Young Labour activist's trauma over 'ridiculous' tweet probe

jess barnard

Jess Barnard said her mental health had really taken a hit after the "ridiculous" tweet probe - Credit: Jess Barnard

The chair of Labour's youth wing, Jess Barnard, has "never felt so low" during her time in politics as she has in the last month.

The 26-year-old said she suffered sleepless nights and "overwhelming" stress after receiving an email at 1am from Labour's top brass telling her she was being investigated for two social media posts opposing transphobia.

She was so shocked at the "ridiculous" nature of the charges she spent the night tossing and turning about whether the email was even legitimate.

According to Labour's spokesman, Ms Barnard is not under investigation and the notice was issued in error and since rescinded. 

He said Labour "apologises unreservedly to Jess for the hurt and upset this caused", and that this email was sent outside of the usual processes as part of efforts to clear a complaints backlog.

But Ms Barnard said she continues to "feel sad" about the entire ordeal, which followed "weeks of attacks" on social media and a public row with David Evans — Labour's general secretary — about Young Labour's involvement in the party's conference later this month.

Jess Barnard has been a long-time activist for the Labour Party, but says she feels hurt by recent "attacks"

Jess Barnard has been a long-time activist for the Labour Party, but says she feels hurt by recent "attacks" - Credit: Jess Barnard

She explained: "I already felt people in the party were being hostile to me because I spoke out about their decision not to let Young Labour have their own conference, which is our democratic right.

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"That hostility, and the attacks from people online, have really affected my mental health.

"And then after all that, I receive an email at 1am telling me I'm being investigated for "hostile and prejudiced" behaviour from the very people who knew I was struggling.

"I've never felt so low in all my time with Labour as I have in the past month. It's been really difficult."

The tweets in question involved Ms Barnard saying she was blocking "Terfs" (trans-exclusionary radical feminists), and a reply to another Labour councillor saying she "wouldn't be intimidated into giving transphobes energy".

The former Norfolk county councillor, aside from chairing Young Labour in her free time, is a community organiser and senior youth worker.

She explained: "I literally have two jobs, but dealing with attacks on social media is basically becoming a third.

"One of the saddest parts of all of this is that transgender people were leaving the party — which is the last thing I want."