Another stab in the back myth: The hard left is trying to blame the 2019 defeat on Starmer and the party’s Brexit policy. One problem. I’ve got the receipts

by Patrick Heneghan

The rewriting of history is underway. The charge is that Labour lost the last election because of our Brexit policy which was led by Keir Starmer. Len McCluskey was at it during interviews to promote his book and at the end of last week Andrew Fisher was writing about it.

While it’s obviously true that Keir Starmer was Shadow Brexit Secretary, the muddled Brexit policy Labour put before the electorate in 2019 was by no means Starmer’s policy – in fact the position Labour adopted was then hailed as a victory for Corbyn over the pro European wing of the Party. And you don’t need to take my word for it, I’ve been back over the comments and articles from the time, and they tell a very different story about how and why Labour ended up with the Brexit policy it did.

The real pressure to change the position on Brexit began after the 2019 Euro Elections. Labour had recorded less than 15% of the vote – it’s lowest ever vote share in a national election.

Following those elections, it was no secret that Corbyn’s most inner circle was split. Diane Abbott was clear “something is wrong with our strategy. We need to listen to our members and take a clearer line on a public vote” and John McDonnell responded to the results by stating “we must unite our party & country by taking the issue back to (the) people in a public vote.”

Momentum, had already balloted their members, the results of which showed clear support for a second referendum.

The Guardian reported that Len McCluskey was accusing some of those calling for a second referendum of trying to whip up a coup against Corbyn. Did he mean John, Diane, and Momentum?

The battle for a new Brexit policy would be settled at Conference, but the 2019 Conference did not back Labour becoming a Remain party as some suggest.

At Conference the Party’s pro-European wing backed composite 13 which committed Labour to a second referendum and campaigning to Remain.

Those opposing this had won the argument with Corbyn and the leadership wanted to back a position where Labour would commit to negotiate a new Brexit deal and then put that against Remain in a new referendum. Labour would take no formal position on Remain and Corbyn himself would sit out the campaign. They organised against composite 13.

Writing in the New Statesman days before the vote, Len McCluskey pleaded with delegates to “Support Corbyn, support this Brexit position” and rejected calls for “Corbyn to state whether he would back a Labour Brexit deal or Remain”. In the Guardian, Len described the policy as “the grown up thing to do.” Steve Howell was in agreement, writing in the Guardian that by Corbyn not taking a position it would allow him to be “someone who can credibly act as an honest broker in giving people a final say.”

Composite 13 was defeated on conference floor and Labour would not become a Remain party. When the result was announced Corbyn supporters in the Conference Hall began to sing “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”. Corbyn’s position had “triumphed” declared Diane Abbott. Steve Howell declared the policy was a recipe to “unite and fight for the interests of working people”. The Skwawkbox reported with glee the defeat of the “Remainers” and composite 13 claiming it was Karie Murphy’s “greatest triumph”.

With the pro-Europeans defeated Labour would head towards a general election with a Brexit policy that ultimately no one really supported and which the public would never understand.

It was my view that such a policy would not win against Boris’s pledge to “get Brexit done” and his new “oven ready” deal – agreed with the EU. The only option was not to allow the Tories to have an election on those terms. I spoke to Corbyn and McDonnell making clear my view.

Corbyn’s team was far from united – Andrew Fisher had resigned claiming the operation was hamstrung by a “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency”. The Skwawkbox reported the attacks on John McDonnell from around Corbyn along with claims that “John has been on maneuverers”. When I visited John’s office to discuss my views on the situation I was spotted and photographed by one of Corbyn’s most senior aides. A few days later the Sunday Times called claiming to have a copy of this photo as evidence I was advising McDonnell. While the photo was never published the Sunday Times reports made clear my visit to John was being used by some around Corbyn to attack John.

Instead of trying to avoid the trap of an early election too many around Corbyn simply ignored all the evidence and pushed all out for an election. John Trickett seemed unusually confident “We want an election, we will then negotiate a proper deal in order to deliver Brexit and then we’ll let the people decide. We’ll put a referendum within 6 months which will offer a Labour deal for Brexit against a Remain programme with some reforms to the EU.”

Novara Media joined in with Ash Sarkar claiming the time was right for election and that Labour “had a plan to sort Brexit out in 6 months” and Aaron Bastani advocatedremoving the whip from Labour MPs that didn’t support the early election. Owen Jones asserted it was “time for a general election” and Momentum made clear their feelings by declaring that it was time to “bring on a general election.” Len McCluskey described an early election as the “only way forward” and later claimed “the election isn’t about Brexit.”

