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Thursday 11 August 2016

Corbyn v Watson - Sting In The Tail

There is no doubt that some out on the far left, from the part of the political spectrum so long ago abandoned by mainstream politics, are looking at today’s Labour Party and wondering how they might work their way back into its ranks. That would be the likes of the Militant Tendency, who were famously faced down and kicked out under Neil Kinnock’s leadership in the 1980. And thereby hangs the problem.
That should be borne in mind when reading the Guardian’s report tellingLabour’s civil war entered a bitter new phase with Jeremy Corbyn and his deputy Tom Watson locked in a public spat about whether the party risks being taken over by hard left activists driven out in the 1980s”. The familiar and worrying phrasing. And there was more.

Watson sent the leader’s office a four-page document, based on publicly available information, detailing what he said was evidence that Trotskyists had been attending meetings of grassroots pro-Corbyn Momentum pressure group and seeking to influence the Labour leadership election … He claimed some of the individuals involved were members of other parties, including the Socialist party, the successor to Militant”.
And more. “Watson’s letter was a riposte to the accusation made on Tuesday by Corbyn’s campaign that he was ‘peddling conspiracy theories’ after he said in a Guardian interview that Labour was at risk from ‘Trotskyist entryists’ … Watson wrote: ‘It’s not a conspiracy theory to say that members of these organisations are joining Labour. It’s a fact’”. But then came the push-back, accusing Watson of recycling old material.

Vox Political has chided Watson, telling himIt turns out you cribbed it all from the right-wing think tank Progress … They, in turn, cribbed it from a book by Michael Crick on 80s Labour infiltrators Militant … everyone can see you’ve taken the information from [the] Progress website. All they have to do is visit the page”. Not surprisingly, this riposte has been well circulated. But then has come the sting in the tail.
Michael Crick, scourge of politicians across the political spectrum (anyone remember his pursuit of seriously dodgy Tory Jeffrey Archer?), has made hay by using the publicity given to his book on how Militant infiltrated the Labour Party and several of its branches. In turn, others have picked up Crick’s book and read through it. And those supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have encountered a significant problem in doing so.

Because, when Labour under Neil Kinnock, assisted by the party’s NEC, moved to expel Militant in the 1980s, there was a counter-campaign which told “We are setting up a defence campaign involving all similarly-threatened left groups within the party to support the MILITANT comrades in this struggle”. And who ran that counter-campaign?

Running that campaign from his home in London was one Jeremy Corbyn. Have a think about that. Tom Watson may have made a rash move. But in tracing the story back through Crick’s book, his opponents have inadvertently asked questions of Corbyn that his opponents will want answering, and in short order.

Not so much “a plague on both their houses” - more like today’s Team Shambles award.


rob said...

This looks like another re run of the 1930s battle between those willing to follow austerity measures (of the Coalition Governnent led by Ramsay Macdonalsd) and those others who weren't. That didn't end too well! (Cries of traitor in the background as Macdonald and supporters "expelled" from the Labour party).

As has previously been commented the Tories manage to hang together even though similarly split to at least look united.

AJP Taylor wrote in his English History 1914-45 (1965) concerning those events: "As always, the members of the Labour party were more anxious to decide what they should do when they came to office than to determine how they should get there. The old faith was still strong. Labour was the party of the people, and a majority would appear automatically when the people came to their senses."

Party members still relying on blind fairh? And are they still the party of the people? It's the electorate at large that decide elections not just party members.

It seems as though Corbyn has developed a new party of new members but doesn't want to engage with the majority of MPS of the old party elected by the people on the Miliband manifesto.

There may be more trouble ahead as the split widens.

Anonymous said...

With this pathetic bogey-man ploy Watson has finally run out of sympathy based on his stand against Murdoch.

What we need to see from Watson now are specific details and identification of individuals bent on "infiltration." Then we can compare it to the total Labour Party membership. Then we can identify the total membership of "proscribed" organisations. My bet is that Watson's going to look a complete fool when everything gets totted up.

Not that any of it has come as a surprise. The far right of the Labour Party (which now obviously includes Watson) always launches into a hysterical spasm of McCarthyism every time their corruption and immorality is even mildly challenged. Somewhere you can warrant there's a small gang of them cooking up a "Crisis-A-Day" agenda. Which is all this is part of.

