PoliticsHome published an article yesterday with the emphatic title, “Fresh pressure on Jeremy Corbyn as young Labour members demand conference vote on second Brexit referendum“.
The subtitle was even more emphatic – and emphatically inaccurate:
Tens of thousands of young Labour members have demanded Jeremy Corbyn grants them a vote on changing his Brexit policy at the next party conference.
The first claim was technically correct insofar as ‘young Labour members‘ had ‘demanded a conference vote‘.
Two of them.
Certainly nowhere near enough to create any ‘fresh pressure’.
The subtitle, on the other hand, was utterly inaccurate. The two Labour members in question were the chairs of two organisations, only one of them technically a youth organisation: Labour Students and Young Labour.
But although they claimed in their letter to be speaking on behalf of their members, in one case – the case of the group with the vast majority of the 100,000 members – the Chair appears not to have been speaking for her organisation.
Young Labour is for Labour members up to twenty-seven years of age. Labour Students includes mature students – and nobody knows for sure how many members it has, but it’s not many, as Young Labour officials have previously pointed out.
Now, the opinion – or ‘demand’ – of the Chairs of two organisations might carry considerable weight. But only if they’re speaking on behalf of their members. But at least one of them apparently wasn’t – as the rest of the Young Labour committee rushed to make clear:
The full statement was even more emphatic – and made clear the fact that, as represented by its full elected committee and as delegates expressed overwhelmingly at the organisation’s conference, it holds the opposite view to that expressed by its Chair:
There were attempts by – of course – so-called ‘centrists’ to justify the Young Labour Chair’s claim by suggesting that she has a democratic mandate to do so, but this is patent nonsense. The Chair was the only ‘centrist’ to succeed in being elected to the Young Labour committee and far more people voted for the other eight committee members who exposed the false claim.
Emilio Casalicchio, the author of the PoliticsHome article, pointed out:
The chairs opened their letter with the line below:
“We write to you today representing a combined Labour membership of more than 100,000 people.”
Mr Casalicchio also kindly provided a copy of the claim:
He tweeted further:
Of course, a claim that a hundred thousand people had all demanded something might merit a little background check on the nature of Labour Students, while the fact that the chair is the only ‘centrist’ on the Young Labour committee, with the rest of the positions going to the Momentum slate is not hard to discover.
But the SKWAWKBOX is happy to show Mr C’s comments and even to link to the update he posted about Young Labour being ‘at war’ over the Chair’s claim – although ‘war’ may not be the best word to describe the organisation’s whole conference and all its committee members versus one official.
The Chair’s individual opinion was treated as representative in the PoliticsHome article. This was entirely misleading – although the claim by the two chairs was accepted, unwisely as it turns out, at face value.
Labour Students as an organisation – could be all two dozen of them for all anyone knows publicly – might want a second referendum. But as Labour Students was set up as a right-wing front organisation to combat a left-wing young members’ group, it would be no surprise to find out its probably-tiny membership throwing its weight behind the efforts of right-wing MPs to undermine the Labour leadership’s intelligent handling of the difficult Brexit issue.
Sadly, misleading representations of right-wing opinion and dissent are all too common among the mainstream media. An informed public is essential to counteract such nonsense.
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