Proof: Labour HQ funnelled resources away from pro-Corbyn marginals

The SKWAWKBOX reported on Saturday the decision by Labour’s HQ to defund and withdraw support from marginal seats in a defensive strategy – primarily defending anti-Corbyn candidates – that cost Labour the opportunity to be in government by last Friday.

That article was based on personal testimony from those affected, including Liverpool city councillors who advised they were all ‘three-line whipped’ to campaign in the relatively safe seat of Progress Chair Alison McGovern and to ignore the marginal neighbouring seats of Margaret Greenwood in Wirral West and Mike Amesbury in Weaver Vale. Also affected was now-Labour MP Chris Williamson. This testimony was underpinned by corroboration from senior Labour figures.

Now the SKWAWKBOX is able to present further firm evidence of this diversion of resources to protect Progress candidates, including the unprecedented (and completely unbalanced) practice of ‘twinning‘ every constituency in an area, for campaigning purposes, with the same not-very-marginal seat while ignoring others just as near and far more threatened – a practice that has never, as far as Labour members and candidates the SKWAWKBOX spoke to were concerned, been part of Labour’s electoral process.

Exhibit 1 – the ‘twinning’ emails

Below is an email received by a member of Liverpool’s Wavertree constituency regarding General Election campaigning. It refers to Wavertree’s ‘twinning’ with Wirral South – the constituency of Alison McGovern, to which all the city’s councillors were also whipped to attend:

wavertree wirral s.png

‘Twinning’ Wavertree CLP (constituency Labour Party) with Wirral South might seem a reasonable step.

Except that the SKWAWKBOX has received information from members in every other Liverpool constituency – Walton, Riverside, West Derby, Garston & Halewood as well as the next-door seat of Knowsley that they were all ‘twinned’ with Wirral South.

Wirral South was won by Alison McGovern in 2015 by a majority of over 4,600. Wirral West was won in 2015 by 417 votes – yet not a single CLP was ‘twinned’ with Wirral West and the city’s councillors were forbidden by Labour’s NW region to campaign in Wirral West.

That’s not the end of the matter. A councillor in the Walton constituency has confirmed that s/he was whipped, like other city councillors, to go to Wirral South – and that the whole CLP ‘executive committee’ was also whipped to support Wirral South.

Labour’s official machine not only failed to give any support to Margaret Greenwood in marginal Wirral West (or Weaver Vale) – it banned Labour officials from doing so and routed the support of ordinary members to Wirral South via ‘twinning’.

Exhibit 2: Bolton West

This behaviour was not limited to Merseyside. As the SKWAWKBOX revealed on Saturday, the marginal constituency of Bolton West – again with a pro-Corbyn candidate – was lost last week by just over 900 votes. Labour’s candidate there received no funding except a union donation of around £1,400 and could not even afford garden stakes to raise Labour’s profile. The MP had no official campaign team and had only a team of volunteers with no campaign-management experience.

A Bolton West member has advised the SKWAWKBOX that she contacted Labour NW for details of campaigning opportunities in her own constituency of Bolton Westand was told not to:

I phoned Region and told them I lived in Bolton West and I wanted to go doorknocking in Bolton West. Not only did they try to persuade me NOT to help out in Bolton West, they also refused to put me in contact with anyone from Bolton West.

Another Bolton West member said that they had asked for details of phone-banking in the constituency and were told that they couldn’t phone-bank in Bolton West:

You should be calling in Bolton NE and Oldham East.

Exhibit 3: Southampton

Nor is this behaviour limited to the north-west. The SKWAWKBOX received information relating to similar issues from members across the country. One member of a Southampton constituency told this blog:

Our Regional office/HQ and local party leadership pushed all resources into defending a safer seat which ended up with an 11,500 majority and left the neighbouring Tory marginal under-supported. The NEC had already imposed a non Corbyn-supporting candidate whose campaign pretended Corbyn didn’t exist.

