Nobody Cares About The Labour Files

By John McGregor, a translator and political violence researcher

In late September, Al Jazeera’s investigative unit released a documentary series called the Labour Files. This in-depth investigation is based on a 500GB leak of British Labour Party documents, an enormous story in its own right. It shows how Labour Party officials worked against the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, attacking and expelling other members of the party, and suspending constituency groups.

The Labour Files is, or should be, a big story. Al Jazeera is a global mainstream, state-backed media outlet, and the corruption and collusion it has exposed across state institutions, mainstream media, and the Labour Party apparatus is extraordinary. Whilst dedicated independent media have uncovered and analyzed much of the anti-Corbyn campaign, both internal and external to the Labor Party, Al Jazeera’s leaked documents give it far greater insight.

Instead, there has been little comment from the British media. As The Canary noted, the Express ran an article on the series but other major outlets have either ignored it or mentioned it in passing. The Guardian found space to mention the Labour Files in an opinion piece by Nesrine Malik. This piece, which noted that Starmer is “on his way to a coronation”, focused on the issues of Islamophobia and racism towards people of color within the Labour Party.

It is perhaps not too surprising that the same media outlets that worked with Labour insiders to topple Corbyn don’t want to report on their own efforts. A 2019 BBC Panorama special was key to cementing in the media narrative allegations of institutional anti-Semitism against the Labour Party under Corbyn. Corbyn was suspended from the Labour Party for claiming that the scale of the anti-Semitism problem was exaggerated for political reasons by his opponents and the media. Notwithstanding the various investigations into the Labour Party, including the Forde investigation that confirmed accusations of anti-Semitism had been weaponized within the party, current Labour leader Keir Starmer has not restored the whip to Corbyn.

With Corbyn sidelined, the Labour Party under Starmer has been the political beneficiary of a series of Tory policies that have been catastrophic for British people. The UK is currently experiencing multi-industry strikes, struggling to maintain the value of the Pound, and facing national protests over the cost of living. Whilst the unashamed and bumbling rule-breaking of Boris Johnson might have incensed the public, long-term Tory policies and approaches to government are costing the party its support and pushing working people to respond. A number of British voters, as seen in the protests, are angry at the rapid cost of living increases, many directly caused by Tory warmongering foreign policy, insane Brexit plans, and unbalanced fiscal policy.

In a system with two parties of government, it is somewhat inevitable that the opposition will eventually form government. In the UK, the Tories have now led the country through more than a decade of austerity and into an as yet unresolved, although already catastrophic, Brexit. YouGov’s most recent voting intention poll in the UK, from 28-29 September, found if there were a general election tomorrow, 54% of voters would choose Labour while only 21% would vote Conservative. This represents a prodigious change in less than a week. In the survey from 23-25 September, YouGov found support for Labour at 45% and support for the Tories at 28%.

New Tory PM Liz Truss seems to have been directly responsible for much of this change. When asked by YouGov on 6-7 September who would make a better PM, 25% of respondents nominated Liz Truss, 32% selected Keir Starmer, 40% were unsure, and 3% refused to respond. By 28-29 September, only 15% of respondents thought Truss would make a better PM compared to 44% for Starmer (and 37% unsure; Truss, it would appear, is so bad she makes undecided people certain Starmer would have to be a better PM).

With Truss’ almost complete lack of political appeal propelling Starmer forward, his political platform has a good chance of eventually replacing a decade and a half of Tory leadership. Starmers politics are far more appealing to big business than those of his predecessor Corbyn. A YouGov poll undertaken for The Times in late August found that 47% of Tory voters were in favor of returning energy companies to public ownership in light of the current crisis. In red wall seats, traditionally Labour seats where the Tories under Johnson made large inroads, 53% of Tory voters were supportive of renationalization.

Confronted with the energy crisis and this political sentiment, Keir Starmer proposed in his Labour conference speech to establish Great British Energy. This is a proposed publicly owned company that would invest in wind, solar, tidal, nuclear, and new energy technologies, either alone or alongside the private sector. It will get seed capital from the National Wealth Fund.

Despite Starmer saying in his speech that the move was the right thing to do “for energy independence from tyrants like Putin”, the proposal, which would only be implemented if Labour won power in any case, would take years to deliver returns of any sort and does nothing to address the current cost of energy in the UK.

Notwithstanding widespread support for nationalization, Starmer’s Labour was abundantly clear. The Guardian quoted a Labour spokesperson as confirming that this move is “not about nationalization, this is a new player into the market”.

Even with a decent level of support from the other side of politics, and complete failure of the market to provide British people with the basic essentials, Starmer is not interested in the opportunity to roll back one small step in the otherwise constant march of privatization in the UK. Instead, Starmer’s Labour would prefer to spend public resources on developing new technologies that will eventually benefit private operators by “making strategic investment that the companies shy away from”.

Risky public investments in new technologies that will only produce energy, if they are successful, in the years to come is clearly of little help to the people in the UK who are struggling right now to afford the essentials in life. It also stands in stark contrast to proposals from the Labour Party under Corbyn, when it proposed renationalizing the entire distribution network and the retail arms of the largest gas and electricity suppliers.

When Labour proposed this last move in 2019, Nils Prately argued in The Guardian that there was no reason for the move:

So what problem is Labour trying to address? The government can set the price of gas and electricity if it wishes and there is no shortage of would-be suppliers. Of all the proposed nationalisations, this looks the strangest.

The problem that Labour was trying to address has now become an extremely acute reality: the price of gas and electricity has become unaffordable for large numbers of British people. This problem has been growing. It was a predictable and intentional outcome of Tory and Blairite policies, and the NATO war with Russia. Also predictable in this context was the disenfranchisement of British voters with the Tory party after so many years of austerity, corruption, and Brexit failures.

Large swathes of the British media, including the BBC, worked diligently and deceitfully with the establishment of the Labour Party itself to ensure that when the British people finally faced the depths of Tory policy and were forced to reject the party out of basic survival instinct, they would either break off to the Right or fall into the safe hands of Keir Starmer’s Labour. Right as this process is unfolding in the UK, Al Jazeera has exposed much of its inner workings, but the British media has little interest in revealing its own role in neutralizing the threat of Corbyn’s Labour to corporate interests.

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  1. Paul Art

    The media in both the US and UK have been suborned. Political reporting should never be for profit. The Neoliberals are taking us to Russia before 1918. A place where capitalism was ‘the most savage’ as Stalin remarked in an answer to a question from a Western journalist as to why the revolution succeeded only in Russia and not elsewhere. One thing that still amazes is the utter remorselessness of Blair and Clinton. They still believe in ‘market’ solutions unrepentant.

    1. Polar Socialist

      I recall reading in my youth that capitalism indeed was/is at it’s most savage in semi-industrial societies (like Russia was a 100+ years ago), where people still have connections to their agrarian roots and can survive when the economy “adjusts”.

      In other words, when the young, first-generation urban population is laid off, they can walk or hitch a ride back to the home farm to work for food and return when industrial labor is needed again.

      This allows for the most ruthless at-will employment without need for any social safety nets.

      Of course, the situation changes when these folks stay in the cities, marry, get kids and the granddad’s farm has been forfeited, stolen or foreclosed.

    2. YankeeFrank

      And they will go to their graves professing those beliefs. These people have nothing but their vanity and are in a credibility trap of their own making. When I was young politicians spoke in measured, cautious tones about the issues of the day because they at least had the wisdom to know if you stick your neck out too far in one direction it might get chopped. That’s all gone since the Boomer ascendancy and now we get the most amped up and ridiculous rhetoric that they can simply never climb down from. But then the radical neoliberal revolution could never have been completed with measured thoughts and deeds, and that of course needed to happen.

      Its the same reason we face the threat of nuclear war now: the rhetoric and actions of our “leaders” have been so extreme they simply can’t make peace with “Putler”.

    3. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Paul.

      Not just the remorselessness, but the shamelessness, too.

      The BBC World Service, since covid broke out, mercifully no longer uses Chelsea Clinton as its public health expert, but, unfortunately, Clinton’s doctoral supervisor at Oxford, Ngaire Woods, is back on the airwaves.

