The report on ‘Saving Labour’ by the BBC’s Ross Hawkins is more notable for the conclusions it doesn’t draw than for those it does.
Just because Reg Race is said to be co-ordinating this project to collect information on Labour members willing to attack Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, that doesn’t mean he’s the one behind it. No such information is available.
But it looks good, having a former leftist colleague of Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Benn as a figurehead – in the same way that saying he supports left-wing policies was supposed to make Owen Smith more attractive. And did it?
Mr Race says ‘Saving Labour’ is “ruthlessly determined to make sure there is an effective opposition in this country” – presumably, to the Conservative government.
But supporters of the organisation are invariably Labour right-wingers whose own preferences are so close to those of the Tories they’re fighting that you couldn’t get a Diner’s Club card between them.
How are they going to mount an “effective opposition” to policies they support and/or would put forward themselves, albeit in watered-down form?
And how are they going to convince anybody if they aren’t prepared to identify themselves? Oh yes, they’re in “vulnerable positions”. That could mean anything. It could mean they are hiding among supporters of Mr Corbyn, acting as spies or “fifth columnists”.
All in all, it isn’t a very honourable way for these people to behave. Or so it seems to This Writer.
Meanwhile, the organisation has been collecting data on people sympathetic to its cause – which may be used for purposes other than the current leadership election, we’re told.
So this is an attempt by right-wingers to organise and exert power against the larger Labour membership’s wishes – and to subvert the unions to their wishes as well.
It all seems very dubious.
If these people admitted who they were and what they were doing, perhaps their behaviour might be acceptable – but they won’t.
Supporting MPs, donors and trade unionists are all staying anonymous for the time being.
One wonders how these people would react if it was revealed that there was a secretive co-ordinating hub of Corbyn supporters, working to spread their influence across the UK political milieu.
Judging from recent experience, they would complain loudly and frequently, laying accusations of unfairness and abuse left, right and centre.
This is, after all, the side that likes to commit abuses and then accuse its opponents of the same behaviour.
As Emily Robinson stated on Twitter (referring to this and the US election campaign):
“Same MO on both sides of the pond: launch below the belt neoliberal attack, cry when criticised, claim abuse.”
A former MP on Labour’s far left, once active in a socialist pressure group that included Mr Corbyn himself, Reg Race is not the first person you would imagine leading the charge for a more centrist party. But he is deadly serious.
“We are ruthlessly determined to make sure there is an effective opposition in this country,” he says.
He claims Saving Labour has been responsible for recruiting more than 120,000 registered supporters and affiliated union members to vote against Mr Corbyn using online advertising.
The group, he says, has amassed details of 60,000 people on its own database in just two months. There are plenty of numbers, rather fewer names.
In his first broadcast interview, he told Radio 4’s Today programme he has the support of trade unionists but will not say which ones. Nor does he name any MPs. Nor donors; those will be published by the Electoral Commission in time, he says.
Why the secrecy?
“There’s a group of us and lots of us don’t want to be out there in terms of the media because they’re in relatively vulnerable positions,” he says.
“Data is absolutely crucial in these races,” says Tom Flynn, Saving Labour’s full-time digital campaigner. “This was set up as a way of trying to get good data on those Labour people who would like a change of leadership.”
That data – the contact details of sympathisers who have a vote in Labour contests – could have an interesting future.
A Saving Labour supporter, MP Graham Jones, suggests it may even play a part in trying to get rid of Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey.
The data, the money and the intent of those trying to wrestle back control of the Labour Party from Mr Corbyn will not expire at the declaration of the result.
If they fail this year, they will try again.
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