Debbie Abrahams’ allies are doing a good job of convincing moderate Labour MPs and her friends in the media that she is the victim of a stitch up by the Leader’s Office. She is saying the bullying allegations against her are essentially a plot by Team Jezza to get rid of her after she publicly criticised him. The truth is that Abrahams’ behaviour towards staff has been the subject of much chatter among parliamentary bag-carriers for years. She has been looked at closely by broadcasters investigating bullying. Don’t believe the Labour moderates’ spin…
At the best of times there’s not much love lost between Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle and John McDonnell’s operation but the past week has seen an unusual number of public slap downs served on the Shadow Chancellor by the Leader’s Office. Is there trouble brewing in socialist paradise?
The ding-dong started last Sunday when McDonnell went on broadcast and sprung Jezza into announcing an investigation into Munroe Bergdorf. McDonnell swerved the controversy, squarely blaming the Leader’s Office for employing Munroe, and announcing an investigation on their behalf:
“That will be a matter obviously for her employer, she’s employed directly by the Leader’s Office… I’m not sure about this particular issue, it will obviously be investigated by the Leader’s Office.”
The Leader’s Office insisted Bergdorf was not employed by them…
Then, in the middle of last week, as the story broke about Jezza’s membership of an anti-Semitic Facebook group, McDonnell took his own line on the media round totally at odds with LOTO. McDonnell told Sky:
“[Corbyn] was added, and then participated in some of the debate, then when he discovered there were some people in it who were expressing anti-Semitic views he immediately came out of that.”
Team Corbyn briefed that this was “not right”, before increasing the slap down and publicly contradicting McDonnell.
Yesterday, McDonnell went lone wolf by unilaterally proposing a Labour boycott on Russia Today that would ban all the party’s MPs from the channel. ‘Sources close to Jeremy Corbyn’ swiftly briefed that there would be no such boycott. Is everything alright lads?
Guido can reveal the existence of a draft Keir Starmer press release that shows Labour has been working with Brussels on Brexit policy. The draft press release, which was written after Corbyn’s speech last week, would have boasted how Labour had “secured EU backing” for their customs union proposal. The statement would have said “it is understood” that the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group was set to “adapt its resolution to reflect the wording of Jeremy Corbyn’s customs union policy”. The press release was never sent but it has been leaked to Guido…
Labour secure EU backing for customs union proposal
Brussels officials have given their backing to Labour’s proposal for a new UK-EU comprehensive customs union.
Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit spokesperson, visited Brussels this week following Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Coventry in Monday.
On Wednesday, Michel Barnier told journalists Corbyn’s proposal to keep UK in a customs union “offers a significant part of the solution for Ireland.”
Later this month the European Parliament is expected to adopt a resolution setting out its demands for the next phase of Brexit negotiations.
It is understood that following the Labour’s leader’s speech the Brexit Steering Group will adapt its resolution to reflect the wording of Jeremy Corbyn’s customs union policy – particularly proposals for a “comprehensive” customs union.
The backing of Corbyn’s Brexit stance from the EU Commission and Parliament will heap pressure on the Prime Minister to provide a credible solution to the border in Northern Ireland.
Why was Labour so keen to “secure EU backing” for their customs union policy? How and when did they secure this backing? How was it “understood” that the European Parliament was set to back their policy? Why was the press release never sent? Was it ditched after media speculation about Labour colluding with the EU? This appears to be evidence that Labour has been working with Brussels to undermine the UK negotiating position…
Whatever happened to the LibDem press office? Not long ago it was known for its punchy quotes, decent stories, occasionally funny tweets and ability to shoehorn the party into journalists’ copy even though they have little of any news value to offer. Lobby hacks are noting that these days they seem to have disappeared:
What has happened to the Liberal Democrat press team? No engagement any more. Just boiler plate press releases reacting to news that has already happened. Very poor indeed nowadays I am afraid. @LibDemPress
— Christopher Hope 📝 (@christopherhope) February 22, 2018
There’s a real opportunity for the Libs to run a more effective story generating machine in Westminster than Labour. They aren’t taking it https://t.co/yAvvoLnGFJ
— Tim Shipman (@ShippersUnbound) February 22, 2018
In recent months the LibDem press office has lost its three top spinners Phil Reilly, Jasper Gerard and Paul Haydon. The new LibDem head of media is Rosy Cobb, formerly a policy adviser with no experience in the press office. The word on Great George Street is that their other two senior spinners Christine Longworth and Dave Shaw are considering leaving for better jobs elsewhere. There is so much churn that the new faces are unknown even to HQ colleagues, let alone the Lobby. Essentially the LibDem press office has no one who can speak to journalists. Is there anyone left at LibDem HQ who can sort this mess out?
UKIP spin chief Gawain Towler is stepping down after 13 years at the party. It is no exaggeration to say Gawain is one of the press officers most respected by political journalists over the last decade. Just think what he has had to deal with down the years – from gay floods to Godfrey Bloom to donkey rape and Henry Bolton – the Lobby knew their phone calls would always be answered with honesty and good humour. At many times he single-handedly kept the party together.
Gawain is setting up a reputation management consultancy named CWC, which stands for “Crisis, What Crisis?”, and prospective clients will be making a canny choice. God knows what UKIP are going to do without him – in many ways Gawain leaving really does signal the end of the party. MoG this evening?
Tuesday: Boris Johnson calls for more NHS spending, Downing Street organise for him to take a punishment beating at Cabinet and then publicly rebuke him to the Lobby.
Thursday: Philip Hammond calls for a sell-out on Brexit, Downing Street decline to comment.