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Sunday, July 07, 2019

Labour's civil war?

In the Sunday Times, there are clear indications that the strain of poor polling figures and divisions over Brexit and anti-Semitism are starting to take their toll at the very top of the Labour Party. The paper says that Jeremy Corbyn has been plunged into a leadership crisis after his closest allies demanded that he sack his top aides for keeping him “captive”. At the same time, new claims of anti-semitism and bullying have engulfed the party:

Multiple sources said Diane Abbott and John McDonnell confronted Corbyn, insisting that he fire his gatekeeper Karie Murphy and Seumas Milne, his director of communications and strategy.

The crisis comes as Labour last night went to war with the BBC, accusing the corporation of “bias” as it prepares to broadcast fresh claims about the leadership’s handling of anti-semitism in the party.

Up to half a dozen former Labour staff have torn up gagging agreements imposed on them by the party to speak to a Panorama programme, to be broadcast on Wednesday. Labour is set to sue former staff for blowing the whistle on the way in which Murphy and Milne are alleged to have intervened to protect left-wingers accused of anti-Semitism.

Last night Labour accused the BBC of “bias and interference in the political process”, vowing to make a formal complaint to the director-general Lord Hall.

Abbott has told colleagues that she and McDonnell staged an astonishing showdown with Corbyn, warning him that his leadership will be mortally damaged unless he stops listening to the two aides and backs a new referendum.

Abbott told friends: “They are keeping him captive.”

Murphy, Corbyn’s chief of staff, took extended leave and returned to her family in Scotland last week to care for her mother, who died yesterday.

As civil war erupted:
The row comes after a poll last week put Labour on 18%, their worst showing in a decade.

Abbott, a former girlfriend of the Labour leader and one of his oldest allies, is furious that Murphy and Milne — along with former communist Andrew Murray and Len McCluskey, the boss of the Unite union — have driven a wedge between Corbyn and his grassroots supporters by dissuading him from backing a new EU referendum.

In their showdown about 10 days ago, Abbott told Corbyn: “We have to move in that direction. You’re the one whose leadership will be trapped.”

A source close to Abbott said: “Diane is a Jeremy Corbyn supporter 100%, but she doesn’t think the direction Karie and Seumas are taking is helpful to Jeremy.”

Murphy and Milne received details of the hour-long Panorama programme last week and spent hours hunkered down in the party’s Southside headquarters. One party insider said: “They were clearly alarmed by what they saw and went into lockdown. It’s very possible that heads will roll.”

This weekend it was announced that Gordon Nardell QC, who was appointed by the party last year to help clear the backlog of outstanding anti-Semitism cases, is rejoining his chambers next month. Multiple sources said he quit after the party became aware of some of the claims being made in the programme.

Meanwhile the country is plummeting towards a disastrous no-deal Brexit under the possible leadership of Boris Johnson. Is it any wonder Labour are flagging in the polls?
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