Brexit: People's Vote staff stage vote of 'no confidence' in chairman

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Anti Brexit marchImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Anti Brexit march in London, organised by "Put It To The People" campaign. 23 March 2019

Staff at the People's Vote campaign for another EU referendum have staged a vote of "no confidence" in the group's chairman, Roland Rudd.

A staff member confirmed to the BBC that they had voted against both Mr Rudd and the organisation's interim chief executive, Patrick Heneghan "by an overwhelming majority" in a show of hands.

The vote has no legal force and can not be used to remove Mr Rudd or Mr Heneghan, but is a sign of the anger among staff at the way the campaign is being run.

A spokesperson for Mr Rudd described the vote as a "complete nonsense".

"This vote has absolutely no legal weight whatsoever, and the fact remains that we will be pushing ahead with the changes announced," they said.

The spokesperson said that Mr Rudd and the campaign would be announcing a series of senior staff appointments in the next few days.

The spokesperson also said that they were inviting all campaign staff to continue under the new management but that if they didn't wish to do so they were, "free to resign".

"Unfortunately that will be the choice people have to make.

"We very much hope that people will return to work at what is a very important time for the campaign."

The "no confidence vote" took place at a meeting between Mr Rudd and staff to discuss the public row over his attempt to dismiss the campaign's director and head of communications. This followed a stand-off over the location of the meeting.

The public infighting follows Mr Rudd's email to staff on Sunday evening announcing that James McGrory, the campaign director, and Tom Baldwin, the head of communications, had been dismissed.

People's Vote is a coalition of groups which campaign for another EU referendum.

There was initially a dispute over the location of the meeting. The People's Vote twitter account sent out a picture of staff waiting to be addressed by Mr Rudd in their offices.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The account then later said that Mr Rudd had demanded the meeting take place at a hotel.

"It [the meeting] was supposed to start at 10am. But minutes before Roland Rudd demanded it be held in the Hilton, where he is currently ensconced with security guards," the account said.

The staff members eventually met Mr Rudd in the hotel, but Mr McGrory and Mr Baldwin were both refused entry by security.

James McGrory, the dismissed Director of the People's Vote campaign, said: "We are asking Rudd and Heneghan to quit because no-one - least of all the millions of people in the country who are desperate for us to succeed - can allow boardroom politics to overshadow the real politics taking place on Brexit.

"This has been a brilliant cross-party campaign and this is a crucial week in the fight to stop Boris Johnson forcing his Brexit on the people. We are ready to launch the biggest and most sophisticated tactical voting campaign this country has ever seen if there is an election.

"All we want to do is get back to campaigning for a People's Vote."

Staff member Abby Tomlinson told the BBC: "We didn't feel as though our concerns were listened to in the meeting.

"Because of the complete breakdown of trust, and lack of remorse over what campaign staff have been through since Sunday night, we decided to vote no confidence in Roland and Patrick, who are not listening to their staff members who work so hard on this campaign and have given so much to it.

"They sacked our senior leadership without warning and didn't sufficiently explain why and how this decision was taken and why no one else was consulted."

Ms Tomlinson also expressed concern about the treatment of women in the campaign, claiming their concerns had been dismissed.

'Utterly absurd'

Alastair Campbell, the former head of communications for the prime minister under Tony Blair and a prominent supporter of the campaign, also criticised Mr Rudd, labelling him as a "disgrace to the cause".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The no-confidence vote follows a letter sent by staff on Monday night harshly criticising Mr Rudd.

Forty staff staff members told Mr Rudd that it was "utterly absurd" that he had "started an argument" about how the campaign is run.

In the letter, staff said that Mr Rudd's actions in recent weeks were "extremely disappointing and deeply counter-productive".

Staff also expressed "full and continuing support" for Mr McGrory and Mr Baldwin, saying that they were "crucial" to the success of the campaign.

They wrote in the letter to Mr Rudd: "We do not want a public argument, we simply want to get back to work, delivering the People's Vote that our country so desperately needs.

"Your actions have meant that we have been unable to do that, at this critical juncture for the campaign and the country."

Following the backlash to his decision to try and dismiss Mr McGrory and Mr Baldwin, Mr Rudd denied on Monday that there was any row.

Asked if Mr Baldwin is still welcome within the campaign, Mr Rudd - the brother of former Tory cabinet minister Amber Rudd - said he has "an opportunity for a different type of role".

Mr Rudd told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I want to make clear, there's no row about the remain side and PV. Everyone knows where we stand on this."