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UK Labour – the leaked report

Written By: - Date published: 1:35 pm, May 7th, 2020 - 27 comments
Categories: Jeremy Corbyn, labour, political parties, politicans, Politics, uk politics - Tags: , , , , , ,

Originally posted on Nick Kelly’s blog

In the middle of a global pandemic, it seems almost trivial to be writing about internal disputes within the UK Labour Party. Certainly, the UK media seem to have taken this view towards the recently leaked report. I’m sure, this is the only reason the media have paid it so little attention.

The leaked Labour report exposed a cache of WhatsApp messages from the Labour HQ from 2014 to 2019. These leaked WhatApp messages expose that senior party staff undermined the Party’s 2017 election campaign and delayed investigation into antisemitism to maximise political damage to Jeremy Corbyn.

The leaked report is over 800 pages long and names a number of individuals. Like many who follow politics, I have seen this report.  I will not be sharing it or naming individuals. I will surmise, however, that many of the ‘senior officials’ named were also rumoured to be front runners to be the new UK Labour Party General Secretary or to fill other roles in the party under its new leadership. This possibly explains the timing of the leak and the motivation behind it. This is just my speculation.

The leaked draft report essentially said that UK Labour’s ability to deal with the antisemitism issue was “an abnormal intensity of factional opposition to the party leader” which had “inhibited the proper function of the Labour party bureaucracy.” In other words, for the party apparatchik undermining Jeremy Corbyn was a higher priority than stopping racism.

The many transcripts show that while there were many antisemitism complaints in 2019, the majority of these were from one individual and upon investigation, these were dropped due to lack of substance. Many of the earlier antisemitism investigations were delayed, by senior Party HQ officials and not by the Corbyn or his team. The report also makes it clear that these senior Party HQ officials were working very closely with Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who was very outspoken in the media about Labour’s handling of antisemitism. It is likely he a) knew or had some idea that early antisemitism complaints had been delayed by his friends in Party HQ, rather than Corbyn’s office and b) that the many complaints in 2019 were originating from one vexatious litigant in the party rather than there being hundreds of genuine complaints.

Opposition to the Corbyn project by party HQ was at fever pitch. The leaked WhatsApp messages show that these senior officials became despondent when Labour’s support increased during the 2017 General Election. These texts confirm that party funds were funnelled to their friends and allies in safe seats, specifically Tom Watson. For candidates in marginal constituencies who were seen as too supportive of the Corbyn project, Party HQ starved these campaigns of resources. These officials even joke about the fact that they were doing little work during the campaign in their WhatsApp group.

In July 2019 BBC current affairs show Panorama did a report on antisemitism in Labour. Ironically many of the whistleblowers from this Panorama documentary were the people named in this leaked Labour report as having frustrated antisemitism investigations. Were it not for COVID-19, we can be sure the BBC would ensure this was properly reported on to ensure a balanced and factual news service had been provided. Or maybe not?

Former Labour MP for Kensington Emma Dent Coad responded that she was both furious and vindicated by the leaked report. On being elected the MP for Kensington, officials in Party HQ were both surprised and annoyed, describing her as a ‘Grade 1 tool’. In the 2017 election, Emma thought Labour HQ had failed to provide help with her campaign because the Party thought it so unlikely she would win. But even in the last three weeks, when it was clear Labour had a chance in Kensington, there was still no assistance from the Party at all. This lack of support from the Party continued after the election when the Grenfell Fire happened in her constituency. Despite desperately needing support with casework, Party HQ failed to step up.

On the release of this leaked report, current Mayor of Manchester and rival Labour leadership contender in the 2015 leadership election Andy Burnham sent out the following tweet:

A Burnham

Burnham is a moderate, on the centre-left of UK Labour. His politics would fit very comfortably with the moderate wing of the German Christian Democrats who are the main conservative party in German politics. That he felt that the party machine was undermining him when trying to push for pro-NHS or social care policies is astounding. Burnham came second to Corbyn in the 2015 Labour leadership election. Senior officials in Party HQ were still aligned to the policies and politics of Labour under Blair. By 2015 these politics were sidelined and candidates running on these platforms did very poorly. The Party HQ apparatchik could not win an open policy debate as party members and the public was tiring of austerity or austerity lite. So instead they used bureaucracy to undermine those pushing progressive politics.

Newly-elected Labour leader Kier Starmer and Deputy Angela Raynor have announced there will be an investigation into this leak and the issues raised. Whether this investigation focuses more on the leak than on the issues the report raises is yet to be seen. The former UK Labour General Secretary has stood down from his position in the Labour Lords front bench pending this investigation.

