A suspended Labour party activist has “borrowed” £7,000 out of donations to her own crowdfunding campaign to sort out a personal “cash flow problem”.
Jennifer James set up the crowdfunding campaign to fund a legal challenge against a decision taken by the Labour Party to allow anyone who identified as a woman onto all-women shortlists and to stand as women’s officers, regardless of their birth sex.
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She was suspended from the party in January 2018 for a ‘breach of Labour Party rules’, according to a letter informing her of her suspension.
Ms James claimed at the time that the action was taken because of a tweet she posted which read ‘women don’t have d***s’.
'Against terms of service'
In an update on the ‘Keep All-Women Shortlists Female!’ GoFundMe page, which has amassed almost £30,000 in donations, Ms James announced that she had borrowed money, but would pay it back “in the next ten weeks”.
“I have had a cashflow prob at work and, God forgive me, have just borrowed £7k of your money from yr account... will pay it back in the next ten weeks plus a £100 donation! [sic]” she wrote.
“Am moving £7k that is on account with solicitors back in to the Santander account so we don't miss out on interest. Can only apologise.”
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GoFundMe told talkRADIO that using donations “for anything other than the stated purpose” was a breach of their terms of service, and said they were now looking into the campaign.
“It is against GoFundMe’s terms of service for campaign organisers to use donations for anything other than the stated purpose,” a spokesperson said.
“Our Trust and Safety team is already looking into this campaign – and it’s worth noting that donors are always 100 per cent protected.
“This means donations are guaranteed to the right place or will be refunded.”
'It feels very wrong'
A discussion about the borrowed money has been unfolding on Mumsnet, with those who had donated to the campaign expressing concern as to how the funds were being used.
One Mumsnet user wrote: “I just remember at the time so many women who were struggling financially put money aside and went without to fund this because it's so important.
“It feels very wrong to me to 'borrow' like this.”
Another posted: “I think this looks really dodgy and it will give many people good reason to decide not to donate to other similar causes in future which is gutting.
“You just don't do this — raise money for an issue and then use £7,000, a massive sum to most women, to deal with your personal debts.”
Ms James said she had provided records pertaining to the money borrowed. She responded on Twitter by writing: "Lol, and? Have sent them all invoices and statements. you gonna report that?"
She deleted the tweet shortly afterwards.
The Labour Party said in a statement: "Jennifer James is not a Party member so her actions have nothing to do with us."
Update 08/02/2019: Ms James posted an update to the GoFundMe page shortly after this article was published, saying the money will be returned to the account within days.
"Had a local creditor breathing down my neck but luckily have chased up a couple of big invoices today and the Good News is that the £7,000 will clear ove w/e and go straight back in to the account next Weds so will update with bank statements as soon as it does," she wrote.
"I'll keep the £7k of your returned 'on account' money from Bhogal & Partners in the account as well: which should give us £20 a month in interest.
"Thanks for bearing with me you amazing women! I know it was less than ideal promise not to borrow again. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Sorry again."
She also tweeted that she was still a member of the Labour party.
Update 08/02/2019: Ms James says she has now returned the money.
Additional reporting: Thea de Gallier