POLITICS

Jeremy Corbyn Urges Labour MPs To Unite As He Vows To Tour 100 Tory Seats In Summer Campaign

Leader to visit 40 marginal targets before September.

17/07/2017 16:54 | Updated 18 July 2017
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Jeremy Corbyn has urged all wings of Labour to unite against the Tories - amid growing signs that his supporters will have to wait at least a year to shift the party further to the Left.

In an end-of-term address to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) in the Commons on Monday night, Corbyn pointed out the party’s general election performance proved how it could succeed without in-fighting.

The Labour leader revealed to his MPs that his ‘summer election campaign’, touring the key Tory marginals he needs to win power in any fresh general election, would cover 100 seats across the country - 75 in England, 20 in Scotland and five in Wales.

Corbyn will personally visit 40 marginals before September, party sources said. He also joked that while many MPs were looking forward to the Commons breaking up for recess this week, the ‘bad news’ was he expected them out campaigning through the summer to get the Tories out of office.

Asked how the meeting went, he told HuffPost UK: “It was very warm, incredibly happy  - maybe because there’s a recess coming in three days. They’re looking forward to a long recess, but my bad news is they’re not getting one because they’ve got to go campaigning.”

The campaign, backed by a social media blitz, is the largest Labour has attempted outside a formal general election campaign, aides said.

Corbyn told his MPs that he wanted to help them build on the record turnouts of at constituency Labour Party meetings (CLPs), by mobilising new members in particular in key constituencies.

The unifying message came as it emerged that attempts to change the party’s leadership rules – to ensure a leftwing successor - are facing defeat at this year’s party conference in September.

And moves by Corbyn supporters to blame the party’s HQ – and some trade unions - for not doing better in the 2017 election have also met stern resistance in a new internal report, HuffPost UK has learned.

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Jeremy Corbyn after the 2016 NEC meeting confirmed he would automatically get on any leadership ballot

The party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) is expected on Tuesday to oppose a plan to lower the number of MPs’ nominations needed for a future leadership bid.

Although some NEC members will back the move to lower the threshold from 15% of MPs and MEPs to just 5%, key unions and others will vote against it.

The party’s annual conference in Brighton is still expected to vote on the proposal but the opposition of some big unions – many of which see the plan as a distraction – could seal its fate.

Some NEC members see the proposed changes as pointless as Corbyn is set to remain leader for years to come.

Instead, a compromise proposal is now pencilled in for debate at the 2018 conference in Liverpool, with nominations from 10% of local parties, unions and party members.

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Jeremy Corbyn at the 2016 Labour conference in Liverpool.

Some on the Left are also getting ready to make a firm push at next year’s conference on a range of issues, and hope to use a new pro-Corbyn majority on the Conference Arrangements Committee, and among local party delegates, to secure changes.

Meanwhile, an internal Labour report on “lessons learned” from the general election has caused a fresh backlash among Corbyn supporters for failing to criticise the party’s HQ.

The report, overseen by outgoing MEPs leader Glenis Willmott, is set to be presented to the ruling NEC as part of a packed agenda on Tuesday.

Collated from assessments by different parts of the party, including the leader’s office and senior directors, an early draft of the report upset some key Corbyn aides.

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Leader's office director Karie Murphy hugs Jeremy Corbyn after 2017 election result.

One draft of the report suggested that some delays on the campaign trail were the responsibility of the leader’s office. 

Corbyn’s office director Karie Murphy went through the draft with a marker pen, at one point writing the word ‘LIES’ in capital letters, a source told HuffPost UK. A source close to Corbyn flatly denied the claim.

The report also defended the party HQ’s election strategy, and refused to single out individuals for the way internal polling pointed to a Tory threat to key Labour seats.

It is understood that the final version of the report seeks to smooth over any controversies, but the issue of what the campaign did right and wrong could be raised in a wider NEC discussion.

HuffPost UK revealed last month that Corbyn supporters wanted to ‘purge’ and restructure Labour HQ in a bid to improve the party’s campaigning ability and to better reflect rank and file members.

In a further sign of tensions, several on the Left have repeatedly blamed not just party staffers but also trade unions for their tactics in the election campaign.

One article published by Jacobin, the online left-wing magazine, suggested that the GMB and Unite unions had chosen the wrong seats to target with support. The article sparked fury and has now been withdrawn.

Labour MPs from various wings of the party have been appointed by Corbyn in his shadow ministerial reshuffle, part of his drive to end more than two years of in-fighting after his first landslide leadership election.

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