There’s “trouble at t’mill” in the People’s Vote organization which has long campaigned for a second referendum on Brexit. This turbulence at the top raises key questions for the tens of thousands who have marched under the banner of this campaign.
The FT claims that James McGrory, (director of the campaign), and Tom Baldwin, (head of communications), were ordered to quit their jobs on Sunday evening.
They have for the moment been replaced by Patrick Heneghan who until quite recently was head of campaigns for the Labour Party. Tom Baldwin previously had been a key person in strategic communications for the Labour leader Ed Miliband.
The FT claims to have seen an email from Roland Rudd who is active in the world of PR, a multi-millionaire and is the brother of former Tory Cabinet minister Amber Rudd. It has been said for some time that Rudd has been engaged in a long term battle for the direction of the Peoples Vote with Peter Mandelson, the arch Blairite.
The game of musical chairs among members of the Westminster village shows just how small the population size and how frequently they change roles.
But from the point of view of Scarlet Standard, there is another factor which all this character list has in common. They all, both the openly Tory and right-wing Labour, hate the left, want to destroy Jeremy Corbyn. Many of them have spent their lives seeking to make Labour safe to be trusted by the capitalists.
The journalist Owen Jones tweeted overnight that he has been told that the explanation for the internal dispute in People's Vote is between those who are genuine Remainers and those who want to use the campaign the destroy the Labour Party and replace it with a second pro-capitalist centrist opposition party.
Of course, journalists do not reveal their sources, and we don’t expect Jones to do so. Nonetheless, it may well be that their tactical disagreements inside the organisation are in relation to Labour’s left leadership. It has been evident for some time that they have shared a common objective of attempting to shift the left orientation of the Labour leader.
The inner struggle is not yet over apparently. The Financial Times reports an ally of McGrory and Baldwin last night claimed that Rudd had no power to sack them. “He is no more the chair of People’s Vote than Idi Amin was the Last King of Scotland,” he said. “This is essentially a coup against the staff and the campaign by a multi-millionaire who has been to the offices only a handful of times.” In response Rudd’s people said that he called the shots in the organisation, “Roland has been there so many times, so many times.”
People’s Vote have shown a capacity to mobilise huge numbers of people, many of them Labour supporters who simply support the demand for a second referendum, largely because they believe the original vote was rigged. Have they been duped into being manipulated by anti-Corbyn forces? We don’t think so at present. But we need to watch the internal battle carefully to see what happens next.
The bigger point perhaps from the Peoples Vote saga is that it throws light on the way that the Britsh Establishment can exploit opportunities to pursue its own best interests.
In a related news story, according to the Guardian, it has emerged that the prominent hard-line Brexit campaigner and former environment minister, Owen Patterson MP, has closed down a ‘think tank’ (UK2020) which he had set up five years ago. It paid for 10 overseas trips by Paterson, including visits to the US to campaign for a hard Brexit.
MPs are required to declare the source of funds for any overseas visit valued at more than £300. However, as a private company, his think tank was not required to identify its donors. By citing UK 2020 as the source of funds, Paterson avoided disclosing who ultimately financed the trips.
Labour has questioned whether Paterson was breaking parliamentary rules governing the conduct of MPs, because it was unclear where the donations originally came from. UK 2020 has declared its intention to shut itself down in public filings. Paterson said: “UK 2020 has been wound up, having achieved its objectives.” He previously said: “All the expenses incurred on these trips have been declared according to parliamentary rules.”Two years later, after leaving the Cabinet, he set up UK 2020 to “research and publish optimistic, outward-looking, electorally viable conservative policies”.
Paterson used half of the UK 2020-funded trips to travel to the US, where he mainly gave speeches to rightwing political groups. These included a speech to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a US rightwing thinktank, and at the Heritage Foundation, another rightwing US thinktank, where he attacked May’s so-called Chequers proposal for leaving the EU and called instead for the UK to crash out of the EU without a deal.
He stated other trips involved meeting politicians in Australia and examining wildlife crime in South Africa. At least three of the UK 2020-funded trips were used to promote GM technology and attack its critics.
In January Labour’s Jon Trickett called for an investigation after the Guardian reported the donations for the trips had reached nearly £39,000. Trickett said other politicians could set up similar arrangements and, in a “worrying precedent”, would be under no obligation to disclose the true source of donations.
The Electoral Commission examined the complaint and ruled there were insufficient grounds to suspect a breach of political finance rules. However, it also ruled the think tank was required to declare the source of any donations it had received above £7,500 after 2017. In June, Paterson resigned as chairman and sole director of UK 2020 and a lawyer was appointed to help wind up the organisation.
Press Watch is a look at the day's news by Labour MPs.