IMO, corbyn & mccluskey are both lying turds

Corbyn allies believe Watson is using the issue of Brexit to drive a wedge between the Labour leader and the party’s overwhelmingly pro-Remain activists. In his speech earlier this month, Watson said his party must “unambiguously and unequivocally back Remain,” something Corbyn has reiterated in recent days he believes is the wrong approach. As well as irritating the leadership, Watson has had a long-running feud with Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, Labour’s biggest donor. The pair were once close friends, but have clashed over Corbyn’s leadership and Brexit. Len McCluskey insists that advocating an unequivocally anti-Brexit stance at the election will be toxic among Labour Leave voters. In May, as Watson became increasingly vocal about the party’s Brexit policy, McCluskey said:

Tom Watson’s already out, surprise surprise, trying to take on the role of Prince Machiavelli, but I’ve got news for Tom: Machiavelli was effective. He’s a poor imitation of that. If he’s trying to turn Labour members against Corbyn and in his favour, then he’s going to lose disastrously. And there will be others in the coming days who try and do the same. Now is the time to hold your nerve, because a general election, which is the only thing that will resolve this situation, is closer now than anything.

McCluskey denies any involvement in botched attempt to unseat Tom Watson
Anahita Hossein-Pour, PoliticsHome, Sep 22 2019

Unite leader Len McCluskey has dismissed claims that he was involved in attempting to oust Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson as “fake news.” The union boss was believed to be among allies of Jeremy Corbyn behind a bid to abolish the top job, due to Mr Watson’s “disloyalty” over Brexit. Momentum chief Jon Lansman tabled the emergency motion at Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee on Friday, but the efforts have since been quashed by the Labour leader who announced a “review” of the role. Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge, Mr McCluskey denied being part of the controversial move. He said:

This is just another fake news, I had nothing to do with it, I knew nothing about it. The first I heard about it was when it broke in the media. This is fake news because obviously the media are looking for a story.

McCluskey said he was “ambivalent” about the deputy leadership post and was focused on helping Corbyn become PM. He went on:

It’s gone. It’s dealt with. In some ways it’s a good thing, because it demonstrated Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. He stepped in. He calmed it all down, and it’s yesterday’s news. Basically what it is, is just frustration because the deputy leader in any organisation, the prime role, is to assist the leader and unfortunately Tom gives the impression, every time he speaks, is to undermine the leader. Now that frustration amongst members will manifest itself and I think that’s all that happened.

Mr Watson had condemned the attack on him as a “drive-by shooting” and likened the bid to the “kind of thing that happens in Venezuela.” Corbyn told BBC’s Andrew Marr he was unaware that motion was going to be put forward, but that it was “no secret” discussions were ongoing about the role of deputy leader. He said:

I knew there were discussions going on about the role of deputy leader, I did not know that that particular motion was going to be put at that time. There was a move that didn’t happen, didn’t work and I intervened to make sure we have an open and democratic discussion about the structure of our party, and that’s where we are at.

McCluskey said that if members of the shadow cabinet like Watson were not willing to back Jeremy Corbyn’s line on Brexit, they should resign.
Andrew Sparrow, Graun, Sep 22 2019

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, when asked if he had a message for senior Labour figures who were arguing that the party should commit to campaigning for remain in any second referendum on Brexit he replied:

We must go into an election united. And when we have a policy on Brexit, and Jeremy Corbyn makes it clear that that is the policy, then that’s what leading members of the shadow cabinet should argue for. If they find that they can’t argue for it because they feel strongly, well of course they have that right, but they should step aside, and step aside from the shadow cabinet, which will become the cabinet, and they can argue whatever they want. But the policy and my appeals to them, and to Emily and to anybody else is, support your leader … If we get to a position where Jeremy is saying, let’s not make our decision on how we will campaign until we know what the deal, my appeal to her, support Jeremy and that’s my appeal to the whole of conference.

Asked if that meant he was unhappy with people saying the party should commit now to backing Remain in any future referendum, McCluskey said:

In this situation … in order for Labour to get through the message of unity and healing our nation, everybody needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Now if the leadership team, the shadow cabinet soon to be the cabinet find that difficult then yes, they should step aside.

