Leaks show how Labour sabotaged Corbyn

Iain McNicol and Jennie Formby, the two general secretaries that presided during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader. McNicol oversaw a “hyper-factional atmosphere” against Corbyn at party headquarters, while Formby’s staff boasted of disciplining more members than ever before.

Stefan Rousseau ZUMA Press

A leaked internal report shows that the UK Labour Party’s bureaucrats conspired to undermine their own leader Jeremy Corbyn from the start, even sabotaging the 2017 general election campaign.

It also reveals how Labour’s left-wing leaders came to embrace the right’s witch hunt against members over the manufactured anti-Semitism crisis.

The document shows that right-wingers at Labour headquarters, led by former general secretary Iain McNicol, orchestrated “a hyper-factional atmosphere” against Corbyn.

The report describes a “purge” of Corbyn-supporting party members.

You can read pages from the leaked document below.

Keir Starmer, Labour’s new right-wing leader, on Tuesday announced an investigation into who leaked the document.

“The content and the release of the report into the public domain raise a number of matters of serious concern,” he said.

From the moment Corbyn first won the leadership in 2015, the report shows, left-wing members were obsessively demonized as “Trots” – slang for a faction of communists. Many were expelled or suspended on flimsy pretexts – including false accusations of anti-Semitism.

One senior Labour Press officer privately described Corbyn as “that fucking Trot” and said that some MPs who nominated him for leader deserved “to be taken out and shot.”

A Labour staffer described the atmosphere at headquarters: “everyone else is much more right-wing” and considers anyone to the left of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown “to be a Trot.”

The internal sabotage of Corbyn included budgeting $280,000 for a “secret key seats” project allegedly intended to “funnel additional resources into seats of key figures on the right of the party.”

This confirms what The Electronic Intifada reported at the time: “Labour Party headquarters had funnelled campaign resources away from seats being contested by pro-Corbyn candidates and towards so-called ‘moderates.’”

“No evidence”

Pro-Israel figures were prominent among the party’s right-wing candidates – including Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement’s then chairs Joan Ryan and Jeremy Newmark.

The report does not mention these candidates by name, however.

Ryan worked to undermine Corbyn. Despite “misgivings about the Labour leadership,” Ryan wrote to her constituents, “I hope that you will consider voting for me as your local MP.”

Yet despite such efforts, Corbyn did much better than expected, giving Labour its best result for years and denying the ruling Conservative Party a majority.

The leak shows that one senior Labour staffer was furious at voters: “The people have spoken. Bastards.”

The leaked internal report concludes there was “no evidence” Labour staff have been motivated by anti-Semitism, or that complaints about anti-Semitism were treated differently from others.

But it also reveals the extent to which Corbyn and his supporter, party general secretary Jennie Formby, conceded ground to the Israel lobby and the false narrative of rampant Labour anti-Semitism.

After Corbyn, a lifelong Palestine solidarity campaigner, became leader in 2015, pro-Israel groups relentlessly attacked him and his supporters as anti-Semitic.

This defamation campaign ultimately succeeded. The “crisis” was a top focus during the 2019 general election, and polling showed that Corbyn’s mishandling of it was one of the top five reasons for voters not supporting Labour.

The Israel lobby declared victory, with one group claiming to have “slaughtered” Corbyn.

Israel lobby

Despite all this, and the misleading nature of most of these attacks, Corbyn, to his own ruin, embraced the very same groups that were promoting the “crisis” lies.

The report came to light on Sunday, in stories by Sky News and Novara Media.

The leaked document was also passed around among journalists and Labour members.

Jewish Labour Movement leaders Jeremy Newmark and Ella Rose posing with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev in October 2016. (Twitter)

In 851 pages of often tedious detail, the report examines the work of the party’s disciplinary unit around anti-Semitism between 2014 and 2019.

It was written as part of Labour’s response to the investigation of the party launched last May by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

But the document reportedly will not now be submitted to the body, after Keir Starmer took over as leader.

A Labour Party staffer told The Electronic Intifada that colleagues had “vanished for literally months on end” to work on the report. The source predicted that the new Labour leader would now use the leak to clean out the current Labour staff.

The Commission, the UK’s official anti-discrimination body, has come under criticism after launching its investigation into alleged anti-Semitism in Labour at the request of two pro-Israel groups – the Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism is the one that later claimed to have “slaughtered” Corbyn.

Labour’s internal pro-Israel lobby played a key role in keeping the crisis rumbling, as revealed in 2017 by Al Jazeera’s undercover film The Lobby.

But the leaked report shows the extent to which Corbyn and his team capitulated to the lobby’s demands, in the forlorn hope its campaign against him would stop.

The report repeatedly attacks some of Corbyn’s high-profile supporters, several pushed out of the party after being smeared as anti-Semites.

Smears

Those again smeared in the document include former London mayor Ken Livingstone, anti-racist activists Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth, left-wing former Labour lawmaker Chris Williamson, Jewish anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein and this writer.