      Last week, the Blair Foundation’s Ian Mulheirn was on the BBC, talking about market solutions to expensive housing and adapting homes to combat the energy and climate crises. It was never mentioned that the Blair family not only has a property rental empire, but is teaming with developers on construction projects. In addition, the children of Blair are buying country homes near where the parents, their vieille fille paternal aunt and I live, Buckinghamshire.

    4. digi_owl

      Sadly non-profit are not much better, as they still have group pressure to deal with.

      After all, BBC is supposed to be thus and yet toe the neolib zeitgeist. And similarly set up outlets across Europe do not dare question the nature and history of the conflict in Ukraine for example.

      I’m tempted to lay the blame more on the net than on neoliberalism when it comes to the downfall of journalism.

      In particular the post-Facebook net…

  2. Patrick Donnelly

    Blair only ascended, to become leader of the Labour Party, after Smith died of a heart attack.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Blair, in true form, ran a PR firm before (likely during/after as well) he was PM: overcharging government for silly promotional campaigns and the like. A slimy flim-flam man, UK doppel to Slick Willie. His smile oozes and his beady eyes glint like a rat’s in the dark. Also like a rat there’s no pool he won’t swim in to get a free lunch. I could go on like this, its kinda fun.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    What happened to Corbyn is of course a type of ‘pre-coup’ where an internal power base ensured their chosen candidate was ‘elected’ to the top. This is the type of thing Trots and Leninists always talk about, but can never really achieve because (in my experience) they rarely have the same grasp of how power structures work than the right has. The Blairites and other right wing factions in the Labour Party don’t talk about power – they just take it and use it. Its dirty of course, but I’ve never known any political party or NGO that didn’t at some level involve toxic and near psychopathic levels of power plays, and nobody is innocent of it (if they are, they won’t get far). As far as Labour are concerned, their right wing is just better at it. The left in Labour need to either learn their lesson and fight just as ruthlessly, or go form another party.

    Starmer has no incentive whatever to change course. He really just has to look firm and powerful every time a camera points at him and the Tories will deliver him the government. Some leaders are skilful, some are lucky with their enemies. Starmer is the latter.

    1. Paul Art

      I sometimes wonder if there is an elephant in the room called ‘the silent castration of the Fourth Estate’ Worldwide. Starting with the Murdoch excresence’s infection on British media aided and abetted by Maggie and then proceeding into the US. Why has no one written a book about this? Maybe I missed it. I know Chomsky et al wrote a heavy tome about this but besides that?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        A couple of years ago I read the biography of Seymour Hersh – he is arguably one of the finest investigative journalists ever. He had to fight tooth and nail to get published in the 1960’s and 70’s, but he still got published. But in recent decades? he’s been sidelined to the likes of the LRB.

        Partly, the establishment just got very good at neutering the media. But obviously the annihilation of the funding model for traditional media has played a very strong role.

        Just to see it play out in a very unimportant aspect – compare the wickedly independent and astute film/TV reviewers of a few decades ago with the glorified interns who now hype up whatever they are told to hype by whichever conglomerate they work for. You can see this in the hilariously lopsided reviews of the Rings of Power.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, both.

          The child of a friend / former colleague is a reporter and has worked at the Standard and Mirror. Said child reports gatekeeping on the basis of connections, education and suspected political views. In addition, social media giants sponsor content and expect their interests and those of their clients to be respected. There’s no need for content to be discussed, but social media giant HQs can pick up the ‘phone and review sensitive drafts. So can some high profile interviewees, e.g. Matt Hancock who wanted said child fired. Said child lives at the parental home and can’t afford to move out.

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Paul.

        Few people realise / know how the Murdoch family protects its interests outside of its Murdoch media empire (attack dogs).

        In the 1990s, as the Major government and some, but not all, of the Labour Party wanted to crack down on the Murdoch empire, Murdoch built a network to exist outside, but overlap in some cases with, his business empire. This may have come out in Leveson II, but the Tories cancelled the public enquiry, so one will never know.

        Murdoch hired a former Tory activist, Paul Staines (later and better known as blogger Guido Fawkes), to get stuck into his opponents. Staines had come to attention in the 1980s by trying to engineer an alliance between the Tories (the intellectual and political muscle) and the likes of the National Front and British National Party (the muscle on the street). There are / were overlaps in membership.

