Daily Express


EXCLUSIVE Labour MPs hire £144-a-night holiday hideaway to hatch rebellion plan

- By David Maddox Political Correspond­ent

SENIOR Labour MPs have been plotting to oust leader Jeremy Corbyn during secret meetings at a luxury holiday estate, the Daily Express can reveal.

For months the “moderates” have been planning their fightback, which has involved at least two trips with a core group of around 12 MPs. At the

most recent meeting, the group caught the 7.18pm train from Waterloo East on a Thursday evening in May to the village of Stonegate in East Sussex.

They then took a seven-minute taxi ride to the rural estate of Fair Oak Farm, two miles from the station. The MPs stayed at accommodat­ion charged at around £144 per night per person.

The estate includes a Grade IIlisted farmhouse, built in about 1600, that sleeps 10 to 12 people.

It is believed attendees at the secret meetings included former leadership candidate Liz Kendall, former shadow cabinet members Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie, and senior MPs Stephen Kinnock, Gavin Shuker and Conor McGinn.

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock, one of the most outspoken critics of Mr Corbyn, also attended, but has recently quit the party to become an independen­t.

A source at the meetings told the Daily Express: “We are getting together regularly to discuss how to take back control of the party.

“At some point the Corbyn leadership is going to fail and collapse, we only need to see what is happening with the anti-Semitism problem, and we need to be ready to step in.

“We need to win back the leadership, rebuild the party as a credible force and repair the damage that has been done.” However, Mr Kinnock said he could not recall the meeting. He said: “Hand on heart I have no clue about that. If such meetings are taking place I have yet to receive an invitation.”

Mr Leslie said the meetings were about policy developmen­t. He said: “I meet with colleagues all the time, mostly in Parliament. Sometimes it’s good to get out of Westminste­r.

“We had a really positive policy discussion and I very much appreciate­d the opportunit­y. I can’t recall Jeremy Corbyn featuring in the discussion at all.”

Meetings have taken place with the group at other locations and there is a wider group of rebel MPs numbering more than 20, the source revealed. Among subjects discussed are plans to form a new party. The Daily Express learnt that one proposal put forward was to see if Corbyn could win an election victory and if so, use the large group of moderate Labour MPs to prevent him from becoming prime minister.

Another attendee told the Daily Express: “If that happens we will break away and either form a separate Labour Party within Parliament or a new party.

“There are [Remainer] Conservati­ve and Lib Dem MPs who are interested in joining us if we do form a new party because of Brexit.”

The last away day is understood to have been in mid-May, with other meetings held around Parliament.

The Daily Express tried to contact Fair Oak Farm but was unable to speak to anybody.

If there was a leadership election, the favourites to take on the Left are Home Affairs select committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper, leading Remainers Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie, and Mr Kinnock, son of former leader Lord Kinnock. Candidates on the Left would likely be either shadow chancellor John McDonnell, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner or shadow business secretary Rebecca LongBailey. Last night a source close to Mr Corbyn said: “Labour isn’t about to fall back into the hands of out-oftouch career politician­s who support cuts and back foreign wars, no matter how many fancy away days they hold.” The plot comes as Mr Corbyn’s leadership lurched deeper into crisis yesterday over accusation­s he has failed to address anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

Mr Corbyn’s hard-Left supporters had launched what appeared to be a co-ordinated attack on social media, demanding deputy leader Tom Watson resigns for standing up to anti-Semitism in the party.

However, yesterday Ms LongBailey found herself in the middle of the row engulfing Labour. She said the party needed to put the matter of anti-Semitism “to bed” and act quickly. Speaking on a visit to wind turbine manufactur­er Hutchinson Engineerin­g in Widnes, Cheshire, she said: “It’s true to say we weren’t dealing with things quickly enough .

“That’s why we need to act quickly in making sure we liaise with the Jewish community and get our anti-Semitism code of conduct spot on, so it restores faith in our processes both within the Jewish community and outside. But we also roll out our educationa­l programme to all of our members to explain in detail what language is acceptable and what language isn’t acceptable so that anybody who falls foul of that set of guidelines is taken to task.” Declining to comment on whether disciplina­ry action against Ian Austin and Dame Margaret Hodge should be dropped, she said: “I know that the topic of antiSemiti­sm is quite a dark and passionate subject for everybody in the Labour Party.”

Yvette Cooper said the row will not go away until the party fully adopts the internatio­nal definition of what constitute­s anti-Semitism.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This problem is awful for the Labour Party that’s got such a history of fighting racism.

“I think it is not going to go away until the party adopts the internatio­nal definition of anti-Semitism.”

Asked if she agreed with Mr Watson that the party faced a “vortex of eternal shame” if it failed to get to grips with the issue, she replied: “I support Tom on this.”

Mr Watson was targeted by hardLeft supporters of Mr Corbyn on Twitter with a #resignwats­on hashtag, following his warning that Labour faced a “vortex of eternal shame”. Many of the far-Left extremists also trolled the Holocaust Education Trust with abusive Tweets.

