Ex-staff member lifts lid on Telford MP Lucy Allan's office
A former staff member has lifted the lid on life working for Lucy Allan – as the under-fire MP faced threats of legal action from Labour councillors in Telford.
Arianne Plumbly, who went public this week with voicemail messages sent to her by the Telford MP while she was signed off work sick with stress, spoke of her upset at the way she was treated.
It comes as Labour party top brass in the borough published an open letter to the MP calling for her to apologise for a Facebook post – later deleted – which named a group of councillors and labelled them "bully boys".
December 4 – The MP posts a message on her Facebook page, attributed to "Rusty, from Dawley", criticising her decision to vote in favour of bombing. It described her as a "robot" with "no empathy for anyone but your super rich buddies and benefactors". The post concluded by stating "unless you die". Ms Allan said that she had published the message to illustrate the abuse that MPs are subjected to.
December 5 – Controversy starts to build after "Rusty", alias Adam Watling, son of Telford Labour councillor Paul Watling, claims the MP has added in the last three words and accuses her of inventing a death threat. He calls for her to step down.
December 7 – Ms Allan denies any wrongdoing and says the Facebook post was a combination of two different emails.
December 8 – The hashtag #sacklucyallan trends on Twitter.
December 9 – Ms Allan confirms she has "temporarily deactived" her Facebook and Twitter accounts after police confirmed they were investigating reports of offensive messages sent to her.
December 11 – Reports come in of an anonymous voice message left on the answerphone of Ms Allan's landline at her Telford office claiming someone was going to kill her. "I would never make up death threats," she said.
December 13 – Around 30 protesters demonstrate in Southwater Square calling for Ms Allan to resign.
December 14 – The MP is back on social media – and releases a video on Facebook where she talks of her "weirdest week" in politics. She vows to stay in office and continue with delivering her pre-election pledges for the people of Telford.
December 15 – The video is deleted – but soon after another post appears, a 559-word message criticising Labour councillors for acting as "bully boys" in trying to drive her out of office. The post is deleted within hours and her Facebook and Twitter accounts again deactivated.
December 16 – Two of Ms Allan's former staff in Telford – Arianna Plumbly and Katie Woodland – claim they were bullied by the MP. Ms Plumbly makes public voicemails left by Ms Allan while she was signed off sick.
December 17 – Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards confirm it has received a complaint about Ms Allan and the alleged fake death threat – but says it will not be investigating it any further.
It threatens the possibility of legal action for the comments made.
Ms Plumbly, 26, a member of Oakengates Town Council, said she started working for Ms Allan in the run-up to the election in May when she unexpectedly unseated long-serving Labour stalwart David Wright.
"Sometimes she could be fine," Ms Plumbly said.
"But if she was having a bad day, or something wasn't going right, she would fly off the handle and unleash a tirade of abuse.
"It would be phone calls, in person in the office in front of other people, emails, voicemails, text messages, everything.
"I never knew what mood she would be in.
"It wasn't a nice environment to work in. I used to dread it when I knew she was coming into the office in Telford.
"I saw her scream and shout at a volunteer helping her out during the election campaign for accidentally saying the wrong thing just because she had just given a radio interview that she didn't think had gone very well.
"Another time she just disappeared out of the office and didn't return for two weeks and refused to answer her phone.
"Two of the local MPs from surrounding areas came down to support her and wanted to see her and I was left to sort it all out myself, it was really difficult.
"You would deal with something she wanted you to do, only for her to end up doing it herself.
"One day she asked me to rewrite more than 200 case letters that had already been sent out. I had to do them all again."
Ms Plumbly said the problems intensified in July this year when she requested to book an extra week's holiday off in August.
She said her office manager did not have a problem with it, but Ms Allan did.
"She emailed me within minutes of hearing about it basically saying 'how can you even think this is possible?'
"She ended the email by saying 'I am having a think regarding restructuring and restaffing'. I took it as a veiled threat.
"I replied back and told her it was just a request, that I didn't have any plans and that I would work if required. I said I hoped the last comment was not directed at my employment.
"But she simply ignored that comment. She replied back and sarcastically said that I could have the week off and that she would close the office and let down all the people who wanted to see her."
The voicemails widely reported this week started at the end of September.
We felt, as the executive committee of Telford Constituency Labour Party, obliged to write to you concerning the events of the last few weeks.
We wholeheartedly condemn the abuse or harassment of anyone – on social media or otherwise. We take an extremely dim view of this behaviour and we are clear that this behaviour has no place in the Labour Party or any other political party.
We must be clear that, as you yourself have admitted, you doctored the original email from your constituent and included a death threat on your Facebook page that was never part of the original email message to yourself, yet you have subsequently failed to produce the corresponding email which you allege contains the threat.
You have subsequently undertaken a pattern of behaviour on social media where you have repeatedly besmirched Labour Party councillors and members, alleging actions and behaviours against you that they categorically assure us never occurred. We therefore consider your comments about those councillors to be defamatory and untrue, which have caused a great deal of alarm and distress to those councillors concerned and also their families. We understand that they are now taking legal advice as a result of your comments against them.
In order that we can all move on and focus on the important issues facing our town, we ask that in the absence of any evidence supporting your claims, you immediately issue an apology to those councillors.
Ms Plumbly said she called in sick on September 24 but reported for work at the office the following day.
She said: "I went into the office and found she had stripped my desk of all my personal belongings, she had emptied it.
"This came after threats to my job in July.
"I walked out of the office and was crying in the car park for a good half an hour because of what was happening.
"I called my doctors to arrange an appointment and I notified Lucy by text message I was going to the doctors.
"That was an accepted method of contact, so I found it quite upsetting when she was claiming that I had not contacted her.
"I was very upset and I was signed off for four weeks by the doctor due to stress. The voicemails were after that."
In the messages Ms Allan appears to accuse Ms Plumbly of taking a computer from the office without permission, questions her illness and suggests she has an "alcohol problem".
"I would hope she will resign," Ms Plumbly said.
"She is not representing Telford in the way she claimed she would.
"I am really upset when I think of all the time people put in to help get her elected. I was working 60 hours a week, I put my life on hold for two months during the campaigning.
"I feel like we have all been duped. She portrayed herself as this great woman who was going to do everything as an MP, but she has not followed it through.
"Her behaviour towards her staff has not been acceptable. There are at least five other people that I know of who have suffered as well."
The open letter, by the executive committee of the Telford Labour Party, relates to a Facebook post made by Ms Allan. It says councillors are "taking legal advice as a result of your comments against them".
Ms Allan yet to respond to calls from the Shropshire Star despite messages left at her London and Telford offices. Her Facebook and Twitter accounts continue to be suspended.
Conservative Central Office has defended its actions over the complaint made by Ms Plumbly, saying they were dealt with "appropriately and sympathetically".