Labour Chief of Staff’s change of role – the media spin and the reality
The mainstream media – heavily briefed by politicians close to John McDonnell – have constructed a narrative around the move of key Corbyn aides from his ‘LOTO’ (leader of the opposition) office to the party’s Southside HQ.
Key planks of that narrative are a supposed rift between Labour’s outgoing policy head Andrew Fisher and Corbyn’s Chief of Staff Karie Murphy – and supposed issues with LOTO staff morale.
The reality is very different. As the SKWAWKBOX revealed exclusively last week, Fisher’s resignation letter did not mention Murphy even once – and Fisher himself has said that he has no issues with her.
Nor were there significant morale issues – although that has now changed since the departure of Murphy and a number of her team.
Targeted in triumph
But the real reason behind Murphy’s removal – the moment where she was effectively targeted for removal – was a moment of triumph for the Corbyn project just three weeks ago, on the Monday of Labour’s conference.
As Labour’s delegates gathered in Brighton, two competing policy motions were on the table: Composite 13, a motion to push the party into a ‘full-remain’ stance and Composite 14 – the motion supporting the position of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s National executive that Labour would not decide whether to campaign for remain or leave in any new referendum until after the details of Labour’s ‘credible leave’ deal had been negotiated under a Labour government.
A couple of weeks earlier, the unions had agreed at the TUC congress that they would support Corbyn’s position – enough to more or less guarantee that it would pass at Labour’s conference.
But remain ‘ultras’ were desperate to prevent it – and on the morning of the Brighton votes, Unison and a number of smaller unions performed a screeching u-turn and agreed, after back-room deals with the remainers revealed exclusively by the SKWAWKBOX, to support the full-remain motion.
Unison, the UK’s largest union, had enough votes at Labour’s conference that any split among the delegates representing Labour members could cause the full-remain motion to pass – and if it did, the motion backing Corbyn’s stance that was the next on the agenda would never even come to a vote.
This was a potentially catastrophic development for the left and for the nation. Any move to such a full-remain stance will be deadly to Labour’s prospects in the two-thirds of its seats that voted to leave the EU in 2016. Some on the Labour right are more than prepared to accept electoral disaster in their pursuit of remain and of Corbyn’s removal – in spite of the massive impact it would have on the millions suffering poverty and misery under the Tories.
Behind the scenes, urgent meetings and discussions began to try to solidify support for Corbyn’s position and defeat the full-remain motion – and at the centre of these was Karie Murphy.
Murphy worked flat out – in spite of recent health problems – to ensure that Corbyn’s supporters and those who recognised the disaster represented by ‘full remain’ all pulled in the same direction and that every available vote was cast.
And when the votes came in, heavily defeating Composite 13 and overwhelmingly passing Composite 14, Murphy – easily recognisable by her red mane – was at the back of the conference hall to witness the results of her efforts to support and protect her boss:
It was a huge triumph – for Murphy, for her boss and for the movement. It was also the moment at which her card was marked.
Those who were determined to drag Labour into full remain – even if it meant trampling over the democratic decision members and unions had just made – knew that if they were going to manoeuvre Corbyn into such a stance, Murphy and a number of her most supportive team members had to go.
And now we are where we are. Hot on the heels of the announcement of the move and with Corbyn now isolated from his most effective support, several Shadow Cabinet members were talking up the need for a referendum before a general election – the first step on the path to a party remain policy in that referendum and completely at odds with Corbyn’s clear position that a general election must come first.
Murphy’s greatest triumph meant she had to be removed to expose Corbyn. Will party members and the unions stand for it?
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