With the start of Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool just over a week away, most Labour members and delegates are excited and expectant about the anticipated Democracy Review recommendations and ‘open selection’ moves that will put the party firmly into the hands of its members.
But at the same time – and for the same reasons – the SKWAWKBOX can reveal that a group of laughably-termed ‘moderates’ is making very different plans for the conference.
Desperate after another year of failed smears to prevent measures that will put the party out of reach of the ‘centrists’ that want to drag it back to the ‘good old days’, by their estimation, of Labour as a diet-version of the Tory party, the group is planning a series of measures to disrupt and discredit the event and allow the Establishment media to set a narrative of a party being dragged left by bullies over the ‘noble’ protests of the members who ‘just want it to be electable’.
Because, of course, we’re supposed to believe that all those ‘centrists’ surprised and disappointed by the ‘Corbyn surge’ at last year’s general election know all about what’s ‘electable’. In spite of the humble pie on which they gagged after last year’s elections, it seems the Labour right has learnt nothing.
And those plans have crystallised and extended because of the declaration by ‘moderate’ figurehead Tom Watson to boycott the conference in pique at the supposedly-unsatisfactory speaking slot offered to him.
The main themes on which disruptions are planned are those of stopping Brexit and, predictably, antisemitism. Below is a list of actions planned:
Before Conference even begins, Jeremy Corbyn is to hold a rally in Liverpool city centre next Saturday – as are the plans to try to prevent it being seen as Corbyn’s triumphant return to one of the most left cities in the UK.
The right will look to repeat its ‘stop Brexit’ protest at the ‘Labour Live’ event in London, but on a bigger scale in the hope of preventing the farce where the protesters were simply asked to leave and were forced to claim, against the available evidence, that they were forcibly ejected.
Right-wingers hope to force conference delegates to ‘run the gauntlet’ of a placard-waving demonstration that will claim to be about antisemitism, but in reality is about undermining and removing the party’s leader.
Although the chances of them persuading any Corbyn supporters that the smears against him aren’t nonsense are low to none, the centrists hope to sour the conference atmosphere, control the mainstream media narrative and weaken resolve for the key votes – or at least to provoke enough anger among delegates to provide video footage useful for propaganda purposes.
The right has a fourfold plan for the Conference fringe and the parallel ‘The World Transformed‘ (TWT) event. Disruption is planned at any fringe event that Corbyn is expected to attend, or that involves the Jewish Voice for Labour group or its supporters. In addition, any appearances by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, Labour general secretary Jennie Formby or Chris Williamson are on the hit-list.
Fourth, any TWT event is considered fair game because of the event’s left-wing origins and support for Jeremy Corbyn and the direction of the Labour Party under him.
In the hope of detracting from the party leader’s speech on the final day of Conference – and in revenge for the supposed slight to Tom Watson – right-wingers are attempting to coordinate a walk-out of the constituency delegates it has managed to get selected. Earlier walk-outs for speeches by Corbyn’s close allies were considered, but are likely to have been set aside for maximum impact at Corbyn’s closing speech and to avoid the possibility of would-be participators’ exclusion for it.
However, it’s entirely likely that the left has built so successfully on its success in overturning the right’s previous delegate majority for last year’s Brighton conference that even other delegates in the hall will barely notice them go and will merely enjoy a better view.
Because of that ‘problem’, a ‘plan B’ is also in hand for an attempt to storm the conference stage during or just before the speech to wave a banner and/or to unveil t-shirts bearing an anti-Corbyn message. Checks are likely to be in place to prevent the ingress of items for use in this attempt, but there’s a risk that ‘sleepers’ among staff at the venue may facilitate it.
While the number of ‘moderate’ MPs prepared to sacrifice their credibility by jumping ship and resigning – either individually or to form a new party – is thought to be small, there is a strong likelihood that a handful of those either considering retirement or who feel most threatened by the thought of democratic selections by their local party will try to divert the news agenda.
The right has considered whether a ‘mass’, simultaneous resignation by those MPs, or a staged ‘one every so often’ series in the style of the post-referendum ‘chicken coup’ will be most effective and both options have been kept open, so watch this space.
All of these are, of course, on top of the overt attempts to make the conference about preventing Brexit or calling for a second referendum, which have led to a number of motions being put forward, primarily by right-dominated CLPs. Whether the real agenda is actually to stop Brexit or to damage Labour electorally is a moot point, but the anti-Corbyn factions hope that it will serve as a useful ‘Trojan horse’ and fool enough delegates into getting behind it.
Awareness, restraint and solidarity are, as ever, the key to ensuring that Conference this month is the triumph for democracy and for the many that it should be.
(Last year, the SKWAWKBOX exposed six ‘desperation tactics’ that would be used by the ‘moderate’ right to undermine Labour. They were all used – and are still being dragged out.)
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