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Both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith campaigns investigated over texts

Leadership candidates are not allowed to send unsolicited marketing messages. 

At the weekend, Labour supporters were rudely interrupted from their dreams by 4am texts from leadership challenger Owen Smith asking: “Can I count on your support?”

But The Staggers learns the Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating both campaign teams for their use of campaign texts.

A spokeswoman said: “We’re aware of these messages and are making enquiries to establish whether they were sent in line with the law.” This applied to both campaigns, she confirmed. 

The text from Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, received by The Staggers on a personal mobile a day after the aforementioned one from Owen Smith, states: 

Jeremy Corbyn here. I’m running for leader to build a Labour movement serious about winning power. Will you back me?

The Corbyn campaign says it is complying with regulations.The Smith campaign blamed the late night texts on a "technical glitch", but this does not explain the texts themselves.

The one received by The Staggers states:

I'm standing for leader because I want Labour to deliver policies that matter to us all. Ending failed Tory austerity. Investing 200bn pounds in public services. Strengthening workers' rights. Can I count on your support? Owen Smith. 

In last year’s Labour leadership campaign, candidates happily exploited Labour’s vast membership database to get their message across.

But the ICO later rapped Labour for allowing members to be spammed, and the party issued guidelines for this year’s contest. It said: 

If the Labour Party or its elected members intend to send marketing material to individuals (regardless of their membership status) it should ensure that consent is gained. A facility should be provided to allow the individual to consent to each method the Labour Party or its elected
members wish to contact them by.

The implication of this direction is that candidates in internal Labour Party elections MUST NOT be given access to lists of existing registered and affiliated supporters which allow for unsolicited marketing messages to be sent by email or telephone. Indeed, there must be explicit consent given by each supporter to receiving marketing messages by each and every channel of communication. 

This is significant. The Staggers is a Labour member, but did not give a personal mobile out to either the Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Smith’s campaign marketing team (only to certain individual contacts in the press team). This suggests that membership data is being shared with both campaigns. 

On the other hand, both texts received did offer the option of opting out from further messages (and The Staggers gratefully did). 

While the Smith campaign declined to comment, a Corbyn campaign spokesman said: "Our campaign has fully complied with Labour Party regulations - including the new guidance on consent to contact - and have met our obligations under the Data Protection Act."

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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