Jeremy Corbyn's aides feared he was sabotaging his OWN 2019 campaign

Jeremy Corbyn’s warring aides feared he was sabotaging his OWN campaign before the party’s disastrous 2019 general election, new book reveals

  • Aides detail infighting between key players and absence on Corbyn on decisions
  • Internal polling seen by campaign chiefs in September predicted huge defeat
  • Karie Murphy, Seamus Milne and others fought for control while Corbyn was stranded at events on arduous campaign trail
  • Details come from new book Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour under Corbyn 

Labour campaign chiefs feared that Jeremy Corbyn himself was sabotaging the party’s 2019 general election campaign, a new book has claimed.

It also reveals that top advisors knew to party was heading towards electoral disaster months before voters went to the polls in 2019, but were unable to stop it. 

Stunning new details from the party’s largest general election defeat since 1935 have come to light in Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour under Corbyn, written by two journalists with front row seats for Labour’s calamitous attempt to gain power.

Former aides have revealed non-stop infighting between top strategists, Jeremy Corbyn’s anger at losing control of his diary, and his own wife’s on screen snipes.

Labour campaign chiefs feared that Jeremy Corbyn himself was sabotaging the party’s 2019 general election campaign, a new book has claimed

Serialised in The Sunday Times, the book details how during a campaign meeting in September 2019 where Corbyn was not present, the party’s head of data Tim Waters said polling suggested the party would be knocked down to just 138 MPs.

But in a damning revelation, the advisor find those present, including party chairman Ian Lavery and John Donnell’s wife Cynthia, rejected the warning that the party was losing votes to the Conservatives.

‘People in the north just won’t vote Tory,’ said Lavery, MP for Wansbeck. ‘It just won’t happen!’

Waters’ advice would be heeded on November 27, when The Times published YouGov’s first seat prediction that put The Conservatives on win 359 seats and Labour just 211.

But with just two weeks to go any changes, including a suggestion to adopt a new campaign slogan of ‘We’re on your side’ would be futile. The Conservatives won with 365 seats to Labour’s 202.

Former aides have revealed non-stop infighting between top strategists, Jeremy Corbyn’s anger at losing control of his diary, and his own wife’s on screen snipes. Pictured: Corbyn with his office director Karie Murphy

Weakness on Brexit

Waters’ polling suggested that voters did not trust Labour on Brexit, at the time a position of having a Second Referendum on a Labour deal which some MPs could campaign against.

This convinced McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, that Labour had to win back pro-EU voters.

The party would therefore refrain from discussing the detail of Brexit and ‘extol the virtues of giving voters the final say via a second referendum’.

But several figures including Corbyn’s chief strategist Seumas Milne had argued against this strategy, saying that it would alienate the working class in favour of Boris Johnson’s ‘Get Brexit Done’.

The book suggests that those who shared Milne’s viewpoint were outmuscled over Brexit, which would become a key point of the campaign. 

The book reveals that top figures including John McDonnell knew to party was heading towards electoral disaster months before voters went to the polls in 2019, but were unable to stop it

In-fighting between advisors

As planning for the campaign got underway, McDonnell would lead discussions, with Karie Murphy, the Executive Director of Corbyn’s office sometimes stepping in.

But wary of being blamed for decisions she was unable to take, Murphy would constantly remind people in the room she was not in charge.

Seamus Milne, Corbyn’s Chief Advisor, who was a key figures in decision for the 2017 campaign, had also lowered himself from a role of decision maker. 

The lack of leadership was combined with infighting between advisors.

Policy adviser Andrew Fisher would refuse to share the draft manifesto with Milne — or anyone he regarded as being in the Milne/Murphy Brexit axis to stop their influence. 

In turn Murphy closely guarded Corbyn’s diary ‘grid’, and Niall Sookoo, Labour’s director of elections, refused to share his list of key seats with Milne or Murphy.

Seamus Milne, Corbyn’s Chief Advisor, who was a key figures in decision for the 2017 campaign, had also lowered himself from a role of decision maker

Corbyn’s self-sabotage

After four-years as Labour leader, defeat in the Brexit referendum and a draining antisemitism row, Corbyn’s energy was sapped heading into the election.

Polling in 2019 also put him as the most unpopular Labour leader of the past 45 years.

Paul Hilder, a data consultant to the campaign, warned — just as Labour MPs did after their weekly surgeries — that the leader had become a liability.

He recommended that the party deploy a broader team of spokespeople to neutralise the damage a campaign that relied on Corbyn alone would do.

But with a reduced diary and control taken away, Corbyn proved irritable. 

In another example in the book, Corbyn threw what one aide described as a ‘tantrum’ when he learnt that his campaign bus was powered by a diesel engine – the sort that his own manifesto promised to outlaw by 2030

In one case, McDonnell proposed that Corbyn would upstage Boris Johnson by making a visit to parts of Yorkshire and the midlands affected by the floods to highlight cuts to flood defences overseen by the coalition. 

But Corbyn refused to go, citing the fact he had not been kept in the loop after his office director Murphy took control of his diary and only fed him parts at a time. 

The Labour leader became increasingly more frustrated as decisions were taken out of his hands. In another example in the book, Corbyn threw what one aide described as a ‘tantrum’ when he learnt that his campaign bus was powered by a diesel engine – the sort that his own manifesto promised to outlaw by 2030.

In protest, he refused to use the battle bus, opting for trains and public transport. This drew ire from his team, as they struggled to reach him with constant poor phone reception while travelling the country.

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