The inside story of why Corbyn forgot to mention IDS when responding to THAT Cameron statement

by Atul Hatwal

Wondering how things could possibly get worse for Labour? Ponder no more. Here’s a mess involving Damian McBride, Jeremy Corbyn, splits in the leader’s office and quiet preparations for a move from the left to replace Corbyn.

Uncut has learned that Damian McBride is back, secretly working for the Labour leader.

Although he is nominally employed by Emily Thornberry as a political adviser covering the defence brief, a significant part of his work has been for the leader’s office, writing briefings and speaking notes for the Labour leader.

Uncut understands that McBride was asked to prepare Jeremy Corbyn’s response to David Cameron’s EU statement before Easter – a statement that fell the day after Iain Duncan Smith’s explosive appearance on Marr where the former Cabinet minister excoriated the government for deepening division in the country.

By all accounts, Damian McBride prepared a robust and effective rejoinder for Labour’s leader with Iain Duncan Smith’s barbed words at the heart of the brief.

Jeremy Corbyn had the notes with him before he entered the chamber. He’d read them and his office expected him to use them.

But he didn’t.

Instead, Labour’s leader freelanced. He made his response up as he went along and the rest is history.

No mention of Iain Duncan Smith. Cameron off the hook. Ridicule, bafflement and defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

The episode is illustrative of the deepening dysfunction within Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle and his own increasingly uncomfortable position.

Damian McBride’s return to the political frontline was brokered and sanctioned by Seumas Milne, Labour’s controversial director of strategy

Milne has been concerned about the manner in which squalls envelope Labour. McBride’s experience, fighting for an embattled Gordon Brown, fending off attacks from a nexus of hostile Labour MPs and media, made him an ideal recruit.

However Damian McBride has been a far from popular appointment, opening up a new rift at the top.

Three months ago, I characterized the split at the top as one between the Bolsheviks of the Labour Representation Committee such as Andrew Fisher and Mensheviks such as ex-Livingstone aides Simon Fletcher and Neale Coleman.

Since then the Mensheviks have conclusively lost with Coleman departing in acrimony and Fletcher’s role becoming less political and more administrative.

But as the revolution unwinds a new division has emerged that once again echoes the experience of the Corbynistas’ Russian forbears.

In one camp are the Stalinists.

Seumas Milne is at the head of this group. They believe the Corbyn-McDonnell project must be protected at all costs.

If that means deploying the same political tactics and security apparatus as the old regime, then so be it.

Narrow focus is their leitmotif: Minimize the unnecessary conflicts, concentrate only on the big ticket changes like Trident even if this means limiting the ambition for wider change and punitively target the most voluble PLP dissenters as an example to the rest of the malcontents.

In the opposing camp are the Trotskyites of the Labour Representation Committee.

Led by the likes of Andrew Fisher, they want less compromise on the agenda and more direct political action against the full range of dissenters. Their view is that Labour’s new membership, sufficiently organized, can muscle truculent MPs with the threat of deselection and cut off the media’s supply of negative Labour stories.

They fear that bringing in machine-worn operators like Damian McBride will narrow their project prospectus based on the mores of the media, ossifying Jeremy Corbyn in the amber of Brownite compromise and guaranteeing failure.

Momentum not McBride is their route out of the hole.

Uncut sources suggest that the divide between Stalinist consolidation and Trotskyite confrontation is what led Jeremy Corbyn to abandon his speaking notes when responding to the prime minister’s statement.

With his closest advisers seriously split over McBride’s role, Corbyn, who is notoriously averse to personal conflict, chose not to choose.

Rather than take the words Damian McBride was putting in his mouth or use an alternative Trotskyite brief, he opted to give his response entirely without preparation.

And how it showed.

Uncut sources say that Jeremy Corbyn was deeply personally upset by the debacle.

Each day, leading Labour is difficult for a man who has spent the past four decades in a political bubble of contented agreement.

A farrago such as the statement response exacerbated his own discomfort and the feeling that he’s letting his supporters and his cause down – a sentiment he apparently frequently shares with his closest allies.

The extent of Corbyn’s personal pain has led activists, advisers and parliamentarians in both hard left factions, Stalinist and Trotskyite, to plan for a change in leadership before the next election.

While the media focus on the threat to the Labour leader from the parliamentary moderates, his supporters are looking ahead to a change at the top, come what may, in 2018.

Their options, however, are limited.

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, is an obvious candidate.

Unlike Jeremy Corbyn, he has always wanted the top job and could unify the competing factions, initially at least.

But like Corbyn he is not a natural with the media and unlike Corbyn is personally disliked by the vast majority of his parliamentary colleagues.

Age would also be a factor as would John McDonnell’s past positions which would receive far more scrutiny in a future contest than Jeremy Corbyn’s did in 2015.

Then there’s the Cat Smith, a member of the 2015 intake and true believer, who was regarded as having had a good outing on Question Time recently. But her experience in front of camera remains limited and 2018 is likely too early for her.

Instead, increasingly, the attention of both hard left groupings is turning to Clive Lewis.

Another 2015-er, he is seen to be ideologically sound and as a former TV presenter is one of the more capable broadcast advocates of their cause.

His background in the Territorial Army is counter-intuitive for someone coming from the left fringe and he has far less baggage than the older guard.

While doubts remain about his temperament, both Trotskyite and Stalinist understand that the next Labour leadership election will be a two-person affair.

Moderate MPs and advisers know that the 2015 division in the Not Corbyn camp muddied the moderate message and accentuated the clarity of Corbyn’s simple solutions.

Next time, the Highlander rule applies: there can only be one

This means the hard left champion will have far less room for manoeuvre than Jeremy Corbyn did and will have significant negatives, such as a record of electoral failure in local and regional elections, to defend.

In this context, for many Stalinists and Trotskyites, Clive Lewis is best placed to win what will be a tight race, whether against a modernising figure such as Dan Jarvis or the current PLP favourite, Angela Eagle.

Over the next few months these tensions between the leadership factions will continue to play out. Jeremy Corbyn will become more and more uncomfortable and the Trotskyite and Stalinist search for his successor will become increasingly urgent.

The road to 2018 for the Labour party will be like the road out of 2015, only worse.

And, if history is any guide, probably with fewer Trotskyites and more Stalinists running the show.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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11 Responses to “The inside story of why Corbyn forgot to mention IDS when responding to THAT Cameron statement”

  1. aye right says:

    use of Stalinist/Trotskyist/Bolshevik are weak as fuck. weak. as. fuck.

  2. John says:

    This article is 7 days late.

    At least you’re now talking about a leadership challenge in 2018 & not next month anymore, does this mean that Jeremy is doing better than you’ve been telling us since his election or that you’ve finally realised the policies of the right wing are leading us nowhere?

  3. Mike says:

    Glad these amateurs like McBride are having a good time re-living their Oxbridge/JCR political days. Lucky for me they’ll never be in Government…

  4. Branch Sec From Kent says:

    Please give it a rest. You’re not doing yourself any favours here, article after article. JC is the leader the party voted for, however much you wish it wasn’t so.

  5. james says:

    My brain hurts just thinking about it. No wonder Labour’s useless – all that energy with competing judean peoples front organisations.

  6. James Martin says:

    This fantasy article is like those ones the Mail and Torygraph are prone to writing every so often, you know the ones, elect a Labour government and your wee will turn green and the sky will fall in before nightfall. No wonder the right-wing in the Party are such a laughing stock these days, pitiful stuff Atul, truly pitiful.

  7. Thanks for a fascinating article, Atul.

    I think your parallel with figures in the Russian revolution is very apt, considering that John McDonnell has acknowledged their influence on his thinking.

    They mostly aren’t using that sort of language now in public, but the way they talk reminds me very much of the communists I knew at university.

  8. TC says:

    So, let me get this straight, you write an article on a supposedly Labour blog and there’s no mention of Cameron’s difficulties and the part that Labour has played in keeping the pressure up, nothing about Jeremy Hunt’s difficulties, nothing about how what Labour is doing and how it might better exploit these situations, nothing about Corbyn overtaking Cameron in popularity for the first time, none of that. Instead, we get a article that would embarrass a cheap gossip rag filled with the selfsame fantastical rubbish that you and your colleagues here have been putting out non-stop for months on end.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, IDS resigned and, now standing outside the tent, took a great big waz all over it, Cameron is in the mire and facing mounting pressure, not least from Corbyn and Tom Watson, who have done very well.

    As for the labels, I couldn’t put it better than aye right did further up.

    I wonder what you’ll say in 2020: ‘Disaster as Corbyn wins landslide – where did it all go wrong?’ would be my guess.

  9. DJ says:

    It’s articles like this and people like you who stop thousands voting for Labour. Chuka, Kendall and the like are seen as hypocrites as they spout left-wing values but take advantage of the right-wing rules and Blairites ignore the fact that he’s lost 3 elections more recently than he won 3, pretending that everything about his time as leader was beneficial and where the Labour party should be.

    The majority voted for a new kind of politics where ideas and people are championed more than “banter” and “adding insult to injury” for the good of a positive tabloid headline. By voting for Jeremy Corbyn Labour supporters voted for Paulo Di Canio catching the ball rather than knocking it past the injured keeper over Thierry Henry using his hand to knock Ireland out – all you can do if you didn’t vote for him is to persuade him not to embrace some of his mad ideas and recognise that sometimes you have to move away from Arsenal to win the biggest prize, although you can (and should) always return there.

  10. Mike Homfray says:

    But George Kendall – you are a centrist and a former LibDem councillor, who is openly opposed to radical change and socialism.

    There are many people clinging on to the Labour party who are not in the least socialist, and are only in the party because of the electoral system – I don’t think that people who are actually proposing a democratic socialist line are those out of step, but those who tried to take the Labour party in a centrist direction when there is already a perfectly acceptable centre party – the one you belong to!

    I’d very happily see electoral reform on the Scottish/Welsh parliament lines so that there can be the realignment in politics so much needed

  11. @Mike Homfray

    Hi Mike,

    I think of myself as left-of-centre, rather than a centrist. And there’s a difference.

    Centrist implies wanting to attract centre-ground voters, which is vital, because otherwise the Tories will run the country forever. Many people who are called “centrist” have similar progressive values to myself.

    However, the word “centrist” can sound like lacking any values, just wanting to preserve things as they are.

    There’s a lot we should be trying to change. In particular, we need to improve the life-chances of those who the system is failing.

    There are a lot of well-meaning radical policies which fail. Sometimes, they do more harm than good. To really improve things will require a willingness to test policies rigorously, discard those that we think will fail, and focus resources on those that will be most effective.

    The terms “left-of-centre” and “social democrat” capture something of that, which is why I use the terms.

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