2 Sep 2015

Far-left preparing purge of ‘careerist’ Labour MPs if Corbyn wins

A left-wing supporter of Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that the far-left is preparing to oust several Labour MPs – who the activist condemned as “careerists” and right-wingers. While there is no suggestion that Mr Corbyn himself is involved or has any knowledge of the plot, this supporter has begun naming possible victims.

A Unite organiser from South-East London has told me that Vicky Foxcroft, who was only just elected in May as the MP for Lewisham Deptford, is said to be among the prime targets for de-selection. Remarkably, Foxcroft is herself a former union official, and was even listed as one of the names on the union’s list of 40 hoped-for candidates before the 2015 election.

“Activists in the area are very disappointed in Vicky Foxcroft, and the noises she has been making distancing herself from Unite,” said the official, who did not want to be named – and whose views may not be shared by the union leadership. He explained that local union members planned to replace Foxcroft with a black woman who has been an active member of the Corbyn organising team.

Boundaries

Some left-wing activists believe that the redrawing of constituency boundaries currently being implemented by the government in time for the next election will make it easier to get oust MPs whom they don’t like. “We think we can challenge Foxcroft if the boundaries are redrawn,” the Unite man said.

The two other Labour MPs in Lewisham are also named by the Unite organiser as likely targets, including Jim Dowd, MP for Lewisham West since 1992.

“We’re hoping that when the boundaries are redrawn he’ll step down. And there’ll be a real battle over the re-selection of Heidi Alexander [MP for Lewisham East since 2010]. There’s also a directly elected mayor standing down in Lewisham, so there’s a lot to play for. My union Unite will be putting resources into encouraging our members to join the Labour Party.”

Questioned as to other possible targets around the country, the Unite organiser said the Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, would “make a wonderful scalp.” He claimed that the left has historically been well-organised in Stoke-on-Trent, where Hunt is a local MP. “It doesn’t take many people to organise in strength.”

And he also identified the Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, a fierce public critic of Jeremy Corbyn, as a possible victim. “This Danczuk chappy, he’d be interesting, ” he told me. “He’s made such vicious anti-Corbyn statements, he’s somebody in our cross-hairs.” But he also stressed it would be a matter for activists in Danczuk’s local party in Lancashire to move against him.

Factions

The activist, a veteran of Labour’s vicious internal battles of the 1980s, believes however, that the mere threat of being deselected will prompt many MPs to hold their tongues and adopt more left-wing positions. That’s what happened more than three decades ago in the days when Tony Benn was a powerful force in the party.

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“The Progress people are gonna be worried,” he said, referring to the Blairite faction within Labour. “Many of these are out-and-out careerists” he claimed. “It might be that the careerists see the writing on the wall on Corbyn, and toe the line. If many of them see that lots of young people are joining the party, they may toe the line. It’s probably going to be patchy.”

The Unite official admitted the re-emergence of the Left was unexpected, and owed much to luck.

“The organised Left in the Labour Party is very small. Most of us had cleared out of the party, or drifted away. This is quite unexpected. I’m very chirpy, very chippy.”

Other parties

The source claimed that members of the trade union Unite, and left wing groupings such as TUSC, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, and Left Unity, will probably rejoin the Labour Party if Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader. Both TUSC and Left Unity stood candidates against Labour in the general election in May, but he believes it would probably be some years before individuals who actually stood as TUSC and Left Unity candidates were allowed to join the Labour Party.

But ordinary members of both groups would be allowed back relatively quickly, he claims. “Most members of left Unity will pile in where they can,” he says. TUSC are due to hold their annual conference on 26 September where they are expected to discuss the implications of Corbyn’s likely success.

The TUSC Chairman Dave Nellist, a former Labour MP who was expelled from the Labour Party for being a member of the Trotskyist Militant tendency (secretly known as the Revolutionary Socialist League) has hinted that under certain conditions, he might be willing in the long term to urge TUSC to rejoin Labour.

“Over 90 per cent of Labour MPs didn’t want Jeremy for the job,” Nellist told his local paper, the Evening Telegraph in Coventry, where he has served as a socialist councillor for 14 years. “He’d be in a battle with Labour MPs from day one and he’s going to need some mates.” But Nellist told me today that though he wishes Jeremy Corbyn well, talk of TUSC rejoining Labour is “extremely premature”.

The Unite source reckoned that Labour’s procedures had made it difficult for the party to identify new recruits and supporters who have votes in the leadership election, and to spot those who stood as candidates against Labour in recent elections. He reckoned this is partly because for some new members and supporters, the party only has email addresses, not postal addresses. “I would have been rumbled a long time ago if the Labour party had picked up on my address …. Certainly my partner, my children and my family members have all rejoined the party.”

But he also warned that Corbyn will face a huge battle to retain his job, especially if Labour continues doing badly in elections. “If they move against Corbyn after a couple of years, and he’s ousted, things will change. He may not be leader very long, and if that happens, we’d all pile out again.”

‘Designed to help Labour’s opponents’

In a statement, Unite denied the accusations were backed by the union. It said: ‘A Unite member in London, not a supporter of Labour, has been speculating about the deselection of local Labour MPs. This is not Unite policy at all, either in relation to the MPs named or in general, ¬†and his remarks have no authority from the union. They are designed to help Labour’s opponents and should be entirely disregarded.’

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