Stonewall rejects allegations from Ben Summerskill that chair of board was sacked

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Stonewall has denied accusations by its former chief executive Ben Summerskill that Jacqueline Davies’ departure as chair of the board was a result of being pushed from the role – and he says it was “a little bit impolite” that he was not invited to the charity’s Equality Dinner.

He made the allegation about Ms Davies in a series of tweets last Thursday evening as Stonewall’s Equality Dinner was taking place at the Dorchester Hotel in central London.

Mr Summerskill said that Ms Davies had been “let go” by the board. The day before the event he tweeted: “Sorry that trustees didn’t want to keep you on Jackie but good governance more important than individuals.”

He also claimed her time on the board had been “eventful”.

Mr Summerskill, who resigned as the chief executive of Stonewall last month, appeared disappointment at not attending the Equality Dinner.

He joked about his predicament in tweets to a range of celebrities and Stonewall supporters who were at the Equality Dinner, telling Conservative MP Margot James that Stonewall’s Acting Chief Executive Ruth Hunt had insisted that he was not present at the event.

Last Friday, the former chair of the board of Stonewall and one of the charity’s co-founders, Labour MEP Michael Cashman, said he was dismayed by Mr Summerskill’s behaviour on Twitter.

Mr Cashman said Mr Summerskill should feel no ill feeling regarding his absence from the Equality Dinner.

It was normal practice of an organisation to separate itself from a former chief executive, “because the acting chief executive or the new chief executive needs to occupy the space – otherwise there is confusion about who is speaking for the organisation,” the MEP said.

Mr Cashman added: “There were many years when me and other co-founders were not invited under Ben Summerskill’s tenureship to the Stonewall Diners – and it doesn’t matter you know”.

Speaking to on Monday, Stonewall said that none of the charity’s former chief executives, including ex-director Angela Mason, had been invited to the event.

Stonewall completely refuted the allegations made by Mr Summerskill against Jacqueline Davies, saying simply that her post on the board was term limited.

The charity also said it was not true that Acting Chief Executive Ruth Hunt would have banned Mr Summerskill’s presence from the Equality Dinner.

A Stonewall spokesman said to “Jacqueline has had a fantastic nine years on Stonewall’s Board and, as with all trustees, is limited to how long she can serve. For that reason her term has now come to an end.

“The Equality Dinner is Stonewall’s most important fundraiser with the overwhelming majority of places being taken by individual supporters or organisations. No former chief executive was invited to the dinner as a guest of Stonewall.”

Mr Summerskill has declined requests to speak to PinkNews, opting instead to express his views on Twitter.

He first claimed that the story was “made up”, despite it consisting primarily of his own tweets.

He has now incorrectly claimed to have not been contacted by PinkNews, prior to publication on Friday’s story.

Mr Summerskill told Civil Society on Monday that he thought it was “a little bit impolite” that he was not invited to the Equality Dinner just four weeks after leaving Stonewall as chief executive but insisted that his tweets were not disparaging about the charity or its personnel. The tweet to Aviva was a joke, he said, and was taken as such by Aviva’s brand director who called him later in the week to arrange dinner.

Mr Summerskill also said PinkNews’ story about his tweets “were a pile of rubbish”, and that PinkNews has a “long history of a vendetta against Stonewall”, he said.

In a statement, PinkNews said: “Ben Summerskill was contacted by multiple members of the PinkNews team throughout Friday and he did not have the courtesy of returning our calls. Instead, he went to Twitter to inaccurately and misleadingly claim that our story consisting primarily of his own tweets was ‘made up’.”

PinkNews said it has no vendetta, in a statement it said: “Since he has departed the organisation, we can report that we are on extremely good terms with its acting chief executive and chair and look forward to working together with Stonewall on projects to benefit the community as a whole.”