On 19/06/20 the Guardian published an article about a comprehensive internal review of the failures of Labour’s 2019 election campaign:
This report was commissioned by a group of Labour politicians called Labour Together. Their mission statement makes it clear they are attempting to reconcile the internal divisions of the Labour Party to improve chances of winning back voters the previous leadership is blamed for losing. To do this Labour Together argues for unity rather than factionalism:
The challenges we face are so complex that it will take the best of all the Labour traditions to build a coalition for change.
Beyond faction and personality, what we need is a new approach to politics.
Not a Labour populism but a new political culture that rips up the rule book and requires all of us to behave differently.
This can be built on Labour’s values of tolerance, fraternity and respect, and will help Labour achieve our purpose of a more just world. It is Labour’s responsibility to bring the country back together, but first we must bring Labour together.
The project lists “some of the MPs who are helping to co-ordinate our projects” as: Jon Cruddas, Lisa Nandy, Steve Reed, Shabana Mahmood, Jim McMahon, Bridget Phillipson, Wes Streeting, Marsha de Cordova, Alex Norris, Thangam Debbonaire, Darren Jones, Holly Lynch, James Frith, David Lammy and Jack Dromey.”
Does the track record of the above MPs suggest that “togetherness” has always been on their agenda?
A Little Bit of Digging…
“We’re inviting Labour members and supporters of every tradition to build a new political culture which can prepare the country for the next century and to shape it for everyone” state Labour Together.
So let’s look at those Party representatives and see what separate Labour traditions can be identified.
As a very crude metric we will identify those who were generally supportive of/ willing to work with Jeremy Corbyn as on the Left of the party, and those opposed to Corbyn/ actively sought his replacement rather than continue to work under his leadership as to the right/ centre of the party.
Jon Cruddas MP– After initially supporting Corbyn’s leadership campaign he then supported Owen Smith’s challenge for leadership in 2016. Associated with centre-left think tank Compass and the Blue Labour group.
Lisa Nandy MP– Resigned her position as Shadow Energy Secretary to support Owen Smith’s leadership bid in 2016.
Steve Reed MP– Resigned as Shadow Minister for Local Government in objection to Corbyn’s leadership and supported Owen Smith.
Shabana Mahmood– Left her position as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury due to opposition to Corbyn leadership and supported Owen Smith.
Jim McMahon– Supported Owen Smith in bid to replace Corbyn as leader of Labour Party.
Wes Streeting MP– Self-described long-time critic of Corbyn and supporter of Owen Smith leadership campaign.
Bridget Phillipson MP– Voted for Yvette Cooper and then Owen Smith in their unsuccessful campaigns to be leader of Labour Party, against Jeremy Corbyn.
James Frith– Unknown faction within Labour during his tenure.
Lucy Powell– Resigned from position in opposition to Corbyn leadership and supported Owen Smith.
Marsha de Cordova MP– Unknown faction within Labour Party. Did not openly support Owen Smith.
Alex Norris MP– Unknown faction within Labour. Did not openly support Owen Smith.
Thangam Debbonaire MP– Resigned in protest against Corbyn leadership and supported Owen Smith.
Darren Jones MP– Unknown faction within Labour Party.
Holly Lynch MP– Supported Owen Smith in his leadership campaign against Jeremy Corbyn.
David Lammy MP– NOMINATED Corbyn for leader, did not openly support Owen Smith’s campaign for leadership. Unknown faction.
Jack Dromey MP– Supported Owen Smith in 2016 leadership campaign against Jeremy Corbyn.
It appears that the identified members of Labour Together are overwhelmingly, almost unanimously, from one faction of the Labour Party. Can this be considered an inclusive and unifying movement when there appears to be almost no representation of those who supported, and still support, Jeremy Corbyn?
The Guardian article is also notable for a complete lack of critical analysis of Labour Together. The article ends with this quote from an unidentified Labour spokesman:
We thank everyone who contributed to this independent report. Its attempt to understand the challenges and opportunities facing the Labour party is welcome and we will read it carefully. By harnessing our collective skills and energy we will build a party and a movement that wins again.
The article does not delve into or highlight the complete lack of independence, from what we can see, in the membership of this group or their agenda.
This continues the trend in the media of undermining Corbyn and his leadership and overlooking his popularity with Labour voters in favour of his unpopularity with Labour MPs – a campaign in which the Guardian were front and centre (and that we have previously documented here).
On April 12th 2020 anthropologist and social commentator David Graeber tweeted:
‘In Aug 2019 I tried repeatedly to get a piece in the Guardian suggesting anti-Corbyn saboteurs in the LP [Labour Party] were fanning the flames & doing so was itself #antisemitism. Editor told me explicitly I would NOT be allowed to criticise Corbyn’s critics motives’
It’s not as if the motives of Corbyn’s critics have ever been difficult to detect. Media Lens published an extensive piece on a leaked internal Labour report which revealed the extent of internal plotting against Corbyn was such that “senior Labour figures were actively trying to stop Labour winning the (2017) general election in order to oust Corbyn as party leader”.
Stand out quotes, picked out by Media Lens, include the group referring to Corbyn’s ex-chief of staff Karie Murphy as “bitch face cow” that would “make a good dartboard” and their hope that a young pro-Corbyn activist “dies in a fire”
Most mass media outlets covered the story, but two surprising motifs emerged: the notion that the report was “a last-minute bid to “smear whistleblowers” and “discredit allegations” of antisemitism in the Labour Party” and that the leak itself was the story.
We can only speculate on how the media would have covered the story were a report leaked during Corbyn’s reign that included quotes from officials wishing his opponents would “die in a fire.” We can do more than speculate on how the media would have reacted to the socialist faction of the Labour Party, with Corbyn in charge, seeking to create unification along the lines suggested by Labour Together.
It would have been described as “a purge”, with columnists like Rachel Sylvester (as per the image above) ranting and raving about intolerance, a coup d’etat, Stalinism, etc.
There can be no clearer window into the fact that the media are controlled and fuelled by capital (as per the propaganda model) than the blatant double standards applied in treatment of Corbyn, whose redistributive policies threaten wealth, and current Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who columnists openly applaud for taking the party back to the centre.
Most (if not all) of the signatories of Labour Together were actively involved in the attempt to replace Corbyn as leader in 2016. The fact that those now calling for unity across divided factions are actually members of a unified faction, effectively demanding dissenters fall into line, is critical context to this story. That the “Voice of the Left”, the Guardian, neglects to highlight this is a failure of basic journalistic principles consistent with the appalling media treatment of Jeremy Corbyn and the socialist wing of Labour over the past five years.