The die was cast. Labour supported the early election and went on to have their worst result in nearly 100 years.

Today were are now told that Labour’s Brexit policy was imposed on an unwilling Corbyn by Keir Starmer – and that as a result Starmer is responsible for the 2019 loss and should apologise.

It’s another blatant attempt to shift blame onto others. The claims that both the 2017 and 2019 campaigns were sabotaged obviously don’t stand up to any real scrutiny and one only needs to read reports from inside the 2019 campaign to understand just what a mess it was.

The coordinated attacks on Starmer this past week have failed badly as will the attempts to rewrite history about how and why Labour ended up fighting the 2019 election with the Brexit policy it did.

Instead Starmer comes out of conference with more control of the Party than ever before and the chance to reshape Labour towards a Party than can win an election again.

Patrick Heneghan OBE is a former Executive Director for Elections and Campaigns for the Labour Party


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14 Responses to “Another stab in the back myth: The hard left is trying to blame the 2019 defeat on Starmer and the party’s Brexit policy. One problem. I’ve got the receipts”

  1. John P Reid says:

    So basically it’s everyone’s fault except Caroline Flint and Blue Labour’s,then?

    Glad we got that ine cleaated up

    There’s 3 points there

    1,you’re implying the blairite view it was Corbyn not Tho brexit police to blame is right afterall ( admittedly he was vilified, not without reason in patriotism)

    2, neglecting The fact the whole new labour project 30 year ago, get middle class votes the working class have nowhere to go, ignored what blue labour. Or what John Denham, jon Cruddas said before them, the working class can abstain let alone it lead to the case if labour held the working class in so much contempt one day they’d say “sod it” and Vote tory

    3 Starmer was the key instigator of the 2nd referendum in October 2018 while Denis skinner looked in disgusted at conference Sir Keith said it on staff to applause from Momentum young labour the Guardian , Blairites you town revolutionaries Corbynites it was then he got himself the leadership, It was then he’d never become Prime minister
    Starmer stood next to D. abbott , Lady Nugee , Alex sobel, Lloyd Russell moyle,
    His hero Paul Mason championed him to have this policy with the idea see Ztarmer can unite the two rings of the party the blairites and the Corbynites
    This implied there’s only 2 wings, they’re both middle class gusrdisn libersl remsin Londoners into Identity politics from Islington lawyers
    The whole working class socially conservative Daily mirror readers outside of London
    Can do one
    It never occurred to them searching for more orange boo Libdem Nick Clegg fans to vote labour , that the Tories not being Thatcherite feel if the Labour Party is going to be A middle clsss orange book Libdem party “ I’d sooner gsvr thr Tories in”

    It’s this article that’s re writing history

    Of course had we accepted theresa Mays deal, we wouldn’t have had the 20-9 EU election to do so badly to then have the ridiculous policy of A
    2nd referendum
    And the public wont forgive Starmer for being the key Instigator

    You think 2019 was bad

    I’ve friends in Ashfield Kent the Medway
    Clacton ,Chelmsford ,Havering Essex , Stoke on Trent
    Panicking they’re gonna lose their council seats due to the continued state of the Labour Party

    When labour acknowledged those Starmer had fought for justice for, it apologised for anti semitism AT conference last week
    All he had to do was apologise to the working class labour voters for his 2nd referendum policy for remain for holding us in contempt. But no not a word

  2. John P Reid says:

    Never knew bluevlabour were the hard left.

    But glad you accept it was the policy That cost labour the red wall

  3. Starmer leading the 2nd referendum for remain
    It gave reason for middle class liberal guardian reading blairite/Corbynites or young labour to put on Facebook
    The working class brexiters are fascist racist thick scum
    Then when we went out canvased in the 2019 Election

    Despite saying we don’t agree with The 2nd referendum for remain but please vote labour the Tories are nasty
    Having picked up on the Facebook posts
    The working class are saying why vote labour when you think is as brexiters are fascist racist scum

    Although I will agree with rewriting history
    As the whole labour movement was against section 28 pro gay rights anti Aparthied

    Corbynites Re wroite it Corbyn was The only one against Aparthied and section 28
    The whole labour movement was against those things

    Difference was we were trying win National seats in council estates in Essex
    Corbyn was sitting around his alottment discussing Having The revolution drinking champagne

    Yet corbyns comments about having The revolution , if we lost the 1987 election were driving vote: away from labour by the million in the suburbs yet we were the ones who had to live with those people, trying to persuade people to vote Labour where as he was The sort who didn’t see them and didn’t care his comments were putting the working class off us in The Labour Party

  4. steve says:

    While laughably accusing others of doing the same, Patrick offers us an attempt to re-write history.