A reminder: among those people who have been saying today that Labour should commit now to backing remain in a second referendum come what may are: Tom Watson, the deputy leader, Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader and Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader and Welsh first minister.

Corbyn heading for clash with members by calling for Brexit decision to be postponed
Andrew Sparrow, Graun, Sep 22 2019

The Mirror’s Dan Bloom has the text of the Brexit motion being proposed by Labour’s national executive committee. The wording is much the same as the draft circulating yesterday, but there are two changes. The new version adds references to the Good Friday agreement and to the rights of EU nationals to the paragraph about the Brexit deal a Labour government would seek to negotiate. And the final paragraph now says:

The NEC believes it is right that the party shall only decide how to campaign in such a referendum, through a one-day special conference, following the election of a Labour government.

What’s new about this is the addition of the word “only”, which was not in yesterday’s text. It has the effect of firming up the message. ]This means the leadership is heading for a clash with Labour remainers like Emily Thornberry, who want the matter settled now.

Thornberry says Labour should reject proposal to postpone Brexit decision
Andrew Sparrow, Graun, Sep 22 2019

Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, has renewed her call for Labour to decide this week whether or not it will back remain in a future referendum. Firming up what she said in a Guardian interview last week, she told a HuffPost fringe meeting:

We’re all here. I don’t see why we can’t make the decision now … I think that this conference should thrash it out.

As the draft statement from Labour’s national executive committee shows, Jeremy Corbyn’s current plan is for a Labour government to negotiate a new Brexit deal within three months of coming to power and to hold a referendum within six months of coming to power. The party would decide at a one-day special conference after the renegotiation how it would campaign in the referendum. The issue is due to be decided tomorrow. The conference will be asked to back the NEC statement, but many delegates will be pushing for a move to commit the party to backing remain in all circumstances. At least 80 motions have been submitted making this argument, and a meeting will take place tonight to roll these up into a composite.

One delegate complained about the voting system being unfair. The trade unions control almost half the votes at Labour conference. The delegate said this meant ordinary members kept getting defeated by the union vote. It should be one member, one vote, he said. Another delegate in the conference hall has just complained about the size of the union vote, saying in exasperation:

There is no point us voting here, because everything we vote for just gets voted down. Why don’t you just stay here and we can go to the pub?

From Brexit to a general election, Labour cannot make up its mind
Robert Peston, ITV News, Sep 22 2019

Welcome to Labour’s Twilight Zone, its ruling NEC, whose members don’t know whether they have or haven’t approved a draft policy statement in favour of a referendum combined with militant agnosticism on Leave versus Remain. Some members of the NEC said they opposed the policy, because they see it as a backdoor route orchestrated by Milne, McCluskey and Murphy to move the party towards becoming a Brexit party all over again. Yesterday, NEC chair Wendy Nichols asked for amendments to the statement. There were too many for a compromise to be found. Another meeting was scheduled for 8 am this morning and then summarily cancelled after 11 pm last night. So NEC members now don’t know whether the draft policy statement, which would postpone the choice between Leave or Remain till three months after a general election, is or is not the official position. All of which probably means there will be a titanic struggle here in Brighton between the Remainers led by Watson, Beckett, Starmer & Thornberry on the one hand, and McCluskey and the Lexiteers on the other, over whether the party should NOW make a commitment that in any future referendum it would oppose any form of Brexit. What is perhaps nuts is that NEC members don’t even know whether said policy statement would or should be submitted to conference for a confirmatory vote.

