49. Memorandum to Dr Vanessa Gearson from
Mrs Christine Watson, 24 October 2002|
Re: Responsibilities undertaken during my employment
to date, both in my role as 'Constituency Secretary' to IDS and
as 'Private Secretary' to IDS in his capacity as Leader of the
Further to our discussion this morning. I list below
bullet points relating to the work I have undertaken to date,
some of which I believe should have been the responsibilities
of AE. This is a difficult task for me, especially as I reflect
back on all the hard work I have put in over the last year and
especially when AE was quite happy for someone else to do her
work for her, i.e. me. As you know, I was solely running
Iain's very busy constituency office without assistance but also
making sure the Leader's office was in order, being a point of
contact for the 'Office Keepers' at the House etc.
As you know, I just got on with the job/tasks in
hand as I have a responsible attitude to my job, to Iain's position
both as Member of Parliament for Chingford and Woodford Green
and as Leader of the Opposition, to the Conservative Party and
to the end goal of achieving a Conservative Government at the
next General Election.
Having said all that and also the events of the administration
last year, I firmly believe that you are a 'breath of fresh air'
and it is a relief to have you heading our new administration.
I am sure that I can speak for all of us when I say that, and
I certainly want you to succeed in your new post and you know
that you have all my support to have the Leader's office running
smoothly and efficiently from now on.
October 01-October 02
Position held: Constituency Secretary to the Leader
with backlog of constituency correspondence of at least 6-8 weeks
due to the Leadership campaignno extra help given
· Un-packed all
Iain's office contents and divided it all up into categories,
constituency, Defence and European matters etc. etc.
Iain's constituency papers, new filing system and undid the 'chaos'
whilst still keeping up with the correspondence
· Liaised with
the local Chingford office, organised the Surgery appointments
together with planning his constituency itineraries.
· Prepared briefing
notes for Iain and making sure his Agent had a duplicate set the
day before so that he was well briefed.
· Dealt with
numerous day-to-day telephone calls from constituents, the Leader's
office calls together with members of the public.
· Organised constituent's
visits to the House of Commonsmeeting them and making sure
they were given tickets etc.
· Organised schools
from the constituency to visit, booking a theatre room at Millbank
for Iain to address them with a 'question and answer' session.
Thereafter looking after them on his behalf, making sure they
had tea/coffee and that the students had somewhere to eat their
· Liaised with
Mark Fullbrook and assisted him with the 'newspaper' for the constituency.
Having set up an efficient structure, I was therefore able to
find specific cases to highlight etc.
· As there had
been no 'Press Cutting' books set up. I immediately put this into
action, and every week-end would take the newspapers home to keep
a record, hence we now have an up-to-date record of what the constituency
Press covered on IDS for 2001 to the current time.
· Carried out
numerous tasks for AE and AWCopening the Leader's office
when necessary to access papers, signed bottles, look for miscellaneous
· Organised to
receive the constituency mail from CCO as there as a reluctance
to deliver it to me personally from AE, AWC and JH for no apparent
reasons other than laziness (in my mind). As I had a good relationship
with the Correspondence Unit at CCO, they assisted me towards
the end and we had a daily system.
· I was kept
out of the Diary to see IDSfor a long time I managed to
do my job through sending notes with the constituency mail. On
the odd date when I was given a diary time, I would go down to
the Leader's officeno problem if Iain was on urgent parliamentary
changes to the diary. I would then go back to my office to continue
working. I do know that at times he was told I had gone home when
in truth I was upstairs working!
· I eventually
decided to see Iain and reported to him I was not having diary
time, and told him that when I asked to see him, I had to justify
why. My opinion: I would not have worried or wasted his time requesting
diary time if it was not important! He immediately called in AE
and told her that in future, when I asked to see Iain on constituency
matters, I was to be given an appropriate appointment. I have
since approached AWC before he left the Leader's office about
this and was told that I had not made enough fuss about my diary
time. This comment made me feel angry and disappointed with the
type of attitude that I had been experiencing all last year, and
which I endured quietly, not wanting to bother Iain but on reflection
towards the end, I felt I could no longer endure this behaviour
and decided to voice my concerns as there had and there were too
many problems that had gone un-reported.