Jackie Walker leading a protest against Labour Party expulsions in 2017.

Joel Goodman ZUMA Press

A farcical example of the document’s conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish racism comes in its section on me.

The authors claim that my accurate reporting of the fact that former lawmaker Louise Ellman was then a “Labour Friends of Israel officer” amounted to an anti-Semitic “trope.”

The report in most cases does not explain or offer evidence as to why the acts of these “high profile” individuals were supposedly anti-Semitic. It merely asserts that they are.

A “joint meeting”

Corbyn, Formby and their staff repeatedly intervened to speed up disciplinary action in some “high profile” cases of smeared activists – often at the insistence of the Jewish Labour Movement.

“After Jennie Formby was appointed general secretary in March 2018, action on anti-Semitism complaints increased dramatically,” the authors contend.

As The Electronic Intifada has reported for years, the Jewish Labour Movement has close ties to the Israeli embassy.

Founded in 2004, it was resurrected in 2015 specifically to fight Corbyn.

Corbyn and Formby’s commitment to obeying the dictates of the Israel lobby even extended to Labour Friends of Israel – which functions as a front for the Israeli embassy.

An April 2018 email from Corbyn shows he discussed setting up a “joint meeting” between Labour Friends of Palestine and Labour Friends of Israel to “agree on [a] two-state statement on Israel-Palestine.”

The report’s authors took the email as proof of Corbyn’s “desire for the party to lead on tackling anti-Semitism and racism.”

It is yet more evidence of Corbyn and Formby’s muddled and self-defeating approach that cosying up to the Israel lobby would help them fight the false allegations of anti-Jewish animus.

Labour factionalism and right-wing racism

The report appears to be an effort to exonerate the current Labour general secretary Jennie Formby and the cadre of bureaucrats around her, while attacking their internal enemies.

Former Labour staff Sam Matthews speaks on last year’s controversial episode of the BBC’s Panorama.

A main target is Sam Matthews, a former party bureaucrat.

Matthews and other right-wing Labour staffers eventually quit their jobs at party headquarters.

Matthews took part in last year’s hatchet job BBC Panorama “investigation” of Labour anti-Semitism claims.

He asserted in the film that he was “heartbroken and disgusted that the party I joined over a decade ago is now institutionally racist.”

But internal Labour Party emails and conversations in WhatsApp groups contained in the leaked report show that Matthews and other right-wing bureaucrats actively worked to sabotage Corbyn from the start.

Dan Hogan, another right-wing bureaucrat who appeared in the Panorama film as a “whistleblower,” had in September 2015 reacted with violent contempt to a visit by the party’s new leader to headquarters.

A staffer who “whooped” for Corbyn’s speech “should be shot,” wrote Hogan.

“Massive elephant in the room that we all kind of hate” Corbyn, a colleague responded.

Other staffers deployed anti-Black stereotypes against Diane Abbott, calling her an “angry woman” and “truly repulsive.”

The UK’s first Black female member of parliament, Abbott was one of Corbyn’s few supporters among Labour lawmakers.

Who wrote it?

The leaked document’s metadata suggests the report’s lead author was Harry Hayball, a current Labour Party staffer.

Written over several months following Labour’s defeat in December’s election, the report took a dozen staffers to prepare.

The leaked document’s metadata suggests that its lead author was Harry Hayball, a senior Labour Governance Officer who works solely on anti-Semitism.

Hayball was recruited by Labour in 2019 to exclusively work on anti-Semitism.

He previously worked on the same topic for Momentum, the Labour organization forged by Jon Lansman after the original Jeremy For Leader campaign.

As part of this work, Hayball met the Jewish Labour Movement and other groups to discuss “tackling anti-Semitism within the party and on the left,” the report states.

A second staffer recruited under Formby specifically to work on anti-Semitism was Patrick Smith.

Smith is a former organizer with the Alliance for Workers Liberty – a small Trotskyist sect particularly controversial on the British left due to its support for Zionism and Israel.

Smith quit the group in 2013, but still toed their line, describing Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists as “essentially mad.”

The report spins this history, claiming instead that Smith was “hired specifically because of his knowledge of anti-Semitism and the forms it takes on the left.”

“Smith had been a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, but he left the organization in 2008,” over alleged anti-Semitism, the report asserts.

Witch hunt against left

The document also alleges that right-wing Labour staffers’ obsession with purging “Trots” meant that they often missed or delayed work on the small number of credible complaints about anti-Semitism.

The authors suggest that some staffers may have “failed to act on extreme cases of anti-Semitism in order to undermine the Labour Party as led by Jeremy Corbyn.”

They also speculate that “staff were simply not motivated to deal with such cases properly, and that they were only motivated to work on things that contained a factional element.”

Despite these admissions of bias, the report ignores how many of the complaints involved politically motivated false charges echoing Israel lobby smears of the left and Palestine solidarity campaigners.

The authors even denounce reporting of how smears have been used against campaigners as anti-Semitism “denialism.”