That is not the end of the ambiguity around what the NEC is doing. NEC members tell me they don’t know whether or not they have approved a new policy that the deputy leader would no longer automatically become leader if the elected leader quit, or whether all they’ve done is approve a consultation on ending an automatic transfer of power to the deputy. This really matters, because if Corbyn were to quit, it matters whether Watson were interim leader or whether the NEC could appoint a candidate it feels would work to keep alight the Corbyn flame. There are colleagues of Corbyn who think that he could quit much sooner than he suggested in his BBC interview this morning. Finally, there is a third and perhaps more profound source of anxiety about the position of the Labour Party, and that is whether Labour wants and would endeavour to bring about an election before a referendum, or would prefer a referendum or some other resolution of the Brexit uncertainty in advance of an election. Corbyn and his allies say they want the general election soon and first. Led by Tom Watson, a clear majority of Labour MPs want a referendum either before the election or simultaneous with it, thus giving us two monumentally important choices on the same day, heaven help us: for government and for in or out of the EU. So for the avoidance of doubt, Corbyn’s Labour is as divided, confused, faction-riven and disorganised as Johnson’s Tories. If you are humming the Pet Shop Boys’ “What have I done to deserve this?” join the club. I am not ashamed to show my age.

The failed Watson plot exposes what really scares Corbyn and his coterie
Andrew Rawnsley, Groon, Sep 22 2019

On the eve of the Labour conference, a poll was published that gave Jeremy Corbyn a negative personal approval rating of minus 60 points. Yes, you read that right, minus 60 points. These are depths of unpopularity never plumbed by any opposition leader in the more than 40 years that pollsters have been recording this figure. Even Michael Foot wasn’t that disliked by the British public in the run-up to Labour’s landslide defeat at the hands of Margaret Thatcher in 1983. To have a candidate for prime minister who is that repellent to the country is a problem for Labour, especially when it is facing a general election. To Mr Corbyn’s allies, the answer is obvious: the deputy’s head must roll. The plot to oust Tom Watson by abolishing his post ought to be shocking and yet it is not that surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to the Labour party since it came under the control of Mr Corbyn and his friends. The stakes at this conference season are extraordinarily high. The Brexit crisis is coming to some kind of climax and nearly everyone assumes that an election will soon be upon us. The Lib Dems, who are pushing Labour into third place in some polls, put on a show of celebration of their recent successes at their Bournemouth conference. The Tories will strive to seem confidently together when they meet in Manchester next week.

Labour was already facing a struggle to mask its divisions during its week in Brighton, not least because the party’s splits about Brexit have not been resolved by the latest tortuous iteration of its policy. Labour’s difficulties in that regard gave the party even more of an incentive, or so you might have thought, to do its best to put on a united face about everything else. The conference ought to be an opportunity to showcase Labour’s programme, present the party as fit to fight that looming election and project themselves as ready for government. Even dissident Labour MPs had decided to be co-operative. Many are staying away from Brighton. Most who have made the trip to the Sussex coast went with the intention of not rocking the boat. And yet Mr Corbyn’s allies chose this moment, the last Labour conference before an election, to dynamite any pretence of unity and reignite the party’s civil war by conspiring to overthrow Mr Watson. They went about it in the most underhand and yet also clumsy way conceivable. The position of deputy leader, a fixture of Labour’s constitution for many decades, is directly elected by the members. Mr Watson secured the role in 2015 by winning a vote. If they wanted rid of him, there was a democratic way to go about it. That would have been to put up a challenger. He told the Today programme on Saturday:

If people want to remove me, let the members remove me.

Trying to take him out the democratic way has been discussed in Corbynista circles in the past. Deciding it was too difficult to pull off, they instead tried to “disappear” him in a way that recalled how Stalin’s henchmen would have politburo members who had incurred the displeasure of the Soviet dictator airbrushed from photographs. The move to abolish the deputy leadership was made with no advanced discussion or even notice. Nor was there any pretence that this was motivated by anything other than a desire to evaporate someone for expressing opinions Mr Corbyn doesn’t like. It was not on the agenda of the meeting of the national executive committee on Friday night, but sprung on the party’s governing body at the last minute. Mr Watson was not present. The first warning he received was via a text message while he was having dinner with his son at a Chinese restaurant in Manchester. In the wake of the conspiracy’s failure, the Labour leader’s spinners are briefing that Mr Corbyn himself did not know that his own capos were going to attempt a drive-by shooting of his deputy. I am struggling to type this without fainting in disbelief. The plot was undone by the scale of the backlash from MPs, shadow cabinet members, senior trade unionists and former Labour leaders. Even some Corbyn loyalists on the frontbench thought it madness and told him so. This ultimately impelled him to tell his gang to holster their weapons. There will instead be “a review” of the role of deputy; they still want his scalp.