Militant Tendency in fact was nothing more than an "intelligence services" run agent provocateurs operation. Just as the Communist Party of America was - when William Sullivan resigned from the FBI he wrote to Hoover telling him just that. Both the CPA and the MT were riddled with plants.

Crick? Nothing more than a far right moronic clown with a phony accent. A tenth rate media puppet. His book is useful only as a description of how the "intelligence services" implement a destabilisation "operation."

I'll await Watson's "details" with interest. But I doubt it will be anything more than piss and wind. He should be ashamed of himself: either he's a willing party to this or he's a first level dupe. Whichever it is he's lost my support. He should resign forthwith and he and his New Labour type go to Iraq and Syria to explain to victim families why they found it necessary to support the murder of their loved ones.

The notion of somebody like Watson being in government turns my stomach as much as Blair and his gang of bombing murderers did.

Unknown said...

How relevant is an 80's position to his present position? Has he done anything to hide this apart from it being in the distant past (politically speaking)?

Anonymous said...

oh big deal.... yawn!

Gavin Morris said...

Labour is a coalition of working people's interests and it always was. Throwing militant out was a mistake that led to the toryisation of the party and it becoming more representative of the landlords and bankers it was set up to oppose. Removing them was a historic mistake for Labour. I agree with them about a lot of policy and none of their methods, but there's nothing wrong with being a broad church.

Watcher234 said...

Mr Anonymous is straight out of the Canary Says Corbynite playbook describing an elected member of Parliament for the Labour Party as Far right Labour. Tom Watson was a scourge of Murdoch & led the Brown coup against Blair hardly far right but he is now a Neo Lib Blairite for these Tin Foil Hat brigadiers where everything is a conspiracy against their hero Corbyn His incompetence & failure to lead the poor polls of the electorate All an Establishment & MSM plot & if your one of the Anti Semites that he attracts it's also the fault of the Jews ! No responsibility can be laid at his door Everything is always someone else's fault. It's not the crazy policies like NHS to be sole provider for development of drugs Renationalising the Post Office Scrapping Trident etc Not the media strategy of being at war with the media rather than engage with them. After all he's got social media to comment on the events days later .Not going AWOL when there's a major news event like new PM new Cabinet or the BHS Sports Direct scandals. All Not His fault ! If only there was a talented person on the Left with sensible policies cos unfortunately Corbyn or Smith for that matter are not it .

Steve Rogers said...

All your post demonstrates is that back in the day, Corbyn was as clear as he is now that it's illiberal and undemocratic to discriminate against anyone unless they have done something wrong. The culture of condemning people for any other reason is completely toxic. And his ancient message also makes it clear that he wasn't part of Militant, just defending Militant members against witch-hunting, i.e. being punished without having actually done anything. No surprise revelations here, just the plodding consistency of a very logical and fair-minded socialist.

Anonymous said...

Of course it's "team shambles."

The New Labour gang made it so.

And all because they have been routed democratically by the party membership.

Which means the Blairites should get out of the party and join the tories: the sooner the better.

rob said...

@ Anon 19:25

"team shambles" - sounds a bit like Chelsea FC last year. They sacked the coach who couldn't get the players to play for him. New Labour MPs or whatever tag you give them were also elected democratically, by the electorate who you ultimately have to persuade to vote for you.

If the team don't play for the leader then by all means deselect all those MPs who can't play for the leader but don't expect the electorate to fall in line behind a more narrowly based party.

Steve Rogers said...

no, not narrower - wider!

Anonymous said...

@Rob 11:58.

Since it is the party and its membership who are the deciders of WHO IS NOMINATED to stand, it is their choice which takes democratic precedence.

The party membership have decided they wish to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Therefore, MPs should either support the membership wishes or resign if they disagree with it.

Some MPs - the New Labour gang - have decided neither to agree with the membership or resign. So guess what that makes them?......That's right, undemocratic. It is they who have caused present problems, less than a few hundred of them against hundreds of thousands of members. Plainly they have failed to persuade enough members to support them. As the hapless Owen Smith is about to discover.

