The Labour Party Machine versus Corbyn

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2084 ... May 9, 2020
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The Labour Party Machine versus Corbyn

Leo Panitch and Colin Leys

In our new book Searching for Socialism, we noted the way the party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, and his staff were involved in exploring the possibility of preventing Jeremy Corbyn from contesting the second leadership election in 2016, and we speculated that Labour might have won the 2017 election if McNicol’s officials had not withheld election funds from seats that the party came very close to winning. The recently leaked internal report on party officials’ handling of antisemitism complaints goes a long way to support this view.

It shows that some key senior officials were bitterly opposed to the leader and were concerned above all to defend the seats of Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn -- seats which, in fact, proved to be very safe, thanks to the electoral surge Corbyn’s leadership inspired -- and to withhold support for candidates they saw as supportive of him, in seats which could have been won. They expected the party to lose, and hoped it would... lose so badly that Corbyn would have to resign.

As John McDonnell has noted, as few as 2,500 more votes across just seven marginal constituencies, votes which might have been won if more resources had been devoted to them, could have put Corbyn, rather than Theresa May, in a position to form a minority government -- a government which would surely have used the next two years to set about rebuilding the National Health Service (NHS), well before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. It would also have had a good chance of negotiating a Brexit deal by the 2019 deadline, and preventing the democratic vision of the 2017 manifesto being buried by the Brexit exhaustion which resulted from the intransigence of the Tory hard right.

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