That seat was lost by 31 votes. The campaign was extremely badly run which contributed to losing but if it had been fully resourced we might have been able to get it.

These examples are just a small part of the evidence that is building up about a craven and self-serving agenda that was enacted by Labour’s bureaucracy in an apparent attempt to ‘circle the wagons’ around right-wing candidates to protect them at the expense of defending marginal seats with pro-Corbyn candidates – and at the expense of any officially-funded attempt to win Tory marginals.

And therefore at the expense of a Labour government starting on Friday.

The incredible efforts of a host of volunteers who took the initiative to get out into those marginal consistencies meant that Labour was able to confound its doubters by winning 30-odd additional seats – including Weaver Vale – and successfully defended many Labour-held marginals – including Wirral West.

But Labour also lost a few marginal seats, reducing the net gains, while the (again volunteer-driven) successes in places like Canterbury and Lincoln showed what could have been achieved had Labour HQ supported the party’s leader and membership in their efforts instead of merely seeking to defend the number of right-wing MPs in the party, no doubt with an eye to retaking control of the Labour party in the event of a poor performance in the General Election.

In defending their own narrow, internal interests, the right-wingers at Labour HQ cost Labour the keys to Downing Street – and cost the party its chance to have a Labour government with a policy platform that inspired voters and would transform the fabric of our society.

That cannot be allowed to happen ever again and those responsible must be replaced by people with the best interests of the party and the country genuinely at heart.

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  1. how much more of the machinations by the right are allowed to continue it just shows the unelected unaccountabilty of akenhurst and others

    1. Sorry Ian, couldn’t figure out how to comment, so having to post as a reply.
      Bit I don’t get is, Oldham East is Debbie Abrahams, so a v obv Corbyn supporter. Maybe it wasn’t dependent on their factional ties, more that HQ thought it wld be so disastrous, they wanted to protect existing MPs with quite large majorities, thinking even they could be vulnerable if a rout?
      And seats like Arfon and Aberconwy were numbers 73 and 71 respectively on the Lab target list. I can see why HQ might have thought they were a totally lost cause.

  2. There’s no “smoking-gun” evidence of the motives, but there’s no doubt that Labour HQ had poor allocation of resources. Even Chris Cook’s article about the campaigns on the BBC website mentions an odd allocation of resources where MPs were given up for dead by Labour who ended up winning handily, and volunteers were diverted to other areas from their own marginal areas. The generous interpretation giving Labour HQ benefit of the doubt would be that Labour HQ believed the stupid analysis, similar to the one by Labour Uncut, and alluded to by a Spectator blogger. that there could only be 140 seats left so there had to be a deep defensive circling of the wagons, which would mean they had blinders on and ignored other evidence, but not that they were malicious and trying to lose the election.

    This taste of success, thanks to Jeremy Corbyn and his team, should hopefully show to Labour HQ what they did wrong. And now that this information is out there in the public, their mistakes can’t be repeated again. I think Corbyn’s team are very savvy and would know when or if to take any further action on Labour HQ, so without further indications from people close to Corbyn, I don’t think it is worth risking a “civil war” when Labour is close to government. But thank you for getting the information out there!

      1. Sure, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-40222733 … The bit I was referring to is

        “I know of MPs who got cut off by the party as dead losses who held their seats comfortably. Just on Thursday, activists were dispatched to a deep defensive line. Shock gains like Enfield Southgate and Canterbury were shocks to lots of local activists, too, who yesterday were being sent to defend Labour-held seats elsewhere.”

    1. A smoking gun would be evidence of a systematic bias in favour of supporting anti-Corbyn MPs over pro-Corbyn MPs who both found themselves defending similar majorities in comparable circumstances. A full picture of ‘twinning’, ‘whipping’ and other forced resource allocations would allow for a proper assessment.

      If, as you suggest, HQ was merely circling the waggons, under an assumed worst-case prediction of Labour’s electoral support, they’ll have circled them without any apparent bias for the politics of the respective candidates.