The implications of this leak for Labour, and specifically for the new leader are significant. Whilst during the global pandemic the media not have given this much attention, party members and supporters have noticed. And people in politics have long memories.

There will be immediate repercussions from this leak. One Labour councillor is demanding a refund of her membership fees due to the Party misusing funds and sabotaging the 2017 election campaign. Many of those named in the leaked report could also take legal action against Labour, thus the party are actively trying to stop people now sharing this document.

In a candid interview to Sky News, former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said those former employees from Party HQ who undermined Labour’s 2017 election campaign and failed to act on antisemitism complaints should be expelled from the Party:

McDonell also highlights some of the appalling things said about party members and MPs by these senior officials in Party HQ. Below is one example of a conversation Party officials had on WhatsApp when they found MP Diane Abbott crying in the toilets:

image (1)

For Corbyn supporters, the leaked report is a big case of “I told you so.” And yes, those aligned to Corbyn/Momentum have been saying for the last 2-3 years that the right of the Labour Party was using antisemitism as a tool to undermine Corbyn. They also realised that Party HQ was not committed to getting Labour elected in 2017. Now they have 800 pages worth of nasty, unpleasant and downright revolting WhatApp messages to prove them right. But none of this really helps them.

This article by Michael Chessum highlights the problem the left face now. Having more than doubled Labour’s membership after Corbyn was elected leader, having come within a stone’s throw of government in 2017, now the mood on the left is despondency. Many of those who joined Labour in the last 5 years are now threatening to leave the party.

I covered many of the issues facing Labour in my Why Labour Lost blog posts earlier this year. Corbyn was from the small group of socialist MPs in Labour with a handful of support in the wider party. He and this group were able to win the Party leadership in 2015 when the other party factions were bereft of ideas or vision. However, the socialists were not expecting to win. And having spent their careers championing policy positions and causes, and were not ready to challenge the party bureaucracy, rules and structures. Momentum was established to try and overcome this challenge, which despite some early successes ultimately failed.

Conversely, the right could not win in a competition of ideas, especially not on policy big picture vision. The game they knew best was using the machine to frustrate your opponents. This works as a defensive strategy to keep and protect your people in their positions of power and to stop your opponents succeeding. But you can’t win this way. Kier Starmer, despite not being from the Momentum wing of the party, has said he will stick to the anti-austerity policy positions adopted under Corbyn. These are the same positions party HQ tried to frustrate not only under Corbyn, but earlier when Burnham was advocating them.

The challenge for Labour after this leaked report is significant. Keir Starmer’s calls to end factionalism may be well-intended but are unlikely to be successful. At a time when the UK has the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe, Labour is yet again consumed in internal warfare. To potential voters and the public at large, even if they agree with Labour’s policies or positions, the party looks too fractured to provide a viable alternative Government. For the party to change this, it can’t ignore the issues from the leaked report. Instead, it needs to face them head-on. This means calling out and taking action against behaviours and actions that are wrong, even if they are from people from the faction or side of the Party the current leadership supports.

My series of blog posts on why UK Labour lost the 2019 General Election:

Why UK Labour Lost? Part 1: Historical Context

Why UK Labour lost? Part 2: UK Labour’s strange loyalty to First Past the Post

Why UK Labour lost? Part 3: Its Brexit Innit

Why UK Labour lost? Part 4: Oooo Jeremy Corbyn

Why UK Labour lost? Part 5: Antisemitism

Why UK Labour lost? Part 6: New Labour and Blairism

Why UK Labour lost? Part 7: Momentum and the Corbynistas

Why UK Labour lost? Part 8: what it takes to win?

Why Labour Lost? Part 9: What the party needs to do now.

27 comments on “UK Labour – the leaked report”

  1. ianmac 1

    Why would a prominent party set out to loose an election? Bizarre and reprehensible. Thanks Nick for a sad but honest presentation.

    • adam 1.1

      Really ianmac, really. Come one, liberals are not going to let a social democrats win an election. Never going to happen why they got the upper hand. Liberals would rather have the conservatives win in any country and keep the liberal economic order in place – than let social democrat or God Forbid, anti-capitalist force take the reigns of power.

      Did you miss the whole David Cunliffe undermining and discrediting? And he was a pretty soft social democrat.

  2. Gabby 2

    If Starmer is beholden to the conniving little shits, they won't be going anywhere.

  3. Dennis Frank 3

    "These texts confirm that party funds were funnelled to their friends and allies in safe seats, specifically Tom Watson. For candidates in marginal constituencies who were seen as too supportive of the Corbyn project, Party HQ starved these campaigns of resources."