Indeed, the authors enthusiastically contribute towards this smear campaign.

The leaked report states that former staffers neglected a complaint of alleged anti-Semitism against Labour members in the constituency Louise Ellman then represented in Parliament.

But they ignore how the allegations against the local party branch, Liverpool Riverside, were part of a political witch hunt against the left.

The Jewish Chronicle’s reporting of the alleged anti-Semitism in the constituency was ruled by the UK’s press regulator last year to be “significantly misleading.”

After a libel suit, the paper settled out of court with local activist Audrey White, admitting that it had published allegations about her that were “untrue.”

Tags

Comments

picture

I'm so glad this is coming out, it's a tragedy it couldn't have happened sooner but I agree that the victims capitulated when they should have fought, I understand whey they didn't but it destroyed all hope, when Chris Williamson was sacked I knew all hope was gone and left Labour.
I'm a middle aged mum of two and my experience of supporting Mr Corbyn was damaging to my health and wellbeing and if told in full would read like the ravings of a lunatic.

In brief I'm absolutely convinced that, after thousands of us were suspended from Labour on trumped up charges, by McNicol and co, in an effort to stop us voting for Mr Corbyn, our details were passed on to external groups and we were targeted across social media.

I was seemingly randomly singled out and persistently branded as antiSemitic by a group of people on Twitter, lead by a QC, who constantly photos hopped and misquoted my perfectly harmless tweets. In a kind of down-market version of the attack on the 16yr old Corbyn supporter by Rachel Riley, I was attacked and labelled "mad"by Al Murray! This kind of thing went on and on and I eventually had a social media breakdown and have been unable to use twitter and so on since. What was being done was so obvious that I couldn't believe people were falling for it but as we now have pantomime government I guess it was just a partof the way things are going.
It's desperately sad that Starmer is going to obliterate every hope we had of a true socialist party. Unfortunately now the media run the show for the elite and our chance of doing things fairly is lost, probably for another 40yrs. Its tragic but I'm grateful to Mr Winstanley for his detailed, honest analysis and pursuit of the truth; without people like him there will be no hope at all.

picture

The story from the comrade who has left Labour is tragic and unfortunately repeated across thousands of grassroots activists who came into the Party in response to the beacon of hope that was Corbyn and were abused by the malign bureaucracy of the Party. While many of us thought this was what the machine was like to have a huge volume of proof of the reactionary nature of the Party bureaucracy and above all its profound contempt for and fear of the membership. The most important two points to take from this for me are: Firstly the political inadequacy of Corbyn / McDonnell's politics - as reformists they were always seeking to concede to both the ruling class and its chosen right wing both MPs and bureaucrats rather than take them on. Taking them on requires the willingness to overthrow the system and its creatures - revolutionary politics. Secondly I don't think we have to wait 40 years for a move forwards to the left - the crisis of capitalism is still with us and intensified by the COVID19 hit to society and the economy. The thing we were missing above all in the Corbyn years was mass class battles against the employers and the state - we can look internationally and see these are growing and will erupt here. Finally the effect of this report is to destroy the credibility of the LP bureaucracy particularly in the eyes of its membership. I would urge all comrades to stay involved and in touch with their local networks of activists whether inside or outside of the LP and prepare for the battles to come.

picture

At its peak under Corbyn, Labour's membership was 600,000. Tens of thousands of them gave up hours to campaign. They were defeated by a cadre of Big Brother bureaucrats who do not believe in democracy. The scale of the betrayal is colossal, yet all Starmer can do is bleat about an inquiry into how it was leaked and why it was commissioned. Power in the Labour Party does not lie with the members, nor with MPs nor the leader but with the bureaucrats: unelected, self-appointed guardians of the politics of conformism. The highly-paid McNicol behaved as if the Party belonged to him, indeed as if democracy itself belonged to him and it was his right to close it down if it did not deliver what he wanted. The hope of millions has been crushed by a handful of corrupt, self-seeking, arrogant, entitled, staffers. It couldn't be more desperate and depressing. Corbyn needed only a few thousand votes in the most marginal seat in 2017 to prevent the Tories forming a government. Almost certainly McNicol and co deprived him of that fillip. Theirs is the boot stamping on the face of the poor. And now, the leadership has been bought by Trevor Chinn, multi-millionaire Zionist, who funded Starmer's campaign to the tune of £50,000. The same Chinn who on 15/2/2019 donated £5,000 to the Lib Dems. This is how our democracy works: the rich buy influence, the media support them and bureaucrats ensure the will of the voters is scuppered if it doesn't conform to what the rich and the media dictate. So what shall we do? We must double our efforts to reform this rotten system out of existence but we must put no faith in those who betray us. We must do it for ourselves. Our own leaflets, our own rallies, our own meetings, our own non-bureaucratic structures. We must build a grass roots movement they can't ignore and which makes clear we won't devote our energies to a politics of the status quo. Democratic equality is our creed and we will work for nothing less.

Add new comment

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.