March 1, 2021
From The Bristolian (UK)

Labour Rent Rebel Nicola Bowden Jones Speaks Out

inside track on Bristol Labour from 28 mins in

On Friday evening Councillor Nicola Bowden Jones appeared in ‘Labour Campaign for Free Speech’ video. Here is what she said:

“I think it’s important to talk today because at the moment there’s a conversation going on about how they’re going to get rid of me from the Labour Party. Tuesday was annual budget setting day for the council. I was really opposed to rent freezes for council tenants because of the impact it has on the ability to build and repair council houses. It also signals the end of council housing in Bristol.

I knew that the Labour Party would not allow me to speak or, even, to go against their wishes. So I managed to speak to another party who enabled me to sneak under the radar and talk as part of their party. This, as you can imagine, took everybody by surprise and enabled me to deliver the speech I needed to deliver about the real impact on people’s lives from this rent freeze.

“The rationale – behind closed doors – for the Labour Party wanting a rent freeze has been that it might affect their chances of winning the election. There’s a lot at stake here in terms of lives for a few vanities within the Labour Party.

“There are 34 Labour councillors on the council. We have the majority. Initially my term was for four years but it was extended because we couldn’t have elections due to Covid. I think a considerable amount of time has been spent in those four years in trying to silence me. I just wanted to talk to you about some of the techniques that have been tried at the council.

The first thing that was done is that we had no team building or development as a team. We were all left trying to rummage around and build connections ourselves. At the same time there’s a move to develop an autocratic management style, which was not easy to navigate. I’m not sure why that was.

“The other underlying current is one of racism. We have a black mayor who is also the leader of the Labour Group in Bristol. Ultimately the leader is responsible for collective decisions but any attempt to discuss decisions were met with accusations of racism.

“Our leader also was a boxer and he used many examples of how strong and how eloquent he was in the boxing ring as a deterrent to challenging him. I think men were particularly affected by that a lot more than I was.

There were also times when I went would go to meetings and I would be physically flanked by two women. They were constantly insulting me. This was done so that other people couldn’t hear but, also, every time I tried to speak they would shut me down.

There was a time when five people made allegations that I was taping conversations in private group meetings. That’s really difficult to disprove. That was about putting me in my place and threatening me that I would get excluded from the Labour Party.

When I was the Parliamentary Candidate I was held to account; told ‘you can’t do that, you’re a Parliamentary Candidate’ and threatened with being thrown out of the Labour Party. I argued all the time that they would have to justify why you’ve thrown me out because I’m a Parliamentary Candidate.

Instead of attacking me, my agent Harriet Bradley was accused of anti-Semitism and that was absolutely awful two days before the election.

“I was also a member of the Audit Committee and sometimes things were taken off the agenda, which had already been set a year in advance, so that we couldn’t discuss those things. There was no evidence about the conversations that had taken place in order to decide what gets discussed as an Audit Committee. An Audit Committee is really important in terms of governance of the council, which is our responsibility to do.

“When we initially joined the council, we were all invited to have conversations with the deputy leader where we contributed about our skills and experience. I wasn’t given any responsibilities. This was because the allocation of responsibilities was given due to everybody’s enthusiasm. I clearly came across as someone with absolutely no enthusiasm for anything.

The continuous bullying was really difficult to understand at the beginning. Bizarre things were happening and I couldn’t understand why?

“I thought we were a collective of people who wanted to come together and work together for the greater good of the Bristol community. That seems that that’s not what happened.

Often I was used as an example of ‘don’t do that because the same will happen to you.’”