Reaction suggests EHRC report may not give left’s enemies what they want – and Rentoul’s irony-free claim suggests how badly they want to tarnish revelations
The Establishment has taken its attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the left movement up several more notches as it tries desperately to write off the inconvenient leaked Labour Party report that exposed WhatsApp messages and tactics of a number of senior former staff as they worked against Corbyn and his team when he was Labour leader.
Considering the Forde inquiry isn’t even due to report until December, a considerable number of articles in the so-called ‘mainstream’ media are hammering a similar theme, amplified by the Labour right, to write off the leaked report and the WhatsApp chats it revealed. Some of those attempts claim Corbyn and the leaked report are discredited because Corbyn has reportedly submitted comments to the Forde inquiry into the report accusing the Labour right of sabotaging his leadership and the party’s electoral campaigns.
Even reports of the submission are misleading. The Guardian and other media have claimed that Corbyn submitted a joint report, together with former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. In fact, Corbyn has submitted comments, but separately. The joint submission was signed by Corbyn and others but put together by Labour’s 2017 campaign committee of MPs and former LOTO staff.
But comments by Independent hack John Rentoul typify the sheer denialism involved in attempts to dismiss the significance of the leaked report – and Rentoul’s description of himself in his column only underlines it. Rentoul says of himself, without any apparent indicators that he’s being ironic or self-mocking:
But I always go out of my way to be fair to Corbyn
If you can pick yourself up from ‘ROTFLOL’ for long enough, a 30-second Google search will yield no shortage of examples that call Rentoul’s ‘fairness’ into question. Here are a few:
The top right part of the image shows Rentoul’s confession after the 2017 general election that he had been wrong about Corbyn’s popularity and viability as leader – but there’s no trace of this self-awareness now. Rentoul underlines his distance from impartiality by referring to the likes of John Mann, Ian Austin and John Woodcock entering the House of Lords, without even a nod to the accusations of anti-Gypsy prejudice against John Mann and the fact that Woodcock quit the Labour Party just before the conclusion of a party investigation into allegations of sexual harassment – or even that all three were made peers by the Tories.
It’s no surprise, of course, that Rentoul fails to give due weight to the significance of the 2017 result. The shocked faces – which reflect the comments of ‘grey-faced’ Labour staffers in the leaked report – on the night of the 2017 general election result spoke volumes about how hard the right had worked to prevent a Corbyn victory.
But those pale, sweaty faces are now erased from the centrist version of history, who dismiss the ‘Corbyn surge’ that destroyed Theresa May’s majority and took Labour to within a whisker of government. They have to be, because if 2017 is properly acknowledged, then the question screams from the rooftops why the same Labour Party, with the same leader and essentially the same policies fared so badly in 2019.
The difference between 2017 and 2019 isn’t complicated – although the right’s attempts to rewrite history twist and contort to deny it. In 2017, Corbyn’s commitment to honour the Brexit referendum result was front and centre in Labour’s promises – and in 2019, driven against the leadership’s wishes by Keir Starmer and others, Labour was offering to force those who voted to leave to have to win yet another referendum to see what they had already successfully voted for.
The result mirrors its cause: more than 50 lost Labour seats in towns that voted to leave the EU. Any explanation of the 2019 result that doesn’t put these facts at its centre is either fantasy or politically-motivated denial.
But the revisionism also works backward. The centrist story now is essentially that if Corbyn lost heavily in 2019, it can’t have been the Brexit issue – so his 2017 popularity never really happened.
Instead, so the story goes, any actions of the Labour right to prevent Corbyn winning winnable seats can’t really have made much difference, because Corbyn’s supposed unpopularity was only disguised and waiting to emerge, so we should all accept that the leaked report reveals nothing damning or significant – no matter how obviously damning or significant it seems to be.
All of this haste to discredit the leaked Labour report right now, when the EHRC’s report into claims of ‘institutional antisemitism’ is so close to publication, does tend to lead to the possibility that the EHRC’s report is not going to deliver what the right hoped for.
We’ll soon know, but indications are that many of the right’s accusations – which were routinely repeated as unqualified fact by the BBC and other media – are not going to survive the EHRC’s findings and at least some of those who were maligned freely in the media will be deciding whether to pursue those who accused them.
Either way, the Establishment’s desperation to discredit Corbyn, the left and the accusations of the leaked Labour report demonstrate just how much they remain a threat to its interests. It’s not hard to spot once you’ve seen it the first time.
And if the left in Labour is considered that much of a threat by the right, then it’s as good a reason as any to stay in and reinforce it.
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