Nick Buckley was sacked in July 2020 as the head of the charity Mancunian Way, after describing BLM as “post-modern, neo-Marxists” who were “call[ing] for the destruction of Western Democracy and our way of life”. He was later restored to his job after support from the Free Speech Union.
Unless you are willing to pay more for extra online storage than I am then you need to occasionally purge your inbox and sent items. Recently, I spent some time deleting old emails therefore, and not even just ones no right-thinking person should ever have sent or received. The subject title of one I stumbled upon made my heart sink: Petition To Remove Nick Buckley CEO. All the old feelings I’ve wrestled with for the past year returned in an instant. It was from the person who set up the online petition demanding my sacking. It was to one of the charity’s trustees who had been acting as CEO since my dismissal. Which was a good job to have at £1000 a week with no experience required.
The email was light-hearted and a very cheerful exchange. It was not their first communique. The email asked for written confirmation on letter-headed paper that I had been sacked: the announcement on social media was apparently not proof enough. I suspect they wanted to use it as a PR opportunity. They attached an example of the wording they wanted. It was a real example from another company that had recently sacked an employee. However flippant the tone, this – getting rid of my entirely unacceptable self – remained fundamentally a very serious business.
The friendly, matey tone of the message hurt. How could it not? I have never really understood the betrayal of the trustees whom I had called friends. This still upsets me. Not the idiots who demanded my head on the basis of yet one more social-media-fuss-of-the-day, but the friends who had known me for years who handed it to them. How could they destroy me while at the same time joke about hot chocolate and marshmallows? Did my friendship ever mean anything? Friendships of fifteen years, nine years and six years, and all counting for nothing in the wake of a twitterstorm. I hope one day I am offered an explanation and an insight into their thinking. I opened the attachment to see the wording of the statement they wanted. It was a simple statement. It stated that an employee (me) had posted something on their personal social media and now did not work for the company. Followed by a solemn statement as to their commitment to diversity. It was pathetic. An appeal to the God Of Woke to be passed over.
I clicked the next attachment to see what it contained. I froze. It was a list of names and geographical locations of everyone who had signed the online petition to have me sacked in June 2020. I moved the cursor to the close button. No good would come from looking at the names of the people who tried to destroy my life but curiosity got the better of me. Again, how could it not? What would you have done if you had had such a document in front of you? A denunciation designed to ruin your life, detailed down to a ward level. I am human. I am flawed. I started to scroll through and names I recognised popped up on the screen. The list had been downloaded from change.org, on a template to show how much support the petition had gained. The only good news was not one person I would call a friend signed the petition. But people I knew had.
The charity had fallen into disarray in the five weeks I was missing. When I came back I had make immediate cost savings
Several years ago, the then Chair of my charity introduced me to one of his friends who needed advice on a career change. He wanted to move back into the charity sector away from a job he hated. He had previously been involved with a large Manchester charity as a trustee and I spent an evening in a pub with him discussing ideas and going through his options. Over several months he realised he didn’t have the experience to move careers without taking a salary hit. I offered him a position on the board of my charity to help him gain more experience and hopefully act as a springboard into a new career. He was not a trustee for long. Halfway down the list, I found his name.
What sort of person calls for another to be sacked, I wondered? Such a total and complete solution to what was surely always going to be a partial problem at most. Where is the compassion, the tolerance and the understanding from the people who default sentence is employment death for all alleged offences? Naturally these people believe that they are morally superior and can pass judgement. For only they have the intelligence and understanding. They instinctively know who should be dispatched to social Siberia. Yet as my and so many other cases amply demonstrate, their tolerance and compassion have the stench of fear and servitude.
The stranger, the friend of a friend having his name on the list was no real concern to me. But had my mum signed it? A surname caught my eye. I stopped scrolling and backed-up. I saw someone I’d met but continued scrolling. The same surname appeared again. Siblings. I had met both. We were not friends, but our lives were connected. I had been their mother’s employer on more than one occasion.
The charity had fallen into disarray in the five weeks I was missing. When I came back I had to put in place immediate cost savings. A few staff were made redundant. One of the causalities of this episode was these signatories’ mother. Their mum lost her job. Her adult children had got their initial, cost free, o so easy to sign online, wish: I was sacked. But an unintended consequence of their action then touched their own lives two months later.
How do you mentally get to a place where you call for the sacking of someone you don’t know? Let alone of a man who you did know, who gave you his time to help you explore a new potential career. A man who welcomed you into his charity to give you new skills and experience.
How do you mentally get to a place where you call for the sacking of someone you don’t know?
What have we become? What’s the road we have followed where so many of us are willing not only to see people out in the stocks, but to chuck as much rotten fruit at them as they can? Except it’s not even momentary humiliation, it’s lives ruined, careers destroyed, things wrecked, and all because some people are frightened of other people sounding off online. Gratitude, decency, nuance, respect: these are the things which should make up real life, between friends, families and at work. But what do we get from the online furies? Just a childish belief that life comes down to cartoonish good and evil. It’s easy to be outraged and resort to pack mentality. Not least because there’s no need for personal responsibility then: just let the pack do what it will.
It doesn’t have to be like this of course. Disagreement does not have to lead to betrayal, or even just to rejection and denunciation. My heart sagged at what I read in my emails, I can hardly deny that. But just as a real life is more complicated, and less in need of audience participation than panto villains are, so too am I. So too are you. If my experience is worth anything to anyone else, it’s just this: stand up to your bullies, for if you don’t, no one else will. But if you do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the courage that spreads infectiously. There are better people out there than you know.
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