      I think this type of assessment would be very worthwhile undertaking, especially where pro- and anti-Corbyn MPs held close or neighbouring seats. In comparable circumstances, forced resource allocation for one and not the other would be highly suggestive.

  3. Is Labour HQ answerable to nobody? Am a bit confused. Are we talking about the PLP here? If so, are all MPs aware of what is going on in their name? Can you do a post on structure and responsibilities of both PLP and NEC and how they do or don’t work in tandem please Steve.

    1. No, the (primarily) employed functionaries at HQ – who are, for the most part, still very much on the side of the right-wing. I can do a post, but it won’t make light reading! Labour’s rules and structures are not straightforward in this area and were worsened under Blair. Sorting that out is a huge task and one of the chief battles we face.

      1. It would be really good to have a post about that, as my understanding of why we are where we are is vaguer than it should be. I’m aware we have been compromised by the regional office in a number of respects (withholding membership data, for example) but not sure how it all slots together

  4. Hi Mark, More on ‘twinning’ etc. Interesting What can be done? Dittany

  5. Yes the Northwest control hub of Labour need to be investigated promptly , as a local resident I was horrified to find out they were against JC and were more concerned about winning in the future ,plotting deviously amongst themselves. Imagine how different our near future would look if all had respected JC leadership and fought hard in the campaign this time , they should all be ashamed of themselves and step down . I only hope JC realizes they cannot be trusted in the future with prominent positions and instead recruitment of fresh members who have similar principle s and integrity is essential as loyalty will get Labour into number 10 .

    1. You are so right, what an opportunity missed all down to petty prejudices, and not following the person chosen by the members. JC my superstar ⭐️

  6. What a way to behave, this goes against all the principles of democracy, they deserve to be expelled from the party.

  7. I was part of the team running the Wirral West campaign. We did receive all the support we needed from NW Region who were helpful throughout the campaign. NW Region directed members towards our campaign, paid for our campaign coordinator’s secondment, helped with literature, gave advice throughout and supported us with visits (including the legendary Corbyn rally). We were told that there were no priority seats and all seats were being treated the same.
    However, we did hear that people were being told that they were twinned and whipped with other constituencies. I don’t believe this was by NW Region as this is not their role. It seems to me that officers of Labour Groups and CLPs were making these decisions locally and possibly misleading their members into thinking this was some sort of official strategy. If I had been lied to in this way I would be taking it up with my elected officers ( not Labour Party staff) and holding them to account in the usual way.
    In Wirral West we had a huge amount of support from members of other constituencies and unions who came willingly rather than being forced. They came because they recognised Labour needed to win its marginals and because we had a candidate who had been consistent and vocal in her support for Jeremy Corbyn. They also came because they were optimistic about the final result and were proved to be correct. We had a fantastic campaign in Wirral West- full of hope, positive energy and real solidarity. We recruited almost 100 new members and local members (some very new) led every aspect of the campaign. Our campaign has left our constituency party stronger. The campaign atmosphere was positive and inspiring and this would not have happened if we had relied upon forced and begrudging support.

    1. Agree you had lots of support, but it was by Labour members and supporters taking the initiative on their own – which you’ve touched on. The councillors etc are very clear – they were being whipped by region, whipped away from WW and toward WS.

  8. yet can corbyn rid the party of these greedie ones whose only concern is getting the party back to tory light

  9. Reblogged this on Sid's Blog and commented:
    The “Plotters” have to give in!
    We are the many! At 800,000 and climbing, we WILL be heard!
    Corbyn has won the hearts and minds of Britain! Bitteriiiiiiites have lost!

  10. Disgusting shenanigans! These saboteurs need throwing out. Those people are apparently in the wrong party anyway.

  11. my constituency was only given £1000.00 to fight the election. The Tory won last time by 4,500 votes this time by 1,300
    I was at the Labour Hall folding “I voted by post for labour” leaflets which were to be posted to labour supporters . Whilst there I asked for a labour poster to put in my window to show support & I was told that they did not have any, so I had to photocopy the small poster from labour HQ & the leaflet to place in my windows.
    Labour supporters did what they could by having pop up stalls etc around the town but this was no way to win a seat & I truly believe we could have won it with more funding.

