This article has changed rapidly at the last minute. If Arianne Plumbly’s version of events is true, she should be able to bring a claim against Lucy Allan. So where was it? My intent was to call out Ms Plumbly for empty words. The title was, ‘Bring It, Plumbly!’. However my research turned up issues worth investigating that casts things in a very different light.
As a Conservative I am very reluctant to criticise Conservative MPs. I wanted to be able to back Lucy Allan MP. My last article did – I even started a hashtag. However this is an ethical, impartial blog and I have criticised Conservatives in the past (for example, Jeremy Hunt) when it is unavoidable. In light of the fresh evidence I have referred Plumbly to Carter-Ruck and they have agreed to consider whether they can help her on a no-win-no-fee basis.
“Arianne Plumbly was dismissed from her employment with Lucy Allan, MP in Telford, after four months’ employment, for gross misconduct following misuse of the Parliamentary email system, persistent unauthorised absenteeism, refusal to follow a reasonable instruction and rudeness to residents.”
Contrary to Allan’s statement, whilst I was researching this article a disgusted source within the Conservative Party gave me a copy of the termination letter. The dismissal was not for any form of misconduct, but only for ill-health. It was on notice. The letter says this –
Whilst Allan had initially invited Plumbly to a disciplinary, it appears that this was cancelled and the allegations within were abandoned. The smorgasboard of accusations made by Allan against Plumbly in the media were not tested. Allan’s difficulty is that even if she believed that the things she said were true they did not form part of the legal reason for the dismissal.
It is just not true to say that Plumbly was dismissed for Gross Misconduct or even ordinary misconduct. This version of events was put to Lucy Allan, who has read it but not denied the allegation.
To this law student, it looks like there are two enormous potential claims. Firstly, if Allan knowingly sent a letter dismissing for one reason and gave a statement setting out other much worse reasons to a newspaper that would appear to be malicious defamation because she must have known the statement was untrue.
Secondly, the law on references has tightened commendably in recent years. The law now does not simply cover references but also statements volunteered by a former employer. Plumbly could bring a claim for ‘Negligent Misstatement’ in tort, under the ratio decidende in McKie v Swindon College  EWHC 469 (QB).
Clearly these recent events have reduced Plumbly’s future employability so she has suffered financial losses from these events that are likely to reduce her earnings for the rest of her working life. Such damages are called ‘stigma damages’. In Chagger v Abbey National Plc and Another  EWCA Civ 1202, Mr Chagger (a claimant much nearer the end of his working life) received around £4,000,000.
If Plumbly’s version of events is true she stands to be awarded millions of pounds. However, on the other hand if her version of events is incomplete and she did do some of the things alleged those damages could be reduced due to ‘contributory negligence’. If she had done the extreme wrongdoing she might well get substantially reduced or negligible damages.
Ms Allan’s difficulty of course is that the tape recordings released so far do appear to show that she was intemperate. The tape might well undermine claims that Plumbly (for example) stormed out without reasons. The persistently inaccurate statements by Allan also undermine her credibility. A court might believe that it was a very young woman working in a very difficult working environment.
Your author thinks that the competing allegations should be tested. I have helped people in High Court cases before as a McKenzie Friend. Although I have met Lucy Allan a couple of times and admire her position on Family issues, I am not a close acquaintance.
When the new information came to light very shortly before publication I decided to refer Ms Plumbly to a lawyer. In the public interest, I have referred Plumbly to Nigel Tait, the Head of Media at Carter-Ruck. He has said he will help her if he can and consider a CFA – subject obviously to seeing all the documents and so forth.
Lucy Allan has given a further public statement saying this about Ms Plumbly –
“[…] From 1st June 2015 to 29th September 2015, Arianne Pumbly (26) worked on a 6 month contract, for me in my Telford Office. She too had been disappointed in failing to win a council seat in May 2015.
During Arianne’s employment in Telford, I worked in London four days a week, with one day a week attending events in Telford. I saw Arianne on a handful of occasions during the four months of her employment. Her allegations of bullying are wholly unfounded. She was dismissed early from her six month contract on the grounds of her conduct, performance and absenteeism.
The first I heard of her complaint was from the media. If there were genuine grounds for a bullying claim, she would have followed the usual channels available to all employees.
The tape recording Arianne released to the media, followed an incident in September 2015, where she failed to turn up for two days in a row for an important pre planned induction session with a new member of staff. She then failed to turn to up a third day in a row to a constituency surgery. She did not notify anyone that she was not attending and she would not take calls on her mobile. My office told me that she had been into work, and was not sick. However, I was told she had objected to her computer being moved and had walked out in a “huff.”
Whilst it was certainly human to be frustrated and exasperated by Arianne’s conduct, it was wrong to express that frustration as I did, and I have apologised for this.
Arianne did not inform me, or anyone in my office that she had any kind of ‘condition.’ She attributed her regular absences to minor ailments, like sunburn and nausea. When she was invited to a meeting to discuss her performance, absence and conduct, she arrived in the office with a sick note citing ‘stress.’
I do not know why Arianne contacted the Conservative Party and the media concerning her allegations. I was Arianne’s employer not the Conservative Party.
Despite the way it comes across in the media, I do not believe either to be spiteful or malicious. I understand their personal disappointments and wish them both well for the future.
Meanwhile, as the MP for Telford, whilst this has been a distraction, I will continue to serve constituents with determination. We now have a strong, loyal and motivated team in Telford and in Parliament. We can now get on with the job of attending to the needs and concerns of Telford people, which must always be the first priority for me and any member of my team.
I am very grateful for the kind words of support from many people across Telford. […]”
Your author wishes Lucy Allan MP the best of luck. Because it is likely that she is going to need it.