        Murdoch also spotted a rising firebrand called Nigel Farage and funded his faction’s take over of UKIP. UKIP’s single issue, the EU, was broadened into a wider policy offering, so that the Tories could be threatened from the right and even, e.g. on student tuition fees and public housing, the left.

        Murdoch also won Blair, Campbell and Mandelson round, so Labour refused to support Major’s proposed crack down after Blair was elected Labour leader.

        The Murdochs have also diversified their investments from media to a few other activities, including oil and gas in Israel and its occupied territories. This extends their support network, including fellow investor Nadhim Zahawi.

    2. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, PK.

      At some personal and professional risk, insider sympathisers offered dirt on Corbyn’s tormentors, including the, er, flamboyant lifestyle of Lord Mandelson of Rio, but Corbyn and his team did not want to fight back that way. Had that information been used, the likes of Mandy, Andrew Neil and Geordie Greig in the media and the Pete Buttigieg of Britain, Wes Streeting, would have some serious explaining to do, that is they dared risk showing up in public.

      The left will never progress until it has its versions of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. Not only should the left fight fire with fire, but it should enjoy doing so, too.

      1. JBird4049

        The left will never progress until it has its versions of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. Not only should the left fight fire with fire, but it should enjoy doing so, too.

        No, if the Left becomes as dishonest, psychopathic, cruel, and essentially hollow as Rove and Atwater, it will become as the Right is today; ruthlessness practically is what is needed by the Left paired with honesty, ethical and moral integrity, loyalty, hard work, and actual solid goals, not fantasy. Obtainable short, medium, and long term goals that are publicly announced and followed through with that ruthless practicality; any failures and successes accepted, explained, and followed up on.

        I do not want the examples of what those in power have done used as guides for reformers as that will make them just as evil as the current leadership; the ends do not always justify the means and anyone who acts as though it does become my enemy.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you.

          I wish that what you suggest could work, but, at least in the UK, this approach no longer works. I used to work in that world. Unless the left makes itself feared, it will keep losing.

          One hopes Synoia chimes in. Synoia and I were educated alongside and have worked with and for the interests the right represents. We know what these people are like and what they fear.

          1. JBird4049

            What do weasels like Starmer, Boris Johnson, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and my governor, Gavin Newsom, fear? What keeps them up at night?

            They all seem to be very alike in style and effect, backed up by a widespread network in all areas of society, even if they ostensibly different ideologies?

            They all probably have similar weaknesses that can be exploited and strengths that can be blunted; there is also the American problem where successful, or even just effective in organizing, political reformers get dead.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Sadly, I think you are correct. There are some occasional exceptions, but you just need to look at people like Saunders to know there is a ceiling when you don’t fight dirty. Lula in Brazil is both patently a man of integrity and has proven his leadership abilities, but he still struggles against a repellant skunk like Bolsonaro. Its very depressing.

      3. dean 1000

        Right Colonel. The left needs its Karl Roves and Lee Atwaters. Fire needs a backfire if a fire hose is unavailable.
        The violent radicals of the US Civil Rights Movement made the non-violent radicals like Martin Luther King seem moderate and acceptable, as the radical and violent International Workers of the World made the other unions seem mild and reasonable. The violent overreaction of the establishment also helped the insurgents.

  4. KD

    Before you can be elected, you must be selected, and corporate media plays a inordinate role in selecting who gets to stand as a candidate. Liberal democracy remains safe so long as corporate media plays the gatekeeper, and people are only allowed to vote for approved candidates. Sometimes, you can get a Trump or a Meloni, but then what happens is predictable as well. In theory, the elected could crack down on the gatekeepers, but the selection process seems to favor those middling in intellect (at best) and strict conformists, who aren’t going to buck the system, simply looking to cash out and look respectable.

