Steve Hedley, a senior figure in the RMT union, recently attended a picket in Leeds which had credible far-right threats against it, and which Leeds AFN also attended in solidarity with striking workers. Steve’s continued organising presence raises concerns that we want to address publicly.
In 2013 Steve was accused of domestic violence by his ex-partner Caroline Lenegham, a RMT rep. Caroline released a statement with photographs of the injuries inflicted on her. Steve’s response was to deny this, implying Caroline’s ‘mental illness’ was to blame. This is a common response by abusers when their victims speak out or seek help, and besides being an obvious attempt to deflect, also stigmatises those with mental health problems, and victims of abuse.
An internal RMT investigation led by Steve’s boss Mike Cash was said to have cleared Steve, however given the victim-blaming and hostility of Steve Hedley and Mike Cash, along with the clear unwillingness to deal with abuse and violence amongst some on the wider left – see the SWP, for instance – we have serious concerns regarding this investigation. And it should not have to be said, given the poor track record of the police with regards to domestic abuse, that we do not believe that falling foul of legal timeframes for submission of complaints clears Steve of wrongdoing.
At Leeds Anti-Fascist Network we support working class struggles such as that of the RMT rank and file in their strike against the removal of train guards, however we cannot extend our support to Steve Hedley while we believe there are still serious unanswered questions with regard to Caroline’s case. As Feminists and Anti-Fascists we stand in solidarity with Caroline and all victims of domestic violence. We believe the only way the left will build an effective movement against Fascism and the Far-Right is if we properly engage with the issue of domestic violence and abuse instead of dismissing it, and recognise crucially that abusers in workers’ organisations should be dealt with appropriately, not shielded from the consequences of their actions.