A leaked Labour Party report has exposed how a faction lodged inside the party’s headquarters sabotaged Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership—and waged war on the members.
The document claims staff and officials, grouped around former general secretary Iain McNicol in the Labour HQ, “Were bitterly opposed to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn”.
Citing what it claims are emails and WhatsApp messages between Labour officials, it says they were “largely interested in work that could advance a factional agenda”.
“At its extreme, some employees seem to have taken a view that the worse things got for Labour the happier they would be, since this might expedite Jeremy Corbyn’s departure from office,” it said.
The report says that Labour staff orchestrated purges of Labour members in 2015 and 2016 in unsuccessful bids to stop Corbyn twice being elected leader.
It also says this hostile attitude meant staff delayed and obstructed Labour’s handling of antisemitism cases between 2016 and 2018 when McNicol was in post.
The document published extracts of what it claims are messages between staffers mocking any Labour MPs not seen sufficiently opposed to Corbyn.
In a number of exchanges, senior officials derided MP Diane Abbott as “a very angry woman” and “truly repulsive”. Discussing claims that Abbott had been found “crying in the loos,” they agreed to tell Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick.
In another exchange Emilie Oldknow—now assistant general secretary in the Unison union—was also dismayed and dismissive of MP Dawn Butler’s complaints of racism in Labour.
Oldknow and McNicol—a former senior officer for the GMB union—also hoped that defeats in by-elections in 2016 would force Corbyn to resign. Oldknow says McNicol had told deputy leader Tom Watson—who continually undermined Corbyn—“to prepare for being interim leader”.
McNicol agreed during the 2017 general election that funding and resources should be channelled to campaigning in Watson’s constituency to “protect Tom’s seat”.
But most telling is staffers’ attitude to Labour members and supporters.
Senior officials repeatedly derided members as “Trots”. This was used a catch-all term to refer to anyone who supported left wing policies.
As thousands of people attended a final Labour campaign rally in 2017, senior officials joked about cops attacking supporters with truncheons and water cannons. They also spoke explicitly of organising a “Trot hunt” in Labour’s 2015 and 2016 leadership elections, in which Corbyn supporters were suspended or expelled on flimsy pretexts.
The report reveals how mistrust and hatred of ordinary party members and activists is embedded inside Labour’s bureaucracy.
Members and activists join Labour hoping to bring real—even socialist—change to society.
But unelected officials work to keep tight control of a party they want to be “mainstream” and “responsible”—which means right wing.
How smears took hold
The report was intended to be submitted as evidence to an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into accusations that Labour is institutionally antisemitic.
It was written by staff under current general secretary Jennie Formby, but is reported to have been scrapped.
Parts of the document point to evidence that some accusations were motivated by opposition to Corbyn.
It defends Labour’s attempts to defend the right to criticise Israel and support the Palestinians. Yet it also concedes that Labour had a problem with antisemitism linked to its rise in membership under Corbyn. And it complains that the right wing faction stopped them from expelling activists who linked accusations of antisemitism to support for Israel.
The crux of the accusations were always that Corbyn’s longstanding support for Palestine made the left inherently antisemitic.
Rows focused on whether it’s right to describe Israel as a racist state. Giving ground on these arguments allowed the right to paint Labour—and the left—as antisemitic, and defeat Corbyn.