Nobody expects "the electorate to fall in line," whatever that means. Members have expressed a democratic preference for their party. Whatever follows in a general election is a matter for registered voters.

New Labour MPs and their apologists would obviously like to keep matters in their narrow field of (failed) interests.

And football has nothing to do with the issue.

Anonymous said...

"Have a think about that. Tom Watson may have made a rash move. But in tracing the story back through Crick’s book, his opponents have inadvertently asked questions of Corbyn that his opponents will want answering, and in short order." - just to add yet another furtive twist to this (almost incomprehensibly convoluted) tale, has it occurred to anyone that Tom Watson might have been laying a trail of 'breadcrumbs' on purpose in order to undermine Corbyn? It's almost too pat. It would be interesting to run a roll-call of the people who first claimed to have spotted this text's ancestry.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what Watson's up to.

All I know is he cuts a very sad, disloyal figure bent on betrayal.

The other night on C4 News McTernan - fresh from a sound rogering administered by the estimable Sam Tarry - tried to label Watson "a bruiser." Which sort of sums up world-wide election loser McTernan's "tactics."

The whole New Labour agenda is so obvious it's laughable: Manufacture a "Crisis"-A-Day.

Whatever respect I had for Watson has evaporated. Just another chancer.

anubeon said...

So it's to be rule by a tyranical minority of petulant 'football superstars' is it? Corbyn's haters and 'representative' democracy worshiping sceptics alike point to the PLP172 and their 'democratic mandate' with the subtle but clear implication that said PLP MPs are representative of their constituents or even just those who voted for them. The trouble is that our parliamentary system of representative democracy is that it is neither set up to generate clear mandates nor to issue 'blank cheques'. Those of the PLP 172 where elected as Labour party PPCs, many in safe seats where the CLP (not the MPs winning personality or unimpeachable trustworthiness) is sovereign and it's activists and core of unwaveringly anti-Tory voters are by far the more decisive factor come polling day. So for MPs to brandish their mandates, and wave about their election victories, as some sort of indication of their representative views and unique insight into their electorates is frankly beneath contempt. It's about as contemptuous claiming that their general election victory, fought with a panoply of lies, half truths and soon to be broken promises, with a popular plurality of ~35-40% and a razor thing parliamentary majority, gives them a clear mandate to rush through legislation only tangentially related to some obscure tract on page 43 of their manifesto or uncodified 'coalition agreement' hack out in a dark room after the election. To be frank, the opinions of these MPs are as nothing and of limited value compared to the insights of and opinions of activists on the ground and of a wider membership who live in the real world (not some elite bubble). These members, who are the offspring, siblings, relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours of that sainted wider electorate we have to reach, are a damned sight better placed to determine what can and can't be achieved in four years, and they're are certainly a greater electoral asset than many of these safe seat squatters, many of whom have 'tactfully' and 'wisely' raised the ire of their own CLPs within years of boundary changes which will force re-selection processes on many of them.

You say don't expect voters to rally behind a 'narrower' Labour party. Leaving aside for a second Corbyn's attempts to establish a 'broadchurch' cabinet, thwarted from the outset by boycots both bitter and dignified, and ever since by rancourous tantrum making (e.g. the very public belly aching about a free vote over Syria, about a free vote on Trident, about the possibility of a mini cabinet reshuffle, with threats of mass resignations if Corbyn dare even move that Red Prince and Corbyn appointee Benn), do you imagine an Owen Smith lead Labour would be any less narrow. Mark my words, his election would be swiftly followed by a turn to the right and the same sort of bland, triangualtion led liberalism with a thin vineer of socialism which characterised by Ed Milibands tenure. With all of the same blinders and missteps that came with Eds vain attempts to keep the rancourous right, worrisom 'moderates' and exasperated left in-line. The results of such should be clear to you, electoral 'meh' and 15 years of Tory rule, with Labour painted as incompetent and possibly even disunited (even after what I fear would follow a Smith victory), and Smith himself being the target of some rather hateful and unhelpfull press attention (with his past record of gaffs there's plenty of scope for the press to make hay, and don't discount a vacuous food related story - only Q is banana or bacon). All the negative press that Smith get's, of course, can't be countered with a 30+ year record of consistent, consciencous and principlef service to the people (even above party), in spite of the wretched whip system and the penalties it forces on MPs (comply or you'll never hold wider influence) which IME does play well with even nominally Tory voters even those who remain unconvinced by Corbyn.

anubeon said...