    So Corbyn was up against the enemy within from the outset. Yet I'm unclear as to whether the enemy within Labour are residual Blairites, and Starmer is their man.

    "Newly-elected Labour Leader Kier Starmer and Deputy Angela Raynor have announced there will be an investigation into this leak and the issues raised." Perhaps they intend a whitewash?

    Expel the apparatchiks, says former shadow chancellor MacDonnell. And there's a revealing "conversation party officials had on WhatApp when they found MP Dianne Abbott crying in the toilets" which the report features an excerpt from. To the suggestion of one that they inform a Channel Four reporter another replies "already have". Tawdry for starters. Venal. What happens when the enemy within looms larger in the psyche as opponent than the overt enemy. Covert response.

    "Having more than doubled Labour’s membership after Corbyn was elected leader, having come within a stone’s throw of Government in 2017, now the mood on the left is despondency. Many of those who joined Labour in the last 5 years are now threatening to leave the party."

    Not the apparatchiks. Losers can jump ship, they can sail on unimpeded. So "the socialists were not expecting to win. And having spent their careers championing policy positions and causes, and were not ready to challenge the party bureaucracy, rules and structures. Momentum was established to try and overcome this challenge, which despite some early successes ultimately failed."

    Bursting the socialist bubble exposes the lack of substance in naive retro idealism, but I doubt the left will learn from experience. That's ever so hard for them…

  4. Anne 4

    For the party to change this, it can’t ignore the issues from the leaked report. Instead, it needs to face them head-on. This means calling out and taking action against behaviours and actions that are wrong, even if they are from people from the faction or side of the Party the current leadership supports.

    Absolutely! But when push comes to shove… left of centre parties seem unable to muster the gumption to do it. I understand you not "naming names" Nick Kelly, but ultimately those names need to be front and centre of the public discourse. One of the reasons these types get away with this behaviour is because they are bullies by nature and people are frightened of them.

    On the one hand they encouraged a vexatious and malicious anti-semitic campaign against Jeremy Corbyn to fester and multiply… and at the same time they were carrying out a deplorable racist and sexist campaign against Diane Abbott.

    Sheesh. What arseholes.

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    “Told you so”–understatement of the last 3 years for vindicated Corbyn supporters.

    Conflating solidarity with Palestinians with anti semitism, is one of the biggest ideological successes of the filthy Israeli State and Military in recent times, and now it seems UK Labour, or an influential faction at least, has joined that motley crew.

    Jeremy was not enough of a plotter and schemer when it came down to it, not a “hard man” like the rats that undermined him. He needed to deselect MPs and sack en masse. And the Brexit strategic stalemate–Labour should have said “we will respect the referendum result, and, overturn austerity” but hey, it is history now. It is up to the working class to do something, or not, about this rotten party in the post Covid fall out.

    • Pat 5.1

      Suspect Corbyn naively trusted in truth…..has undone many.

      • Anne 5.1.1

        ….. naively trusted in truth… has undone many.

        A truer word hath never been spoke.

        The more honest and decent a person is, the more likely he/she will be betrayed and vilified. Human nature at work and its just as rife in NZ as anywhere else.

      • newsense 5.1.2

        Well then he failed miserably. He's a politician who was aiming to be PM.

        Communication and organisation, and being a step ahead, all things that ally greatly with the truth.

        It might have been an impossible job, but some great work was squandered.

        • Pat 5.1.2.1

          Yes, Labour (UK) squandered the opportunity but whose was the failure?

  6. Andrew 6

    This much like the lurid tabloid headlines is a godsend for Corbyn’s deluded supporters, as it allows them to continue the fantasy in the face of any and all evidence that the reason the Sainted Jeremy didn’t become PM was betrayal by ‘Blairites’ and ‘Centerists’ (two of the most meaningless group labels imaginable), and a campaign by the meeja.
    The reality of course as it would be obvious to any who’s met him and not drunk the koolaid was there was never any chance of the British electorate ever allowing someone so incompetent and morally compromised to become PM.
    The tabloid headlines allowed people to dismiss his appalling views and even worse associations as ‘smears’ despite in virtually every case the issue was originally raised by serious and decent people on the left. Most of the most serious accusations can be back up with robust evidence, but depressingly it was obvious long ago his supporters had left reason behind.
    The other major point is the utter contempt in which you have to hold so many traditional Labour supporters to not see that they could spot someone utterly antithetical to their values.
    You can’t listen to scores of people in the north saying with real sadness that they didn’t trust Johnson, were life long Labour voters but couldn’t vote Labour with him and his cronies in charge, and not be beyond livid with those who allowed it to happen. You also can’t begin to take serious people on the other side of the world trotting out predictable tropes about things they know little as it’s easier than questioning a narrowly drawn reactionary ideological perspective.