  12. One comment I will make about Southampton Itchen is that we did not have a non-Corbyn supporting candidate imposed by the NEC. Simon Letts is a local guy, leader of the council, a teacher in the city for over 30 years and very impressive. In fact, I gather there was a bit if a fight to get him instead of Rowenna Davis again. There was good reason for the campaign literature focussing on Simon, as the Tory incumbent Royston Smith had made huge capital of being local, and after previous ‘parachuted in’ candidates had gone down like a cup of cold sick, the local angle was crucial.

    I suspect if we’d had a more ‘moderate’ candidate, the party might have supported us a bit more.

    1. That is inaccurate. Simon Letts is not a left candidate. He may in the past have been towards the left he is clearly not anymore. Anyone who wants to turn Southampton City Council into a ‘Commissioning’ council and trots out basically Tory homilies like “the best way out of poverty is a job” is in my view barely a fig leaf away from a Blairite.

      He has never stated any support for Jeremy Corbyn and avoided doing so throughout the election. There was no fight to make him the candidate it was a shoe in and he wasn’t even very keen as he figured it was a loser because he thought Jeremy was going to bomb. The point about localism might have been relevant in past elections but this time it was obviously going to be about national issues and Jeremy. His failure to mention much of these issues or have anything to do with Jeremy probably helped to cost the seat.

      You are just making sad desperate excuses for someone who blew it and cost Labour a winnable seat. If region/HQ don’t support you then you work around it and find a way, not sit around morosely complaining you can’t win anyway and you never really wanted to do it.

      1. Oh yes and as exhibit 2 on Simon Letts actions as Southampton Council Leader vs what he trots out in his single transferable speech to party meetings. Lets not forget bi-weekly bin collections reducing expenditure by £800,000 p/a with £400,000 of that amount being allocated to reductions in employment costs ie job losses for the refuse workers (not compulsory redundancies maybe but still job losses). The long term strategy quite clearly being to move refuse collection from direct employees to outsourced private provision (this is what commissioning councils do). It might be a council owned/majority company in the beginning but how long does that last (see the example of bus services in Southampton).

        Not content with effectively pursuing a policy of privatising pretty much all Southampton Council direct services we must not forget Simon Letts actions in introducing the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) that was brought in to allow prosecution of the homeless for begging. A supposedly Labour council effectively bullying some of the most vulnerable and poor people in Southampton.

        I assume you are in Southampton and you might mean well but you have seriously rose coloured glasses on in regards to Simon Letts attitudes and policies. He is in no sense either any longer on the left and in his actions inside Southampton Labour Party he has resisted and opposed Jeremy Corbyn from the beginning. To describe him as an anti-Corbyn candidate is therefore perfectly accurate.

  13. The same happened in Luton… all the funding and help was put into prominent blairite Gavin Shuker in Luton South who ended up with a large majority. However, Luton North and Bedford got very little or nothing. Luton North’s experienced Corbyn supporting MP wasn’t disadvantaged but it is no thanks to the LP HQ that Bedford’s Mohammad Yasin scraped in with a 789 majority (overturning a 2015 Tory majority of just 1097).

  14. I think just about every reason why I will not join a political party or become one of their councillors is listed here.

    I would be willingly sacrificing my human rights and handing it control.

    No political party is worth that. I can see now why politicians – yes, Labour ones also – end up abusing vulnerable people and defending it. They lose their own minds and with it their ability to register injustice and mingle with normal, sentient human beings.

  15. Now all the plp that quit Jeremy’s front bench are saying they will now serve in his shadow cabinet probably expecting their old jobs back. After his present front bench have done a brilliant job of helping him win against all the odds. How two faced self interested can they get

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