Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has warned Labour party members that “the soft coup is underway” against Jeremy Corbyn.
McDonnell said that the new coup was “planned, co-ordinated and fully resourced” and carried out by an alliance between party plotters and ‘the Murdoch media empire’.
The dramatic claims came in an article he wrote for left-wing newspaper Labour Briefing, which was printed last week and uploaded online on Sunday night.
The Shadow Chancellor, a close ally of the Labour leader, said that Corbyn was facing a ‘covert coup attempt’ because plotters knew that a direct attack would provoke a backlash from many party members.
“We have to alert party members and supporters that the soft coup is underway,” McDonnell wrote.
“It’s planned, co-ordinated and fully resourced. It is being perpetrated by an alliance between elements in the Labour Party and the Murdoch media empire, both intent on destroying Jeremy Corbyn and all that he stands for.”
“The aim of these covert coup plotters is to undermine the support Jeremy has secured among Labour Party members, and also importantly to undermine support from Labour voters.
“Undermining support for Jeremy from Labour voters is important to the plotters because their objective is to ensure Jeremy trails in the polls and can’t win elections. In this way they can destroy morale among party members and their confidence in him.”
McDonnell said that the plotters tactics include “daily and constant behind-the-scenes non-attributable briefings against Jeremy and his Shadow Cabinet every time he or his shadow ministers make a statement, intervene in Parliament or launch a policy”.
He added that recent leaks about the sidelining of campaigns chief Jon Trickett, and claims that the party had commissioned polls on alternative leaders, were proof of the plot.
McDonnell warned Labour MPs that they risked their own seats by working behind Corbyn’s back.
“The irony is that they are willing to go so far in denigrating Jeremy that they endanger their own parliamentary seats and endanger the very existence of the party they want to use to get into power,” he wrote.
Sources close to McDonnell stressed that the article had been written last week in the aftermath of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson’s attacks on Corbyn. “It’s not a current position,” one ally told HuffPost UK.
A spokesperson on behalf of John McDonnell MP said: “This article was written over a week ago in response to the intervention from Tony Blair.
“However, as John said yesterday he wants us all to focus on party unity following last week’s by-election results. And he is looking to reach out in the coming days to those across all sections of the party and none.”
But the tone of the article suggests that even before the Copeland by-election defeat to the Tories, the Shadow Chancellor is determined to head off any fresh threat to the Labour leader.
“The Murdoch media had already run earlier in the week fake news stories in The Times and Sun alleging that Jeremy was planning to stand down as leader of the Party.
“No matter how many times it was explained that this story was completely untrue and absolute fiction, the The Times and Sun continued to run it - and the BBC and other broadcast media took it up and reported it extensively.
“The media then invented the story that the polling on the perception of Shadow Cabinet members in the north west was the Party testing the perceptions of potential successors to Jeremy.”