Mervyn Barrett's campaign slogan was 'Expect More', and we did – about another 3 weeks more, but his campaign has come to a sudden and premature end which you can explore by reading the following:-
Andrew Gilligan's Sunday Telegraph Article on the people behind Mervyn – which details the claims of Mervyn's ex-campaign manager 'Matthew De Unger Brown' who styles himself as a neo-conservative, claims links with groups seeking to extend privatisation and reveals lavish spending plans for the election. I was not privy to Gilligan's conversation with Matthew, but I can reveal that I wasn't surprised by the contents, having myself had an apparently similar conversation with Matthew several weeks ago, and having concluded he was a sufficiently curious character to justify some basic internet research.
Like Gilligan, I didn't have enough good quality information on Matthew to publish, but I did manage to cover issues raised by Gilligan's article, with notes on loose ends.
Gilligan used his blog to follow up on Mervyn's withdrawal from the campaign, sharing the legal difficulties in saying more about Mervyn's ex-campaign manager, but he also pointed to an extraordinary blog post from an anonymous blogger who decided to take the risk of sharing an astonishing list of allegations about Matthew. I don't know what's true here – that post may be fantasy – it is certainly 'fantastic', but the blogger in question is himself cited here as a well-respected legal blogger.
Mervyn's withdrawal statement, was issued not on his website, but on Russ Webster's, by Gillian Radcliffe, PR professional, and former would-be Independent candidate for South Yorkshire – both of whom have a long-standing interest in the PCC election. It alleges that Mervyn's entire campaign has been a confidence trick by Matthew, and that Mervyn is trying to work out to which police force it should be reported.
I have spoken to Gillian today, as part of her effort to help Mervyn in a time of need. The difference now that Mervyn has an experienced representative was very evident. Mervyn has confirmed to me what she has said about him, and she has added some detail herself. The result is in italics after some context from me:-
In early August TopOfTheCops broke a story about a senior judge banning magistrates from being PCC candidates. It was very rapidly taken up by the wider press and within 24 hours Mervyn's team had been in touch, taken legal advice, and banded together with a few other PCC candidates, including some magistrates, to arrange a meeting with that senior judge to discuss the issue. The candidates at that meeting were Mervyn Barrett, Gillian Radcliffe, Julie Iles and Craig Mackinley.
Gillian tells me that Matthew was also in attendance, and that after the meeting he tried to persuade her that he should be her campaign manager. She declined, not having the finances, and he suggested that surely she must have a wealthy relative. She disclosed that she had, but that she had decided not to approach this person to fund her campaign.
Subsequently, she says Matthew “contacted me several times over the next few weeks to try to persuade me to change my mind. In some ways, it prompted me to withdraw sooner than I might otherwise have done. After withdrawing, I felt relieved that I wouldn't have the pressure of his persuasive tactics any longer.”
There is also some further detail from Mervyn. Last Friday, having been told by Matthew of 'negative polling results', Mervyn was ready to pull out of the Lincolnshire race, and Matthew agreed with this course of action, but the Sunday Telegraph story broke before Mervyn could withdraw from the election.
Mervyn says he was largely funding the campaign himself, and that Matthew had given
him reason to expect funding from Matthew personally and from a 'rich relative' of Matthew's for certain items. It is now unclear whether these items were ever ordered.
Mervyn says Matthew had complete control of campaign finances, and Mervyn is
currently playing catch-up to see how much money has been spent and on what. He has frozen his bank account.
Yesterday, (Wednesday), Gillian sent a number of tweets (here is one) indicating that Mervyn would be releasing a statement. Matthew called her very soon after. He seemed to be calling from a US number, she thinks New York. He sounded distressed and sorry, but wanted to know whether Mervyn was going to the police.
I don't know what to make of this extra-ordinary story. It is heartening to see some of the people I have dealt with in PCC world over the last few months standing together and supporting each other. That may restore some of your faith in humanity.
Some of us are perhaps too suspicious of people. I'm an ex-cop. I think it goes with the territory. Gillian has worked plenty with the police in the past, which is probably enough to make anyone suspicious!
Mervyn, on the other hand, has worked for NACRO, and they are all about the Care and Rehabilitation (or is it resettlement) of Offenders. He has spent a career doing what he can to change people for the better. That involves an ability to hope for the best, possibly a tendency to be a little too trusting sometimes.
Andrew Gilligan closed his original blog post today with the words “I have a feeling this might be a story that keeps on giving”.
As Mervyn Barrett used to say, 'expect more'.