The former leader of a major West Midlands council has accused the Labour Party of breaching data protection laws in a political ‘corrupt, cancerous’ campaign against its own members.

Steve Eling, the ex-leader of Sandwell Council, has said the party’s national headquarters is a ‘serial offender’ when leaking confidential personal information to social media websites.

And he says a request to meet Jeremy Corbyn to discuss his claims has been refused.

Steve Eling, Leader of Sandwell Council.
Steve Eling, Leader of Sandwell Council.

Mr Eling has now said he is briefing solicitors with a view to taking legal action against the party over confidential data leaks.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he said: “It’s so rotten, and there is a cancer in there and we have got to do something about it.

“I am not saying people have made money out of it. I’m not alleging that type of corruption, I’m alleging corrupt practices."

But a Labour Party spokesperson said the allegations are “categorically untrue”.

Mr Eling’s claims come after months of infighting within the Sandwell party leading to the expulsion of members only hours before a crucial vote this week on who leads the Labour group on the authority.

In January, Mr Eling’s party membership was suspended by the National Executive Committee (NEC) following an unspecified complaint against him.

His suspension prevented him standing as a candidate in this month's local election.

Sandwell Council House
Sandwell Council House

In March, the party deselected six sitting Sandwell councillors.

At the time, the members - one of whom served on the council for 17 years -spoke of their shock and disappointment at being left off the approved candidates list for local elections.

And more recently Labour has expelled three more for offences such as wishing an opposition candidate ‘good luck’ and holding a ladder for an independent candidate as he put up a campaign poster.

Mr Eling claims a common factor is the leaking of confidential information to social media before the individuals even knew there was a complaint or that they had been expelled from the party.



He added: “The same thing happened to me when it was said that I was being referred to for further investigation. The first thing anybody knew about that, including myself, was via social media.

"There is information that has gone to social media that could have only come out of Labour headquarters because it doesn't exist anywhere else."

Saying he has raised his concerns with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO,) which regulates data protection laws, he claimed: “ The ICO has told me in writing that they are working with the Labour Party its non-compliance with data protection laws.

“So the Labour Party is a serial offender on this stuff and not just with me but in relation to other people."

He added: “The whole approach has been to hold people like me and others who have been hard-working members of the Labour Party over a long time in total contempt and we can’t allow that."

He added: “It goes right to the centre of the Labour Party not just the regional office, there is people from the NEC involved in this.”

A Labour Party spokesperson bluntly refuted Mr Eling’s claims, saying: “This is categorically untrue.”

A background statement said the stories on a blog being referred to were not briefed by any Labour Party staff and there was no evidence to support such an allegation, adding that an investigation into the Sandwell party involved the interviewing of a large number of witnesses and while it made it clear to all those interviewed that it was a confidential process, it could not guarantee that individuals who took part in the investigation have not briefed the media.

It added it was incorrect to say the information is only held at party HQ.

The statement read: "The decision to refer Mr Eling to the NCC (National Constitutional Committee) was made by the NEC. The NEC is made up of representatives from different bodies and stakeholders within the Labour Party and information from decisions taken in those meetings sometimes gets into the public domain. Allies of Mr Eling’s have briefed information about his case following NEC meetings as well.

“A meeting with Jeremy Corbyn would be entirely inappropriate as the leader is not involved in the disciplinary processes and there is no precedent for the leader meeting with individuals who are going through the disciplinary process.

"The NEC had already made a decision to refer to the National Constitutional Committee and that decision has to be upheld by the party, which must ensure due process takes place. This was explained to Mr Eling.

“The Labour Party will always fully investigate any allegations of breaches and, where appropriate, report this to the ICO in line with our statutory obligations. Since there has not been a breach on this occasion, we will not be contacting the ICO.”

Asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service if the ICO was investigating alleged breaches of the data protection laws by the party, a spokesperson said: “The ICO is in contact with the Labour Party regarding a number of data protection matters including their lawful obligations. These enquiries are ongoing.”