    Thank Christ such people in NZ are an utter irrelevance. I just feel for friends & family in the UK stuck with the Tories for the foreseeable future.

    • Anne 6.1

      Oh look! Just seen Andrew's diatribe. He's proved my point.cheeky

      • Wayne 6.1.1

        Anne,

        I think Andrew would be of the view that your response proved his point.

        • Anne 6.1.1.1

          Well, if you think that Wayne then I can only say you are as uninformed and silly as he is which comes as a surprise. I always gave you credit for reasonable if somewhat conservative thought and sometimes agreed with your synopsis.

      • Andrew 6.1.2

        I’d be happy to walk you through any of the allegations if I thought there was the slimmest of chances ANYTHING could alter your view point.
        You could for instance start by explaining why the Sainted Jeremy chose to share a platform and openly praise as a man of principle, to thank him for everything he’d done in the past and in the future (the video is on YouTube) one Wayman Bennett who it’s common knowledge (reports in the New Statesman, Guardian, write ups by the like of Laurie Penny) was part of the cover up over the ‘Comrade Delta’ rape allegations and who was accused (it’s in the Guardian if you care to look) of threatening the alleged victim to drop the matter.
        None of this is obscure, all of it on public record, it was a huge scandal on the British left, yet Corbyn was happy to carry on like nothing had occurred.
        What would you make of a right wing politician sharing a platform and praising a senior leader of a far right party who membership had been decimated by the fact the party leadership had covered up rape allegations?
        Yeah, tell me again about Corbyn’s decency.

        • Tricledrown 6.1.2.1

          Boris’s;s wife bashing wasn't an issue at the election nor the Russian funding of the leave campaign.

          Andrew politics is dirty business .

          No one Party or leader has a Moral high ground.

          Labour lost because the Northern economically deprived people (normally Labour supporters )wanted to leave the EU to stop migrants taking theirs jobs real or perceived.

          Corbyn sat on the Fence.

          Boris was clear.

          End of Story

    • Morrissey 6.2

      by ‘Blairites’ and ‘Centerists’ [sic] (two of the most meaningless group labels imaginable)

      Identifying the right wing of a party by the ideology of the man who led that party for more than a decade is not meaningless; it's precise and quite specific.

      his appalling views and even worse associations

      Of course, you will now provide us with some evidence to back up what you claim. Your conspiratorial nonsense about Wayman Bennett is not evidence.

  7. RedLogix 7

    Somewhat OT. but related to the UKLP:

    • Stunned Mullet 7.1

      Daft comparisons are daft … who would've thought.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 7.1.1

        Are both PMs daft, SM – both 'bad eggs'? One's certainly looking a little 'scambled' wink

    • newsense 7.2

      Have I got News for You still looking down at the US is unbelievable.

  8. newsense 8

    When the right, the press, most of the Beeb, the centre and much of the left of centre were more focused on Corbyn than anything else…

    The Lib Dems were basically Boris' attack dogs.

    In NZ we had a coalition of left, liberal and nationalist against neo-liberal and neo-con. Okay and some of the coalition were neo-liberal, but keeping very quiet.

    There's the difference.

  9. newsense 9

    deliberately tagged this post kier?

  10. Tricledrown 10

    The Labour Party UK has always been dysfunctional largely airing its dirty linen in public.

    NZ Labour has a similar history.

    National used to be able to keep a lid on Egos and in fighting but in more recent years has the same problems.

  11. Barfly 11

    So many comments about the last election …but 2017 was so close…was Labour denied only by treachery? Quite possibly..what will happen to the traitors…prediction….didly squat frankly they deserve a true"Wolfie Smith"send off…give me a ticket I d pull the trigger

  12. SDCLFC 12

    The left in this country pays far too much attention to what goes on with the UK Labour party – arguing the merits of, rights or wrongs for or against this group, the result of this election etc.
    For one, the political system there is so broken.

    But mainly, to find excuses for this side or that side because of what they did or didn't do.

    How can the UK Labour party justify anything about itself when they performed so strongly in London and lost so much of the north of England.

    Where is the next Harold Wilson?

    Show how you are going to help people who need change, find that change, and then you have something to offer.

    UK politics is a joke and there is nothing there for us in NZ

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