    The belief in Blairite infallibility appears to know no boundary.

    The Tories won the general election with a three word manifesto: “Get Brexit done”.

    In their ‘we know better than the electorate’ conceit, Labour’s elite wanted to opt for another referendum and risk plunging the country into the social instability that could arise from the refusal to accept the first referendum result.

    Let us pray that Labour’s pompous, unaccountable elite never get anywhere near government.

  5. Vern says:

    As discussed many times before – Corbyn’s pig headed behaviour of opposing everything is where much of the blame lies here. He was anti-EU for his entire political career and when it mattered most he “sat on the fence.” A lack of balls and a total lack of leadership qualities that unsettled once loyal Labour voters.
    Had Corbyn and the Labour Party been decisive in showing support for the referendum result and democracy then the 52/48 would have been considerably higher in favour of Leave and much of the nonsense from 2016 onwards could have been avoided.
    The voters though have seen too many Labour MP’s, the likes of Hilary Benn attempt to thwart democracy and that will take a generation of voters to trust Labour MP’s again (if ever).
    Starmer is trying to forge ahead with a party that is at war with itself making the job more difficult. And with the likes of Rayner as Deputy they stand no chance of success. Its a shame the party refuses to listen to those it alleges to serve….

  6. So there’s 6% of lexiters who voted labour in the red wall in 2019 who are now voting green? If the reason labour is getting voted from the Libdems Tories stabilising
    And greens going up libdems down

  7. Anne says:

    There is little point in going back over who said what, we must try and sort out this botched deal.
    Notice that Michel Barnier is currently in the UK flogging his book. He referred to Brexit as a loose, loose situation for both sides. I tend to agree. It is quite obvious that he preferred Mrs May to Johnson at the negotiating table.
    Relations between the EU seem to go from bad to worse – reaching a stalemate with many out standing problems. This is certainly not a good situation.
    Need a change of team – led, of course, by Starmer.

  8. Tafia says:

    The Brexit Policy was one the two main reasons, Corbyn being the other. Trying to deny it is lying to yourself.

    If you don’t think it was, stop trying to sweet talk back into the Red Wall.

    ANNE – we must try and sort out this botched deal. The deal itself is mostly OK other than it still allows to much EU influence and we are failing to impose it in certain areas such as fishing where by now we should be arresting French fishermen and confiscating their boats for destruction for flagrantly ignoring the new rules. You mean the Protocol I suspect which is where most of the problems are, which is an entirely different thing and is now out of favour with business both sides of the border, Dublin and Belfast. If you do mean the actual deal, then first of all you would have to call the EU liars – as they insist that the deal is not renogotiable, that you can only accept it or scrap it. So do you think they are lairs or telling the truth?. Because you can proceed no further until you decide which they are and act accordingly.

    Barnier preferred May to Johnson because she basically surrendered to the EU – her BRINO was nothing short of an insult to leavers that’s why her own party openly and publicly trashed her at every opportunity and why she is not accorded the status and respect by them normally afforded to ex-PMs and treated even within her opwn party as bitter, twisted interfering Remainer.

    Incidentally, I am sure you know Barnier is standing as the Les Republicains candidate for the presidential election on a policy of scrapping Freedom of Movement and pulling France further away from Brussels.

    Then you would have to ask Starmer why of you think it’s so bad, why did he whip his MPs to support it.

    JOHN – So there’s 6% of lexiters who voted labour in the red wall in 2019 who are now voting green? Almost certainly they are people who wish to stay voting on the left but not vote for a party that is Remain (the Lib Dems) or one that still contains people who wish to undermine Brexit (Labour), so that leaves Green.

