Whenever the government is having a tough time, you can guarantee that within days a story, often a non-story or a smear about Corbyn, Momentum or the Left, will appear in the media. This is one of those non-stories rather than a smear. Such is the predictability of these anti-Corbyn smear stories that you can actually set your watch by them.
So it is with Tom Watson, the Stalinesque Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, who yesterday announced, somewhat predictably, that he had heard an audio recording of Jon Lansman of Momentum telling an audience that the group was forming a pact with Unite and that the union was planning to fund them. That’s how it was reported. It was also suggested that there was a “left-wing plot to take over the Labour Party”, which is weird for a party that’s generally perceived as a supposedly left-wing party. I mean, do we really need two right-wing parties? The market’s kind of crowded. Unite, for its part, rejected the claim and issued a press statement to the effect. Whenever an ‘entryism’ or ‘Trotskyite’ infiltration story appears in the media, you’ll find Watson at its centre of its production.
Unsurprisingly, the line being sold to the public – again – is that Momentum is an entryist group. This is what Watson suggested on the Today programme. In fact, he sounded like a little kid telling tales to John Humphrys’ relationally adult figure. It was an unedifying listening experience. Remember that most of Corbyn’s supporters aren’t actually Momentum members. No matter. He even added a dramatic embellishment to the story by warning that Momentum “risked destroying Labour’s electability”. Really? Isn’t that what you’re doing already, Tom?
Predictably, The Daily Politics led with the story, and the show’s producers even invited Blairite poseur, Caroline Flint (I guess Watson, Jess Phillips or John Mann were unavailable), to share studio space with Eric Pickles and pass comment on the non-event. Pickles stayed strangely quiet. Rachel Godfrey of Momentum was permitted to defend the organization but Coburn’s interview style and the presence of Flint combined to create the mise en scene of a hastily arranged kangaroo court.
Flint, for her part, repeated the same spiel The Cat has heard a hundred times or more about “far-left infiltrators”. She tutted and scoffed at Godfrey’s responses to Coburn’s questions and her demeanour and use of language suggested that she was at least partly involved in this latest smear along with Jess Philips. That reminds me, Flint’s a member of Progress, the Blairite ‘think-tank’, which has been accused by its critics of being a ‘party within a party’. Progress is also bankrolled by millionaires like David Sainsbury, a former member of the SDP. Momentum, whatever you think of it as an organization, is actually funded by its members. Progress, on the other hand, looks like a millionaires’ club run by public relations types. Cash for peerages? Yes, please. Where do I sign?
Watson’s support for Gerard Coyne, a self-styled moderate (read right-winger) in the Unite leadership election was never once mentioned by Norman ‘Guru’ Smith, John ‘Walrus’ Pienaar or any of the other television and radio journalists (sic). Yet this is an important aspect to the whole story, since Len McCluskey, who is seeking re-election, is known to be a Corbyn supporter. Therefore, he is seen as an obstacle to the Blairites’ plans to recapture the party and return it to its hollowed-out state.
There are times when I find myself briefly entertaining the notion that certain members of the PLP, Watson included, are either in the pay of a Tory front group or the State. How can so-called Labour MPs be so hell-bent on destroying the party they claim to be saving? It doesn’t make sense. But entertaining such notions is often tantamount to conspiracy theorizing. Yet, in 1976, the Labour Party was actually infiltrated by a Tory. His name was Julian Lewis and he was bankrolled by The Freedom Association. Lewis’s objective was to support the deselected right-wing candidate, Reg Prentice, and to steer the Newham North East CLP rightward and thus influence the wider party. If this kind of infiltration happened once, it can happen again. It makes you wonder. No?
As I finish writing this, BBC News is now adding that Watson is “appealing for unity”. Funny that. Tomorrow, the story will vanish like a puff of smoke.
You can read more on this non-story on the Skwawkbox blog.