutely ridiculous. Karie brought me in to LOTO and was a great manager from day one. She always made sure I had the support and guidance that I needed, in some incredibly difficult circumstances. ”
Amy Jackson, Corbyn’s former political secretary and a close colleague of Murphy, added: “I’ve worked with Karie for years – in LOTO and also in another office. She has consistently been incredibly supportive of me, and has always offered advice, guidance and help. She turned LOTO around when she came in and always had a good relationship with staff. I don’t recognize these allegations at all. ”
Louis Mendee, Murphy’s assistant for the past year, said:“ Karie has always been a very supportive boss. She was always in the office, sitting in the same place as everyone else, and was always easy to talk to when you needed her advice or help. I have never ever witnessed her behaving badly in any way. ”
Janet Chapman added:“ I have always found Karie to be a highly competent manager who treats staff with respect. In a political office, things are always very busy and stressful, but she always kept her cool and dealt with problems with a good sense of humor. She is always a good laugh and jokes with everyone. ”
A spokesperson for Murphy said:“ These are vicious smears falsely generated to feed a media determined to damage the Labor Party and Ms Murphy personally.
“It is categorically untrue to say complaints were made about Ms Murphy by existing Labor staff. It is categorically untrue to claim Ms Murphy is a bully.
“It is ludicrous to claim Ms Murphy assaulted anyone. Legal action to hold to account those responsible for making and spreading these untruths will follow these defamatory allegations. ”
With reference to the letter signed by “28 members of staff from the leader’s office ”, Murphy’s lawyer said:“ In fact, our client is aware of an open letter authored and signed by several staff members which has been sent to the leader of the Labor Party in support of the SMT. ”
He added: “Our client points out that in four years of working with LOTO, our client has not had any formal or indeed informal complaint brought to her under two general secretaries of the Labor Party.”
A party spokesperson said: “The Labor Party has an agreed and robust grievance process, experienced HR team and a strong culture of working together with trade unions to ensure all staff are treated fairly and with respect.
In response to queries about Formby’s letter, a Labor source added: “As the general secretary’s letter clearly demonstrates, Jennie repeatedly urged any staff member with a complaint to raise a formal grievance through the party’s procedures or through their trade unions so it could be properly investigated.
“It was not possible to do this with an anonymous letter. She gave her assurances that anyone who did so would be fully protected from any repercussions. Jennie responded to the broader issues raised in the letter, reviewed procedures and staffing, and made clear she would take forward several of the recommendations. ”)