  9. tafia, The annoying thing is
    Ed Miliband,ANDY burnham
    Liz Kendall, Lisa Nandy, Diane abbott, Yvette Cooper, probably even Jeremy And Starmer after he’d been advised
    Know labour has to get Tory voters to win and many working class tories eat himble pie to vote Tory,
    so it’s more a case to stop labour winning, rather than for self interest
    But first Ed Miliband when Cruddas had explained to him to the working class would go Tory
    Thought just get Libdem votes , Ukip splits the Tory vote and win by default in a dodgy 1 nil away win on 35%

    Only for after the 2015 defeat, when the party was told this,

    thought do it again this time with Green Party leave voters and still it wasn’t enough

    Only now for them to think post brexit the red wall will still come back and labour doesn’t need to win working class Tories, outside the red wall.

    Actually in fairness to Ed Miliband in 2010
    some of the above like Andy of Diane may have tried Milibands 35% strategy
    Or Cooper would’ve find the same as Corbyn and just aimed for green votes
    And Corbyn knew he couldn’t try to get Tory votes as it’s have upset Momentum
    And Nandy or Ktndall had they tried in 2015/2020 would’ve had the likes of open labour calling her a sell out

  10. Anne says:

    Barnier is for freedom of movement within the EU, but is for a form of controlled immigration from countries outside the EU.

  11. A.J. says:

    Barnier’s is a somewhat absurd position to take and of no use/interest to the UK with its huge numbers of Indians, Pakistanis etc. Another few thousand Central and Eastern Europeans we can probably do without.

  12. Tafia says:

    Incidentlly, Barnier has faded dramaticlly over the last couple of weeks and ‘unknown’ newcomer – a popular, succesful and jewsish political author, article writer, youtube-er & TV presenter Eric Zemmour, who is ultra right and storming up the polls. He wrote the prize-winning french best-seller ‘The French Suicide’ (a book about the damage immigration has done to France)

    As it stands at present, the second round run-off will be two from:-

    Emmanuel Macron (En Marche, centrist, economically liberalist, pro-EU, pro-federalisation)
    Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National, anti-EU, populist Right)
    Eric Zemmour (Independent Gaulist-Bonapartist, anti-EU, Ultra-Right)

    Difficult one for Labour – can’t endorse a candidate from the Right, but can’t endorse Macron either. Macron if he wins intends to reduce the French state pension system which will result in lower pensions for new retirees, further liberalise the French economy and further reduce trades union influence and power. He says his party is now the only pro-EU party left in France.

    Barnier is trailing sixth out of 6 so-far declared candidates.

  13. Tafia says:

    More on the transgender/self-ID circus.

    Dr Sinead Helyar, who is a doctor and clinical research nurse at King’s College Hospital, claims that official NHS documents label patients who ask to be put in a single-sex ward as ‘transphobes’, ‘offenders’ and ‘perpetrators’.

    She also highlighted her ‘concerns’ about the treatment of women patients on single-sex female wards, and said that NHS policies ‘prioritised male transgender patients in the very spaces set out for women’.

    ‘As part of it’s single-sex ward policy the NHS allows full bodied male adults to be placed next to women on female wards.

    ‘Although policy states there are circumstances where a trans patient can be excluded, this generates a clear conflict of interest between patients and denies women the single-sex wards, which the NHS itself recognise they need.

    ‘Women expressing discomfort, one of the prime motivators for single sex ward policy point the first place, is now described at Nottinghamshire NHS trust as “transphobic concerns”.

    ‘This is the NHS gaslighting women patients. In some trusts being a known male sex-offender is not an automatic bar to women’s wards, both Devon and Oxford allow them on female wards subject to risk assessment’.

    ‘In one mental health trust a male, who identified as a woman, was placed on a female ward with observation, this patient complained the observation was discriminatory and it was removed – the patient went on to sexually assault two women patients.

    ‘The same patient was placed on a female ward on a subsequent admission, and each time assaulted women. Staff concerns were ignored.’

    ‘Policies prevent staff from speaking out even when there are clear safeguarding concerns and questioning any aspects will be perceived as anti-trans, with consequences including a disciplinary – and in some cases being charged with a criminal offence.

    ‘One staff member in a trust had a formal complaint made against her.’

    Some trusts have called those who are uncomfortable with the idea transphobic, likened them to racists in official guidelines and asked staff to report them to the police for hate crimes.’

  14. A.J. says:

    There is a song which goes ‘The lunatics have taken over the asylum…’
    Surprised young Carrie isn’t onto this as a sure-fire vote winner.
    Johnson in a pink Stetson…
    ‘Ang’, however, looks all female to me…

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