· I looked after
the many Interns, especially when they assisted setting up the
Shadow Cabinet Room on Wednesdays. They needed guidance and I
made sure they received it.
· Towards the
Summer Recess, it became clear and apparent that there was no
political filing system in operation. I was concerned, and told
Iain. He in turn asked me to liaise with AE and set one up. I
immediately gave him a plan and worked for many weeks setting
one up, with the help of the Intern at the time.
I had to approach AE and discovered that no filing had been done
all year (nor had AWC until one of the Interns did it for
him on my advice). I immediately took hold of the situation, organised
that we would come in at the week-end, and in effect telling her
that she had to otherwise I could not file the papers. I also
wanted her input as I decided to archive all Iain's papers since
he was an MP as they were in no order. There was an enormous amount
of work to do. I ALSO HAD TO CONTINUE WITH MY WORK FOR THE
· At the last
minute, AE informed me she was too tired to come in on the Saturday.
I explained that I had gone to a lot of trouble to organise this
operation and that I would be letting other people down on the
Monday. (I had organised the office keeper to remove the boxes
up to where I now have Iain's papers2 huge cupboards in
the Opposition wing, one used by John Prescott while in opposition!).
I felt upset and let down but told her that I was going to come
in and my feeling was I would have to do it all by myself.
· On the Saturday,
AE rang me to apologise and that if I went to meet her to carry
all the filing to G1, she had changed her mind. Without any fuss,
I agreed and was shocked to find numerous carrier bags of filing
brought in her car. I managed to secure a Post Office trolley
and we brought it all to the office. I made her go through it
all and I let her go later in the day, while I labelled all the
boxes for archive.
· The political
filing was done on another Saturday, I asked her to go through
all the papers, categorising as she went along. I was busy setting
up the cabinets in readiness for the political structure to be
in place. I also cleared the Leader's office of mess, as there
was clearly no order.
· As an onlookerthere
were clearly a lot of problems in the administration last year.
I did what I could in my capacity as being a very small part of
the Leader's office as Iain's constituency secretary and being
based full-time in the House of Commons. The attitude of various
people was not correct, if their roles were definedthe
individuals were certainly not carrying them out efficiently.
Staff relations were low. On many occasions I stepped in to encourage
people in their roles, and advising them to be professional at
all times and encouraging them.
· A matter
that concerns me is the 'cheques given to AE' by the Shadow Cabinet
for the Her Majesty the Queen's Golden Jubilee present. When these
cheques started to come in, AE asked me to keep them and keep
an up-dated list and to count them as we received them. I was
aware that they should have been paid in to an account and kept
reminding her of this but she was happy to have them kept in my
drawer in my office at the House under lock and key. I was to
understand that she gave her mother, Lady Eyre the task of finding
a suitable gift, and to date I have been reminding her of this
and the fact that the cheques are still not paid in and the Shadow
Cabinet should be courteously informed of what the gift might
be, at this later stage bearing in mind that they have each donated
£50.00. Due to my concern, I made AWC put them in the Safe
at CCO and that is where they remain to this day3 months
down the line!
my first year, and all the work I undertook, it was impossible
for me to have a break as I felt that on my return, working on
my own, my workload would have further increased. I worked without
a holiday but felt justified in having 2 weeks off in August this
year. Before leaving, Iain asked me to think about becoming his
Private Secretary Position
August 2002-to present day
was e-mailed by AE while on holiday, to tell me that I would be
starting in my new position as soon as I returned.
· I returned
on Thursday, 22nd August and reported to CCO.
· I explained
to AE that Iain had not spoken to me regarding my new position
and had not discussed my salary and coming off the Parliamentary
payroll in my capacity as working for Iain as Leader of the Opposition.
I felt that she had re-negotiated her own position and was not
forthcoming about assisting me. I am therefore still being paid
out of the constituency allowance through Parliament and I am
still on the same salary as when I started on the 15th
· AE handed me
a bunch of keys and told me to get on with my new role and to
'juggle' both jobs (constituency & new position). I was told
to get Rebecca Layton and Jonathan Hellewell to help me, and she
left to go on holiday.
· I was left
with no handing over instructions, notes, guidanceby this
time, I was used to her behaviour, manner, dis-organisation, dis-regard
for me 'picking up her workload and responsibilities'!
