11 May 2017

Labour leak from a lone wolf at Labour HQ?

There had been an armed truce in the Labour Party for most of this year and particularly enforced since the election was called. The Right of the Party (hard to know what the “centre” is these days – a hotly contested issue) were not attacking the leadership and toying with coming back for Jeremy Corbyn in 2018. When the election was announced a decree went out amongst anti-Corbyn Labour MPs that political weaponry must not be deployed against Jeremy Cobyn. It was absolutely essential that his project failed on its own terms. The Left must not be able to accuse the splitters and saboteurs on the Right of having ruined his election prospects. Defeat must be pinned on Mr Corbyn. Lord Mandelson went around more or less spelling out the strategy but others preferred to keep silent and let it work for itself.

The leaking of the Labour manifesto represents a breach of that approach. Some senior leadership figures suspect it was a “lone wolf” within HQ deciding that they just couldn’t resist mucking up Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto launch, worried perhaps that his share of the vote in some opinion polls was looking worryingly higher than they need to be to have a good chance of dislodging him and labelling his whole project a failure.

The atmosphere in Labour HQ has been pretty weird even by Labour standards since the election kicked off. The leadership, who consider many of the people working in the building to be sworn enemies of their project, have migrated into the building, albeit the two camps spread across different floors. Trustees of the Corbyn project have been parachuted in, plans have been concealed, distrust hangs like a bad smell over the operation (although that could also be a mouse problem in the lower floor offices).

As for the document itself, the team has managed to sprinkle some extra content on top of the Ed Miliband manifesto of 2015. Rail nationalisation isn’t miles from where Labour in 2015 had got to. The regional state energy suppliers idea had been floated in 2015 with talk of local cooperatives but didn’t make it in. Royal Mail nationalisation wasn’t pushed for too hard by the unions in 2015. Maybe that has changed?

This is more radical than Ed Miliband but nothing like as radical as the 1983 manifesto (unilateral nuclear disarmament, renationalisation of British Shipbuilders, British Telecom and British Aerospace). Think Hollande Phase 1, perhaps? It’s not the manifesto Andrew Fisher, the Corbyn policy chief, would’ve written with a free hand, nor quite the one that Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell has preached in fringe meetings for 4 decades. They’ve felt constrained by lack of time, limited preparation and polling. The Ed Miliband policies poll very well with target Labour voters. The problem comes, much as did for Iain Duncan Smith and the Tory Party back in the Blair years, when you mention who is punting them).

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