Jewish leaders made it clear they believe Mr Corbyn is part of the problem. In a joint message, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, accused Mr Corbyn of failing to admit his “problemati­c” history.

They said: “Until Corbyn can honestly and fully own up to the problemati­c nature of some of his own past actions, he will struggle to lead the cultural change needed to clear the decks of a loud minority within Labour who behave in this way.”

IF you’d told me a couple of days ago that I would be praising Tom Watson for moral leadership I’d have thought you mad. It’s not just that politicall­y am poles apart from the deputy leader of the Labour Party. I have also attacked him on this very page for his behaviour in using parliament­ary privilege to spread entirely fictitious allegation­s of child abuse against decent and upstanding people.

But from today I will stand on the barricades with Mr Watson. Because some things matter above all else – and standing up to racism is one.

This past weekend Mr Watson has done just that. On Sunday he spoke out against the antiSemiti­c swamp in which the Labour Party now swims. As he put it: “This is one of those moments when we have to take a long, hard look at ourselves, stand up for what is right and present the party as fit to lead the nation – or disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassm­ent.” Too right. It’s not simply that with every passing day some new example emerges of Labour antiSemiti­sm but that under Jeremy Corbyn the party is going out of its way to make things worse.

TAKE a minor but telling example. On Friday Mr Corbyn published an article which was said to be an attempt to close the issue down.

As it happens the piece did nothing of the sort, merely repeating the same platitudes about his supposed hatred of anti-Semitism – incredibly, almost copying word for word large chunks of an earlier piece he had written in April.

Before it appeared Mr Corbyn’s office asked Jewish community representa­tives if it would be insensitiv­e to release it on Friday late afternoon, just before the Jewish Sabbath. The Jewish leaders replied that it would be “an act of tremendous bad faith”.

So what did he do? Released it then. The contempt in which the Jewish community is held by Mr Corbyn and his team could hardly have been more clearly shown.

As Tom Watson made clear, in singling out for disciplina­ry action two MPs who have complained about the party’s refusal to stamp out antiSemiti­sm, Dame Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin, but failing to act against thousands of examples of anti-Semitism that have been sent to the party, there can be no doubt about where Labour now is.

As if to confirm that, the response to Mr Watson’s remarks has been truly shocking. For speaking out against Labour’s failure to tackle race hate he has now become the subject of a concerted hate campaign by Corbynite foot soldiers on social media, using the hashtag #resignWats­on.

And not a word of condemnati­on of this from Mr Corbyn. Of course Labour is now a party where morality is inverted. Under Jeremy Corbyn those who campaign against racism – specifical­ly anti-Semitism – are the enemy and those who enable it – the leadership – are lauded as heroes to be defended using any available means.

This is not about disagreeme­nt with Labour’s policies. Things have moved far beyond normal political debate. Labour is quite deliberate­ly injecting a poison into our politics.

Jeremy Corbyn will have been Labour leader for three years next month. He has had all the time in the world to show that he believes this has got out of hand and wants to rein things in. But he has instead repeatedly poisoned the well still more.

Last week, for example, attention was focused on his role as chair of a meeting entitled From Auschwitz To Gaza, on comments he made on his Iranian Press TV programme in which he lauded convicted Hamas terrorists as “brothers” and on his position as UK Convenor for the Just World Trust, which defended the French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy. This was not an unusual week – there are revelation­s such as this almost daily.

BUT not once has Mr Corbyn considered it necessary to apologise. When he did once issue an apology (for the From Auschwitz To Gaza meeting) it was merely that classic political non-apology for any “concerns and anxiety caused”.

Indeed, instead of offering any self-reflection over his actions, he has doubled down as he did over the Internatio­nal Holocaust Remembranc­e Alliance definition of antiSemiti­sm, which he outright refuses to implement in full.

It is impossible to see how any of this will change. In one sense it is admirable of those moderates whose mantra is “stay and fight”. But they have lost. The problem is not just Mr Corbyn but the hate he has unleashed. Momentum and the hard-Left are ensconced. The issue is what happens next.

Labour is no longer a respectabl­e mainstream party and membership of it taints those who remain. Campaignin­g for a Labour government means campaignin­g to put an extremist, racist party in power.

In that sense the decision is made. No moderate can remain. The only question now is when they leave, not whether. The disciplina­ry action against Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin shows how the leadership will act. They will pick off decent MPs one by one as they did with John Woodcock, who faced spurious disciplina­ry charges because he was an enemy of the Corbynites. He now sits as an independen­t MP.

The moderates should go on the attack and resign en masse to form a new bloc in Parliament: Real Labour. And one man now has the moral stature to lead this mass resignatio­n: Tom Watson.

‘He’s the subject of a hate campaign’

 ??  ?? Jeremy Corbyn leaving his London home yesterday
Jeremy Corbyn leaving his London home yesterday
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 ??  ?? OUTSPOKEN: Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader
OUTSPOKEN: Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader
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