Mr Watson broadly speaks for the centre-left Labour tradition that was dominant in the party’s history until the Corbynite takeover and that’s one of the things they can’t stand about him. They were paranoically angry when he set up an internal party group, Future Britain, to gather together non-Corbynite Labour people. He did that after a series of defections by Labour MPs and saw it as a way to stem further losses by offering a safe place for social democrats within the party; Corbynite zealots viewed it as treachery to the Dear Leader. The deputy leader has been increasingly bold in demanding that Labour adopts a much more robust stance on Brexit, expressing a view widely supported by Labour MPs, many of whom share his fear that the party will be severely punished at the election if it remains equivocal on the defining issue of our time. The leader and his coterie hate Mr Watson not so much for what he says but because he is a lot more representative of the anti-Brexit views of the majority of Labour supporters than is Mr Corbyn. No one is allowed to get between the leader and the adoration of the members by expressing a view that is more popular with them. To compound the Corbynite charge sheet of heresy and deviancy, Mr Watson has taken a vigorous stand about the party’s failure to deal with anti-Semitism in its ranks.

It’s not just business. It’s also personal. A key player in the scheme was Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, whose clout flows from the fact that his union is the party’s largest donor and the leader’s coterie is populated with his close associates. Once such good friends that they shared a flat together, he and Mr Watson have long been locked in a bitter feud. There’s no loathing so deep as that between former flatmates who have fallen out. There are also some less obvious dimensions to the anti-Watson plot, the public face of which was Jon Lansman, the chairman of Momentum. I think it is also an expression of a furious frustration that other schemes to eliminate critics, purge dissent and tighten their control of the party have not been going entirely to plan. Non-Corbynite Labour MPs are being exposed to a leadership-sanctioned and Momentum-organised effort to have them deselected and replaced with more compliant candidates for the election. This began at the beginning of September and the results are starting to come through. In much greater numbers than was anticipated, Labour MPs, including astringent critics of Mr Corbyn’s leadership, have been defeating attempts to evict them from their seats. Some have been reconfirmed as candidates by substantial margins, worrying the Corbynites that their control over the party membership is weakening.

If Labour is again rejected by the country, it is almost certain that Corbyn, who will then be a two-time election loser, will have to go. Even some of his most fervent admirers will conclude that he cannot carry on as leader. His departure will trigger a titanic struggle for the soul of the party. So another, and I think correct, way of reading the failed anti-Watson plot is as a sign of how much they fear losing control. When you might expect all the focus to be on winning the election, the Corbynite left are desperate to tighten their grip on the party for fear it will be broken by another election defeat. Authoritarian attempts to stifle dissent, ferocious sectarianism and heavy-booted stamping on the tolerant traditions of our democracy are not confined to Labour. Over in the increasingly noxious Tory party, MPs are being deselected by Brexit ultras in their constituencies, and Boris Johnson purged 21 Conservative MPs, including several former cabinet ministers, for opposing a crash-out Brexit. His enforcer, Dominic Cummings, summarily sacked an aide to the chancellor for “disloyalty” and then had her marched out of No 10 by an armed copper. This is a big and poisonous change in the culture of British politics. Both the Conservatives and Labour used to be proud to call themselves broad churches, capable of encompassing and speaking for many strands of opinion and they made that central to their appeal to the electorate. Now both are behaving like viciously intolerant sects.

