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:
‘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 West – and 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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