Cherie Blair's stepmother 'victimised for whistle-blowing'

Pat Hurst,Press Association
Monday 18 January 2010 15:44 GMT

Cherie Blair's stepmother was branded a "f****** b****" and her relatives "sneered at" after whistle-blowing about a "chaotic" charity where she worked as a teacher, an employment tribunal heard today.

Steph Booth was accompanied by Tony Booth, the father of the former prime minister's wife, at the hearing in Manchester against her former employers, Cool UK Ltd, based in Burnley and Manchester.

Mrs Booth worked as a teacher for the charity which offered a "radical and experimental alternative" to traditional education to help teenagers excluded from school by teaching them vocational subjects such as health and beauty, construction and vehicle maintenance.

But she claimed the organisation, contracted by local education authorities, was "chaotic and unprofessional", said staff were unqualified, some bought and downloaded porn on the premises and one worker there was even jailed then considered for re-employment.

When she raised the issues with the charity's boss, Gareth Binding, she was constantly brushed off then subjected to a campaign of victimisation for whistle-blowing, she said.

Mrs Booth, who has been selected to stand as a Labour candidate for the Calder Valley constituency in West Yorkshire in the next election, also said Mr Binding tried to destroy her reputation and credibility by writing letters which were seen by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Matters came to a head with her boss at a stormy management meeting in February last year.

"Mr Binding's behaviour towards me was aggressive and derogatory in front of colleagues," she told the tribunal.

"In fact he said I was a f****** b*****.

"My accent and my education and my relatives were all sneered at. Mr Binding had demonstrated he had no intention of addressing any of my concerns."

She then went sick before being made redundant a month later, just under a year after joining the charity in April 2008.

Mrs Booth said she was assaulted by one female pupil, but there were no proper health and safety policies.

Buildings were cold and unsuitable for youngsters and the charity was "failing" the children it was supposed to be teaching, she said.

One worker was accused of being a "ringleader" in regularly buying porn at the Burnley unit, but when she complained Mr Binding said she was just being "fussy".

Another member of staff, who she claimed had downloaded porn, was jailed for driving whilst disqualified but it was then considered he should be re-employed after leaving jail because he would be desperate for a job and accept a pay cut, she said.

After she left the charity Mr Binding then tried to "sabotage" her campaign to be selected to stand for Labour in Calder Valley she said, by writing a series of letters questioning her suitability as an MP.

Some were sent to the party's ruling National Executive Committee, while others went straight to the top, she said.

"He wished to victimise, punish and discredit me," she said. "One letter was copied to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and one was addressed to the Prime Minister directly."

Mrs Booth is claiming unfair dismissal, breach of contract and suffering detriment or dismissal due to exercising her rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act and on health and safety grounds.

Mrs Booth married Mrs Blair's actor father in 1998, a year after Tony Blair's New Labour swept to power.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in