A tweeted account from inside Labour HQ highlights one of the key issues at the heart of the current Labour in-fighting: how hard did Jeremy Corbyn really campaign for Labour’s official position during the European referendum?
It’s a fair question given Corbyn’s consistent hostility to Europe over the decades.
This also matches the complaints from Labour Remain campaigners about “sabotage”:
Documents passed to the BBC suggest Jeremy Corbyn’s office sought to delay and water down the Labour Remain campaign. Sources suggest that they are evidence of “deliberate sabotage”.
One email from the leader’s office suggests that Mr Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications, Seumas Milne, was behind Mr Corbyn’s reluctance to take a prominent role in Labour’s campaign to keep the UK in the EU. One email, discussing one of the leader’s speeches, said it was because of the “hand of Seumas. If he can’t kill it, he will water it down so much to hope nobody notices it”.
A series of messages dating back to December seen by the BBC shows correspondence between the party leader’s office, the Labour Remain campaign and Labour HQ, discussing the European campaign. It shows how a sentence talking about immigration was removed on one occasion and how Mr Milne refused to sign off a letter signed by 200 MPs after it had already been approved.
These accounts also match Jeremy Corbyn’s lukewarm reaction to the referendum result and his remarkable decision to go on holiday during the campaign.
They are also is in line with the account given in Politico‘s great long read on the referendum campaign:
Less than a month before the historic EU referendum, the team assembled by Cameron to keep Britain in the European Union was worried about wavering Labour voters and frustrated by the opposition leader’s lukewarm support. Remain campaign operatives floated a plan to convince Corbyn to make a public gesture of cross-party unity by appearing in public with the prime minister. Polling showed this would be the “number one” play to reach Labour voters.
Senior staff from the campaign “begged” Corbyn to do a rally with the prime minister, according to a senior source who was close to the Remain campaign. Corbyn wanted nothing to do with the Tory leader, no matter what was at stake. Gordon Brown, the Labour prime minister whom Cameron vanquished in 2010, was sent to plead with Corbyn to change his mind. Corbyn wouldn’t…
Even at more basic levels of campaigning, Labour were refusing to cooperate.
Alan Johnson, chair of Labour’s Remain campaign and Labour member for over 40 years, is very stark in his assessment of how little Jeremy Corbyn did to help the Remain campaign: