Extraordinary as it may seem, it now appears clear that the senior members of Jeremy Corbyn’s office were actively undermining the official EU Remain campaign.
This is the latest evidence – from Alan Johnson, MP – who was meant to lead the Labour effort. As he put it: “At it times it felt as if they [the Leader’s Office] were working against the rest of the Party and had conflicting objectives.”
Can this really be true?
The BBC says it has evidence that supports this case.
This is what Laura Kuenssberg – BBC Political Editor had to say:
Documents passed to the BBC suggest Jeremy Corbyn’s office sought to delay and water down the Labour Remain campaign. Sources suggest that they are evidence of “deliberate sabotage”.
One email from the leader’s office suggests that Mr Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications, Seumas Milne, was behind Mr Corbyn’s reluctance to take a prominent role in Labour’s campaign to keep the UK in the EU. One email, discussing one of the leader’s speeches, said it was because of the “hand of Seumas. If he can’t kill it, he will water it down so much to hope nobody notices it”.
A series of messages dating back to December seen by the BBC shows correspondence between the party leader’s office, the Labour Remain campaign and Labour HQ, discussing the European campaign. It shows how a sentence talking about immigration was removed on one occasion and how Mr Milne refused to sign off a letter signed by 200 MPs after it had already been approved.
The documents show concern in Labour HQ and the Labour Remain campaign about Mr Corbyn’s commitment to the campaign – one email says: “What is going on here?” Another email from Labour Remain sources to the leader’s office complains “there is no EU content here – we agreed to have Europe content in it”. Sources say they show the leader’s office was reluctant to give full support to the EU campaign and how difficult it was to get Mr Corbyn to take a prominent role.
Why would Corbyn’s spin doctor, Seumas Milne do this?
To understand this you need to know a little about Milne.
The son of the former BBC director general Alasdair Milne, he had a distinctly privileged upbringing – educated at Winchester, one of Britain’s top public schools, before going on to Oxford.
But Milne was always attracted to the far left. He is said to have worn a Chairman Mao lapel badge and that his sympathies lay with Stalin and the Soviet Union. Milne is accused of being a Kremlin “fellow-traveller”.
Certainly he is a close friend of the maverick far-left politician, George Galloway, whom he addressed as ‘chief’; defending him despite Galloway’s notorious support for the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Milne also backed Slobodan Milosevic – the Serbian leader who died while on trial at the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
As recently as 2014 Milne thought nothing of visiting Russia to attend an all-expenses paid conference for Vladimir Putin. Indeed he chaired a session at which the Russian President spoke.
Milne is reported to have effectively performed “front-of-house PR duties” for the Russian leader.
What has this got to do with the EU referendum?
The Remain campaign declared that President Putin was quietly backing attempts to get Britain to leave the EU. In the words of Prime Minister David Cameron, Putin “might be happy” if Britain left the EU.
The argument is that an EU without Britain would be significantly weaker. It would be less able to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia and support the other former East European states like Poland.
There is no doubting where Milne’s sympathies lay. “The demonisation of Russia risks paving the way for war” was his take on the Ukraine crisis.
Certainly Milne had no love for the EU.
The Huffington Post reported he wrote as recently as last July that “many progressive people in Britain, previously attracted to what seemed its cooperative internationalism, are moving towards voting no in the planned in-out referendum in the face of its brutal authoritarianism towards Greece.”
If these still remains his views then it would hardly be surprising that he watered down the Labour message during the EU campaign.
Anyone who argues that Jeremy Corbyn was fit to lead the Labour Party needs to answer this question: who can trust his judgement if he surrounds himself with men like Milne?
I am adding this article by Phil Wilson is the MP for Sedgefield and was chair of the Labour in for Britain group in the parliamentary Labour party, which was published in the Guardian
Events of the past few days underline just how serious the consequences of the decisions made by our political leaders are. David Cameron’s decision to gamble with Britain’s future in the referendum has proved his own undoing. It was an exercise in Conservative party management that has put the long-term prosperity of the UK under threat and undermined our place in the world. The responsibility lies firmly on his shoulders and he rightly took the decision to resign.