I also fear that a Smith victory will also lead to an even narrower Labour party. Try as he may to reach out to the left snd centre left, there are many 'Blairites' and even many 'moderates' pushing for our exclusion if not outright expulsion. Tom Watson, elected as Deputy Leader not one year ago with, if I recall correctly, a mandate to extend Labour's internal democracy (including digital democracy, which rather implied more direct influence for members) is already talking about reversing the 2014 reforms, and not just the registered supporters scheme but OMOV too. Returning the party to an outmoded and anti-democratic sectional system which great discriminated against members and (to a greater extent) what are now called affiliate supporters, whilst over inflating the influence of that narrow clique of bubble dwellers the PLP. The nomination freshhold (for leadership elections) alone is stultifying and oscifying in its affects, allowing parliamentary parties to drift so far away from their constituents (both within and without the party) and enforce and ossify such a drift by so tightly currating the leadership team as to enforce it's unrepresentative nature and limit it's accountability. This is in direct contravention of his mandate as deputy leader (mentioned above) and risks reversing some hard won, neccissary and just reforms (pushed by the right of the partu, to the consternation and scepticism of many on the left, ironically) and alienating many of it's members and core vote! The likes of Owen Jones have encouraged we on the left to not give up on the Labour party, not to coalesce around a new party of the left, but to join, become active, and reform the then (and still?) centralised and distant party and its structures from within. Many of us heeded that call (albeit only after a standard bearer appeared in Corbyn), even if we were sceptical and divided recently (I, for one, had grown weary of going to the polls to cast my vote beneath a frown and a vale of disappointment for a 'meh' liberalist Labour candidate and platform); many may disregard it and conclude (rightly or wrongly) that Labour is irrefomable, fundamentally liberal and opposed to socialism, socialists and genuine social democrats, and captured by an insular elite. They'll take their money, their activism and energy, their votes and quite possibly those of voters who value their opinion with them. I think that would be a great loss, as they (dare I say, we) are not 'trots' and 'dogs' as some who've their heads firmly rammed up their 80s era tape deck would have you believe (even the small amount of MT folk coming back can't be tarred with that brush a priori; it's been over 30 years! So many in that fringe, from that time, have done a volte face and are more right wing than your average Tory now, that it's absurd to suggest that those who remain comitted socialists or social democrats haven't themselves drifted in the political spectrum and/or adjusted their aims, goals and tactics with age also) and we've been taken for granted for long enough frankly.

rob said...

The present sitting MPS have been nominated by the party and stood and been elected under the democratic process. The representatives of the party machine voted in by those members at the appropriate time may expel those MPs from the party like they did in the 1930s if they so wish. Until then it is their democratic right to serve under the leader if they so wish or serve from the back benches. There is a timing difference between the two democratic processes which has lead to the present "team shambles". Perhaps atn the next election you will have the membership to vote in new Mps to take over from the incumbent ones you abhor those MPs will have the choice of serving or otherwise the membership's choice of leader.

Of course it has nothing to do with football but to complete the analogy a team working together will nearly always beat a team of individuals and more especially a disunited team. And it is the coach's or leader's job to unite the team. If the coach can't unite the team then throw out or expel all the disaffected MPs (traitors as they have been called) and get your own team in. Good luck with that.

If you don't like the analogy so be it and if you don't think the Labour party would be better served acting as a team fair enough.

And to Steve Rogers by "narrow" I meant lessening of the political spectrum that the Labour party "broad church" has been used to appeal to. If that's what you want also fair enough.

Steve Rogers said...

It looks wide rather than narrow to me because there are so very many people supporting Corbyn. I wasn't particularly commenting on his supporters' range of views, because to me they seem perfectly normal ordinary people, not political theorists or holders of any views other than common sense.

Man From Atlan said...

So Corbyn stood up on behalf of "similar threatened left groups within Labour" to defend them? Gotta love the man.