· I got on with
the job in hand, packed up Iain's office, kitchen and my new office.
Arranged for boxes, labelled everything, came in over the week-end
to do the move with the help of an intern from Bernard Jenkin's
office. This is how my new role commenced
· I set up the
new offices, un-packed all the boxes, arranged and put Iain's
office in order ready for his return after his Summer break.
· AWC was helpful
at this stage. It was difficult for him not to be as he could
see that I had been left with no guidance from AE. I then realized
he had been assisting AE during the past year in her role as Private
Secretary as well as the Diary.
· I organised
the packing up of the temporary office at Conference and packed
my car with all the boxes, and did the reverse at the end of Conference.
Whilst at Conference, I was told by both AE and AWC that it was
my job to write all the letters re: the Tour after Conference
and the visits at Conference, even though I had nothing to do
with their planning or being in attendance. I disputed this role
and reported the whole incident to VG with paper evidence of AE's
scribbled instructions to me. It was totally unacceptable behaviour
and I felt they totally undermined my position as Iain's Private
Secretary and a total disregard to all my workload and commitment.
· I have had
discussions with VG concerning Conferencecertain people
did not put enough work and effort, but the people that did, we
felt that we had worked as a team and the end result was successful
in terms of the Leader's office despite the problems that became
· Since coming
back from Conference, I have together with Rebecca had to cover
AE in terms of writing letters re: the Tour and sort out various
· The right people
are not being kept informed well enough. One small example:
I was asked to buy Iain a suit carrier, make sure
Iain had clean laundry and get this delivered to Eastbourne by
the time they all arrived there from Cardiff. I went out to buy
one, and completed the instructions, also organised for the Intern
to have a train ticket to deliver the items, he then arrived late
home (past midnight). He completed the task efficiently, even
ringing me at home to tell me he had left the case with the Concierge
at the HYDRO hotel. Not one person rang to confirm Iain had received
it, a phone call the next day would have sufficed. It wasn't until
I spoke to Bert, the driver that I had to ask whether Iain had
has asked me to do what work she may have, keep her papers in
order, invitations and draft letters when necessary. Also it is
important to keep her informed at all times of changes in the
· Financial matters,
both Constituency and Member's Allowances and Re-imbursements:
I have received papers (not in any order) from AE.
I have spoken to VG regarding this sensitive matter. There must
be more papers covering a longer period. I will have to put the
papers in order but again I am used to picking up the pieces of
what AE should have already done.
was concerned to learn that AE had been paid for nearly one whole
year out of the Constituency allowance, when really I should have
had some form of assistance myself. This now leaves a big question
mark on the budget for 2001/02 and to date, although there is
enough in the Constituency allowance, I am still being paid though
Parliament even though I am working for Iain as 'Leader of the
Opposition'. There are obviously questions to be asked?
· I obviously
need to put everything in order on behalf of Iain's representation
as Member of Parliament for Chingford and Woodford Green, and
I intend to do that so that everything is in proper financial
orderkeeping the records in good order, and in financial
year order and not in a mess.
I feel it has been a good exercise for me to put
all the above in writing. It is something I have carried with
me the past year. I bear no grudges and my intention is not to
'tell tales' otherwise I could and would have done this earlier.
What has been difficult, certain people knew to what
extent I was working and trying to keep things together and were
happy to see me continue. It was disrespectful and hurtful to
me when I was trying to do a difficult job without much support
from the main people in the Leader's office (AE, AWC, JH and of
course the 'Chief of Staff').
Many people observed but nobody was prepared to put
things right. I found this situation very surprising and totally
not normal. Hence, my comment to you Vanessa that you are 'a breath
of fresh air'. Not only have you observed for yourself since joining
the Leader's office how badly things were run, but you have been
prepared to listen and take action, something which nobody did
the past year. You have been prepared to create systems, structure
and most of all, you have taken the time to listen to people's
comments and problemsthis is the way forward.
I hope that you will find this report helpful at
the beginning of your administration. It has been difficult for
me to put it all in writing as it should not have been necessary,
but like you I am a responsible and caring person and we have
the right aims, and it is important to help other people to carry
out their jobs in the same efficient way.
24 October 2002