However, just as the prime minister has resigned, so too should Jeremy Corbyn. It is with great regret but also resolve that I – and many other colleagues – have come to that conclusion. Being leader of the opposition and leader of the Labour party brings with it huge responsibility. Yes, you get to provide direction. But you also must bring people with you and lead from the front by example. In the referendum campaign it became clear that Corbyn was neither capable nor willing to do either. The inescapable conclusion is that he is incapable of meeting the challenges of the position he holds – either today or in the future.
It was clear last summer that Corbyn was only ever partially interested in keeping Britain in Europe and an honourable leader would bear the responsibility for the failure to persuade Labour voters to vote remain. After the general election, Ed Miliband took responsibility for the campaign’s failure. The decision that Britain took on Thursday was, arguably, more important than a general election. Corbyn’s job was to execute the decisions taken by the shadow cabinet, in the PLP, where over 200 of our MPs backed the remain campaign, by the trade unions, and at annual conference, which voted to back the remain position. He himself issued a note to all MPs on 17 September 2015 telling them that Labour would campaign to remain in the European Union. And yet he decided to go on holiday in the middle of the campaign. He did not visit the Labour heartlands of the north-east and instead raised esoteric issues such as TTIP which had no resonance on the doorstep.
This leads to me to the greatest betrayal and the final straw for many MPs. I have been told and shown evidence by an overwhelming number of unimpeachably neutral Labour remain staff that Corbyn’s office, for which he must take full responsibility, consistently attempted to weaken and sabotage the Labour remain campaign, in contravention of the party’s official position. For example, they resisted all polling and focus group evidence on message and tone, raised no campaign finance, failed to engage with the campaign delivery and deliberately weakened and damaged the argument Labour sought to make.
Corbyn made only a smattering of campaign appearances, and they were lacklustre in delivery and critical of the EU in tone resulting in Labour voters not knowing the party’s position or hearing our argument. Corbyn’s infrequent campaign appearances and narrow focus, in turned limited the party’s appeal. He kept saying that the economic shock of Brexit was not real. It is. And it is working people and Labour communities that will pay the price. A price that is being felt right now.
But as well as letting down Labour voters, he has also let down Labour members. Labour is a proud internationalist party and our conference, our members and our unions were clear that Labour should fight a strong Labour campaign to keep Britain in Europe.
Labour has a responsibility to the country, our supporters and the values we hold dear to ensure the party is a viable electoral force. I do not want to see this country become a rightwing Tory state and the preserve of nationalists who feed off anger rather than offer solutions. Corbyn should resign with immediate effect, the responsibility of being leader of the Labour party is beyond his capabilities and the stakes are far, far too high for him to continue.
This has been posted by the BBC
Political editor, Wales
The director of the campaign for Wales to remain in the EU says there was complete disinterest from the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Stewart Owadally, from Wales Stronger In, says the campaign did get support from senior party figures in Wales, but was given short shrift when they requested visits from Labour in London.
The comments were made in a letter to the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, Stephen Doughty.
It said: “We were consistently given short shrift when we requested visits from Labour figures via the Labour Party in London.
“Our political champions from the Labour Party were often unable to get hold of research or rebuttal materials from Labour HQ to help make their case.
“In the end we often coordinated press for Labour figures because the Labour Party was not willing to do so – but these were less powerful because they were not from the official party infrastructure.
“Most strikingly felt of all was the complete disinterest from Jeremy Corbyn. As leader of our party, he should have thrown the full weight of his resources – as leader, as the leader’s office, and as the steward of the party itself – into the Labour campaign for a Remain vote, but this did not happen.”
The letter ends with a call for Mr Corbyn to resign.