Brexit divisions threaten to plunge Labour party conference into chaos
Toby Helm, Michael Savage, Groon, Sep 21 2019

Jeremy Corbyn was struggling to contain an open revolt by some of his most senior shadow ministers, MPs and party activists last night as anger over his refusal to back a policy of remaining in the EU threatened to wreck the Labour conference. With delegates already reeling from a failed attempt by Corbyn supporters to oust Tom Watson and abolish his role as deputy leader, anger erupted amid accusations that the leadership was trying to block democratic debate and fudge a decision about where Labour stands on the issue of leaving the EU. What was supposed to be a conference to showcase a party united behind new policies on education and health before a likely general election instead opened amid bitterness and acrimony, with a defiant Watson still in place, and Emily Thornberry, Keir Starmer and Clive Lewis, the shadow foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and Treasury minister, publicly defying Corbyn by backing Remain. Leading a march through the streets of Brighton in favour of a people’s vote yesterday, hours after Corbyn had tabled a motion to the national executive committee (NEC) in favour of delaying a decision on whether to back Remain or Leave, Thornberry said:

We have got to campaign to remain. We have got to stop messing around.

At the same event Starmer insisted that he would back Remain because “it’s about what sort of country you want to be,” while Lewis accused Corbyn of trying to use union block votes to stifle the views of the mass membership which had propelled him to the leadership in the first place. Their defiance came as news emerged that Labour’s head of policy, Andrew Fisher, a key Corbyn aide who masterminded the 2017 election campaign, had resigned, reportedly telling colleagues he did not believe the party could win a general election. In a memo to colleagues, Fisher is said to have accused Corbyn’s team of a “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency.” A leading leftwing activist, Michael Chessum, who has coordinated local party efforts to push a pro-Remain motion through conference, told the Observer that patience among delegates was running out as the leadership appeared intent on defying ordinary members and imposing central control. He said:

There is a really surreal edge to the atmosphere, partly exacerbated by attempts to delete Tom Watson, but also on Brexit. We have a party that wants Remain, voters overwhelmingly wanting clarity, MPs that want Remain and a front bench that wants Remain, and yet a ludicrous insistence that the party machine might not back them.

The conference is now heading for a series of flashpoint moments. On Sunday there will be key discussions on what Brexit motion goes forward for debate and a vote on the conference floor on Monday. Then on Tuesday Watson is planning to make his own call for unity in his deputy leader’s speech, before Corbyn’s keynote address on Wednesday. Our poll today shows Labour on 22%, Tories on 37%, Lib Dems on 17% and Brexit Party on 12%. Alarmingly for Labour, 58% of those polled now think the Tories have a clear policy on Brexit, against just 31% of voters who say Labour’s approach is clear. 33% of Remain voters now plan to vote for the Lib Dems, and the same number for Labour. In April, only around 10% of Remain voters planned to vote for the Lib Dems and nearer 50% planned to vote Labour. Yesterday’s ructions over Brexit broke out after it emerged that Corbyn had tabled a statement to the NEC saying that, while the party backed a referendum and would offer the options of a credible Brexit deal or Remain to voters, a decision on how it would campaign in a second public vote would be left until after a general election. Pro-Remain activists and senior party figures who have campaigned for months to shift policy were outraged. They saw the move as an attempt to kill off debate and block a conference vote on their own pro-Remain motion. Last night, however, the leader’s office appeared to back off. It told delegates that the pro-Remain motion would not be superseded by the NEC statement, and would still be debated. It now appears that two competing votes, one on the NEC statement, and the other explicitly backing Remain, could be debated and voted on on Tuesday. Asked yesterday if he had known about the plan to oust Watson, put forward to the NEC on Friday by Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, Corbyn swerved the question. Then after an outcry, and protests from senior figures including the former party leaders Tony Blair and Ed Miliband, Corbyn said that the plan would not proceed and would be replaced by a review into the role of the deputy leader. Watson, who is understood to think Corbyn was fully aware, described the attempt to oust him as a “drive-by shooting”, adding in a BBC interview:

I got a text message in a Chinese restaurant in Manchester to say that they were abolishing me. It’s a straight sectarian attack on a broad-church party and it’s moving us into a different kind of institution where pluralism isn’t tolerated, where factional observance has to be adhered to completely and it kind of completely goes against the sort of traditions that the Labour party has had for 100 years.

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