    1. dermotmoconnor

      Guardian comments at the time were full to the beams with a curiously similar family of posts about “Under Starmer Labour would be 20% ahead”. Different names, but identikit language. Total astroturf. And laughable when, a year or two later under KS, Labour lagged the Tories by 10% or more. Labour’s current lead is not the result of Glorious Leader doing anything, he is standing still as the Tories self-implode. A gormless plank. Look at his eyes, you’ll see more empathy in those of a shark.

      The UK continues to head for complete disintegration with the Tories in power and the execrable Labour party under Starmer in the wings.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you and well said, Dermot.

        That, er, process started with Blair, Lord Mandelson of Rio and Alistair Campbell making these remarks. It felt coordinated. When thrown back at the trio and their cheerleaders, the context changed, apparently.

    2. Tom Stone

      To paraphrase George Washington Plunkitt “I don’t care who does the Electing so long as I do the Nominating”.

  5. Tony Wright

    Hmm. That raises the question – does the Tower of London still have a row of spikes upon which the heads of these traitors can be removed from their owners and displayed as a warning?

  6. Mark Gisleson

    I watched the Des Moines Register bring in new reporters to provide blanket coverage of everyone running in the Iowa Caucuses. Even Bernie got a reporter (one of the few male reporters available).

    If you paid any attention in 2020 you know what happened. Every month the DM Register would anoint a new front runner, voters would take a closer look, polls would be unfavorable and a month later the Register would be flogging another not-Bernie candidate.

    After the absolute fiasco of failed untested apps on Caucus night, the Register’s mastermind reporter left and started up an online Iowa newspaper that’s so flush it doesn’t have to run ads. She was also able to afford to hire some of her Caucus reporters away from the Register. Half the stories are about wonderful things the Democrats want to do, the other half about the horrible things the Republicans might do.

    Nothing about this or what happened to Corbyn suggests news reporting to me. This is all about shaping the hearts and minds of the masses for the benefit of the swells who’re so important they can’t even be bothered to lead the countries they own.

  7. Matthew G. Saroff

    Am I the only one who thinks that Keir Starmer has a case of backpfeifengesicht more extreme than Martin Shkreli?

    1. JBird4049

      Don’t know about British politicians, but I can think of any number of American, even just Californian, politicians who have a backpfeifengesicht, but Shkreli’s was just epic.

  8. Revenant

    This article is disappointing for the number of idées réçues the author includes.

    “The rapid cost of living increases, many directly caused by Tory warmongering foreign policy, insane Brexit plans, and unbalanced fiscal policy.” I will give him the first one. The second is simply unproven in terns of causation (trade is far less important than domestic demand and financial profits to the UK) and the third is deliberately vague: does he mean too much or too little spending and on whom and is the balance intra-fuscal or to be supplied by (sado-)monetary correction?

    I found it hard to take his prosecutorial zeal seriously on either the charge against “Labour” right wingers taking politics as a bloodsport or the charge that the UK press merely takes dictation from them, when he cannot resist punching strawmen along the way….

    1. HotFlash

      insane Brexit plans

      Well, it wasn’t as if there actually were any plans. So, I’d have to hand him half credit on that one.

  9. John R Moffett

    The Corporate Owned News is a CON, always has been, always will be. Their purpose is to deflect attention away from the malfeasance of the wealthy and their corporations. As long as most people turn to the CON for their news, things are never going to change.

  10. Alex Cox

    Very good article. Corbyn should have made all the Labour MPs stand for reselecion by their own constituencies. That would have got rid of the aparachiks who were parachuted in from London and hated by the locals. I know, it’s easy for me to write “should have.” But was the only chance to reform the party so that it actually represented the voters.

    By the way, I think the author means “disenchanted” rather than “disenfranchised” in the penultimate paragraph.

  11. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, AC.

    Mandatory reselection was another climb down encouraged by John MacDonnell, then in his phase of wearing a cardigan on and in front of the best Laura Ashley prints designed to not scare middle England.

  12. Tom

    You’re bang-on there John! Thought I was losing my mind, trying to talk to people around me about the corruption in Labour. Everyone’s so focused on the Tories at the minute that they refuse to believe both sides of the aisle can be baddies.

  13. tindrum

    Corbyn was / is like Sanders in the US. Anyone that can survive for decades in parties like Labour and the Dems is not a person capable of changing anything.

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