Factionalism Inside British Labour Party


Photo source: The Guardian

By Naveed Qazi |  Editor, Globe Upfront

Forde Inquiry Report has exposed factionalism within the British Labour Party, during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure. This was made public in July 2022, after an earlier leaked internal report. The new report was originally intended to be published by the end of 2020 but it faced difficulties because of continuing legal battles within the party, and its publication was repeatedly delayed.

The report confirms a disturbing picture as the party’s democratic socialism was pitted against rightist bureaucracy. The party even committed to maintaining the neoliberal priorities of New Labour set by former leader Tony Blair.

Many of the party staff saw one of their main aims in finding reasons to expel Corbyn supporters, in what they termed as ‘trot busting’ and ‘trot hunting’ exercises. It is believed that some party staff members exhibited ‘deplorably factional and insensitive, and at times discriminatory attitudes’ towards Corbyn’s supporters.

Since Corbyn’s departure, there has been a mass exodus of members disillusioned with the direction the party has been taking. Forde, who was commissioned by Corbyn’s successor, Keir Starmer, to investigate turbulent years, proposed ways to deal with divisions that have threatened to tear Labour apart.

Starmer had criticised what he calls a ‘monoculture’ and ‘groupthink’ at the head office, which had ultimately damaged British Labour Party’s overall effectiveness.

The report even alleges a continuation of factionalism by other means, which includes Corbyn’s wielding of factional power which was more than the combined might of Labour headquarters, the parliamentary party and the entire media establishment. It had eventually fed paranoia to its opponents within the party.

The Blairists, by contrast, listened empathetically to any story by journalists that could be spun against Corbyn. The report had indicted Corbyn as ‘shambolic’, ‘feeble minded’, ‘traitor’ and a ‘national security threat.’

The enquiry even affirms that Labour staff secretly allocated ‘money to fund’ campaigns supportive of largely anti-Corbyn MPs, while withholding funds from ‘campaigns for pro-Corbyn candidates in potentially Tory winnable seats.’

Starmer, as a matter of fact, had failed to find a middle ground, between Labour’s left and right, and stoked fires from one side only. The ‘broad church projects’, which Forde espouses as a way forward, were discarded by Starmer at every turn.

Not only Starmer was responsible to force Corbyn out of the party, but he also exiled some of his supporters to backbenches, and also drove the whole party to the Blairite territory. Many leftists within the party are made miserable in the new environment in such a way that the only choice for them is to leave, showing that they want to eradicate every chance of left-wing membership, having an influence over the party policy again.

There are also reports where WhatsApp chains reveal internal sabotage from the Labour rightists such as ‘deliberate go slow by certain members of staff designed to frustrate the efforts of a colleague from Corbyn’s section to promote party’s wider interests.’

The leaked report also made grave allegations of misogyny and racism exhibited by senior party staff. It made a tough reading because of the ugly picture painted by the report. Forde had claimed that messages in the leaked report were ‘not cherry picked and selectively edited’, and they betrayed ‘overt and underlying racism and sexism’ and ‘deplorable, factional, insensitive’, and at times ‘discriminatory attitudes.’

According to a Guardian Oped by Elliot Chappell, Forde had found that the leftist section of Labour was operating a hierarchy of racism, because of the attention given to anti-Semitism, and its relationship to interfactional conflict, with other forms of discrimination ignored. As per the Oped, WhatsApp messages, in reference to left-wing MP Diane Abbott, Forde described them as expressions of ‘visceral disgust, drawing on racist tropes’.

In fact, Starmer has demonstrated the true meaning of factionalism within the party. According to Jonathan Cook’s Oped in Middle East Eye: ‘The right will permanently treat the left as unwanted interlopers, and refuse any ideological compromise.’ But, Starmer’s supporters have been giving absurd claims that he has rid the party of destructive factionalism, and of an unacceptable culture which led to its defeat in elections in 2019.

When it came to winning the recent elections, ‘both factions  were trying to win in different ways’. But both sides did not have equal mandate to fight and win the election. That’s why, according to Chappell, what the Labour right did was not fight the election ‘in a different way’, as Forde suggests. They rather staged an internal coup that made the Labour Party internally dysfunctional and made it increasingly ill-equipped to form a government.

In the 2019 election, Labour was in open disarray due to this very reason. This also gave Starmer the chance to step in for unity, who promised to restore calm and find common ground between left and right. But, the reality is that Starmer deceived the leadership, as he became more than a battering ram for Labour right. It’s also making Forde hesitant to conclude that factionalism after the enquiry is far worse, and that party’s internal democracy is having a more distant prospect than ever.








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