A People's Vote worker gives an inside perspective on a tumultuous week for the organisation.
I am a staff member who works for the People’s Vote campaign. Like many of us, I am in my 20’s. This is my first job in politics.
I got involved in this campaign, because I genuinely believe it is the only democratic solution to the Brexit crisis. I – and 40 other colleagues – just want to get back to work.
I have never written an anonymous article before, and don’t ever intend to do so again. The only reason I am now, is for fear of legal action from Roland Rudd.
You may have read lots of things about the People’s Vote campaign over the last couple of days. It almost certainly appears confusing and convoluted, and I imagine infuriating.
But this is the actual story of how Roland Rudd – the outgoing Chair of Open Britain – and Patrick Heneghan (the apparent new acting Chief Executive of the People’s Vote campaign) have put a wrecking ball through an incredibly successful campaign. They’ve done this right at the start of a pivotal General Election campaign.
It’s also the story of how 40 staff have been in constant fear for their jobs, felt intimidated by security staff, threatened by legal action and how a multi-millionaire’s actions mean I might not be able to pay my rent at the end of the month.
A week ago, things were going well. We had spent the summer making the case for a People’s Vote across the UK, as part of our ‘Let Us Be Heard’ events, culminating in a million people on the streets of London on October 19th. We were ready for a General Election, and tantalisingly close to a majority in Parliament.
Then, on Sunday 27th October, at around 10pm, all PV staff received the same email from Roland Rudd. It said that James McGrory and Tom Baldwin (our Director and Director of Communications, respectively), had been fired, with immediate effect. Patrick Heneghan would be the ‘acting Chief Executive of the People’s Vote campaign’. No reason was given, except citing ‘internal issues’ within the campaign. No groups were consulted, no one saw this coming.
We were to report to our office at 9am on Monday morning to listen to Rudd and Heneghan explain what had happened.
The whatsapp groups lit up. None of us slept much, wondering if we had jobs to go to in the morning. We got to the office early, ready to ask questions. This is where it all gets silly.
15 minutes before the meeting started, we get an email from Roland, putting off the meeting till tomorrow. We then turned on the TV to find out that he had decided to make an appearance on Sky News, rather than face a hurt and upset staff team. This would be a running theme.
It then transpires that both Roland and Patrick are in the building, but downstairs, refusing to meet staff. Patrick is sent up to explain that Roland isn’t coming. We leave.
Tuesday comes round, and another day of uncertainty. We finally get a meeting with Roland and Patrick, but they move the venue at the last minute and put security guards on the door.
We ask the questions you would expect – why have you fired two senior staff, without giving a reason? Why now at a crucial time? Who did you consult? What does this mean for us? It’s safe to say the answers are not forthcoming.
We hold a vote of No Confidence in both Roland and Patrick. The votes are 40-3, the 3 including Patrick himself. We walkout at the disgraceful treatment of all of our staff.
Later on Tuesday, we all receive a threat: turn up to work tomorrow for Patrick Heneghan and Roland Rudd tomorrow, or be dismissed. At time of writing on Wednesday, we’re still waiting for their response, as we did not do so.
There currently is no People’s Vote campaign. All of our work – including our massive General Election plan, has ground to a halt. An incredibly effective campaign has simply stopped at a time of national crisis.
We did not pick this fight, it was forced upon us. All of the staff have a simple wish – for all of us to collectively get back to work, so we can deliver a People’s Vote parliament that this country needs.
We hope Roland Rudd and Patrick Heneghan will listen.
Editor: Roland Rudd has been contacted for a response.
As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.
We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.