Blair Corbyn

Steve Topple and Elizabeth Mizon contributed to research for this story.

The latest coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour Party is being led by an elitist Blairite network who have always seen his sudden rise to leadership as a threat to their waning control of the party.

An investigation by The Canary reveals that the organisers of the campaign are part of a pro-Blair 'old guard.'

In the run-up to the Labour leadership elections in September 2015, they had tried to re-model the party along the lines of a pro-war, pro-corporate vision linked to the US Democrat Party's neoconservative wing.

But Jeremy Corbyn's victory completely scuppered their plans.

15 shadow secretaries of state and nine shadow ministers who have resigned from Corbyn's opposition cabinet all have affiliations to, or are involved with, the Fabian Society - the London think-tank affiliated with the Labour Party.

The Fabian Society was a major force in establishing the intellectual basis of New Labour under Blair's premiership and has remained closely aligned to Blair's supporters in the party. It was also the main force attempting to re-impose a Blairite vision on the party before Corbyn's surprise leadership victory.

Conor McGinn and Hilary Benn

According to Sky News political correspondent Sophy Ridge, the flurry of resignations from Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet have been "choreographed" largely by one man: Conor McGinn, Labour MP for St Helens North.

She said:
He's ringing shadow cabinet members and ministers, organising the timings and co-ordinating the resignations to try to cause maximum impact. This is significant because he's one of Jeremy Corbyn's Whips - tasked with ensuring party discipline.
McGinn, however, belongs to a wider network of Blairite Labour politicians who had opposed Corbyn's leadership of the party from the beginning. He was involved with the Fabian Society at a senior leadership level during its role in attempting to 're-found' the party under a Blairite pro-war, pro-corporate blueprint.

In May, McGinn told that Blair's government was the most "transformative government in the last 100 years of British political history," and described himself as a pro-interventionist.

McGinn had formally joined the pro-EU cross-party campaign, Britain Stronger In Europe, as a "political champion", alongside Hilary Benn.

Over the weekend, Jeremy Corbyn sacked Benn from his position as Shadow Foreign Secretary. On Sunday, The Observer reported that Benn had contacted fellow MPs over the weekend to discuss the prospect of an anti-Corbyn coup.

Sky News' confirmation that this process was being coordinated by one of Corbyn's own whips, Conor McGinn, suggests that McGinn and Benn had worked together to orchestrate the sudden resignations.

McGinn did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Blair brigade's last straw

The failed Britain Stronger In Europe campaign has been run by executive director Will Straw, the son of Jack Straw, who served as Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary under former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

On Monday Straw, via Britain Stronger in Europe, called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign.

Will Straw's #Remain campaign group was funded significantly by longtime Labour Party donor and Blairite billionaire Lord Sainsbury, Tony Blair's close friend.

Straw is among a network of longtime Blairite stalwarts trying to 're-found' the Labour Party - a project demolished by Jeremy Corbyn's landslide victory in the Labour leadership elections in September 2015.

Although Straw the son has publicly distanced himself from his father's support for the 2003 Iraq War, he is reportedly a defender of the war in private. Current Labour Party leader Corbyn said in May that he stood by his promise to call for a war crimes investigation into Tony Blair.

Since 2009, company records unearthed by this author for a previous investigation show that Will Straw has been a Director of Left Foot Forward Ltd., which owns and publishes the self-styled "independent" and "non-aligned" political blog of the same name. His co-director at the company is Marcus Alexander Roberts, a former field director for the leadership campaign of Corbyn's predecessor, Ed Miliband.

As documented in that investigation, under the previous editorship of pundit James Bloodworth, the self-styled "No. 1 left-wing blog" in Britain had virtually made its mission to lampoon Corbyn's leadership at every opportunity, jettisoning even an ounce of balance.

Straw's bio on the Left Foot Forward website does not mention his role on the company's board of directors.

Straw's co-director at Left Foot Forward Ltd., Marcus Roberts, is simultaneously director of Zentrum Consulting Ltd., which describes itself as a "political consultancy." Roberts previously spent time in the US working on the Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama presidential campaigns.

Roberts later became campaign manager for Sadiq Khan's successful mayoral campaign.

Yet precisely during the Labour Party's contract with Zentrum, from 2011 to 2015, Marcus Roberts was simultaneously Deputy General Secretary of the Fabian Society, where he ran policy research on how to reconstitute Labour - including work by his friend and co-director Will Straw.

Within that period, from 2012 to 2013, Conor McGinn - who is reportedly choreographing the resignations in the Labour shadow cabinet - was a colleague of Roberts, as Vice Chair of the Young Fabians, a subsidiary within the Fabian Society.

Zentrum: Blairite attempt to hijack Labour from itself

In 2011, the Labour Party had also hired Marcus Robert's consultancy outfit, Zentrum, to run the 're-founding Labour' campaign at the behest of Lord Peter Hain, another Cabinet minister under Blair.

Effectively, then, the Fabian Society had been hijacked into a Blairite 're-founding' Labour process under Roberts' leadership.

According to Dan Hodges, citing "senior party officials," Zentrum was "being used to effectively bypass the party."

"Someone is refounding Labour," concluded Hodges. "But who?"

Through Zentrum Consultancy Ltd., the increasingly unpopular Blairite network inside the party was attempting to maintain its influence, rather than engaging with the breadth and depth of the party itself.

At the time, Marcus Roberts' Zentrum was co-managed by Frank Spring, a US-based political campaign consultant. Spring is a Political Partner at the Truman National Security Project, a think-tank made-up of pro-Democrat Party policy wonks. In 2006, the Los Angeles Times described the Truman Project as a movement of "fledgling neocons of the left:
This new crop of liberal hawks calls for expanding the existing war against terrorism, beefing up the military and promoting democracy around the globe. They want, in essence, to return to the beliefs that originally brought the neocons to prominence, the beliefs that motivated old-fashioned Cold War liberals such as Democratic Sen. Henry 'Scoop' Jackson.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader obviously threw a huge spanner in the works for the entire Blairite effort to 'refound Labour' along the pro-war, pro-corporate model of the Democrat Party's neocon hawks.

In response to requests via Twitter to clarify whether he had any knowledge of his former Fabian colleague Conor McGinn's role in the Labour coup attempt, Marcus Roberts declined to address the question, but said:
You'll have to ask MPs what they're doing. Me: I vote Liz last year!
Roberts admitted that he had previously voted for staunch Blairite Liz Kendall, who was among those facing crushing defeat from the Corbyn leadership campaign.

Comment: Following this article up, The Canary's Steve Topple investigates how a PR firm is working very hard to shape perceptions in support of the Blair-led coup...

As the chaos surrounding Jeremy Corbyn continues at an unprecedented rate, The Canary can exclusively reveal more elements to the Labour coup that has been unfolding since the EU referendum result.

In an overarching investigation, more links have come to light between Portland Communications, its subsidiaries and parent company, members of staff both there and at the Fabian Society and the Progress wing of the party.

To recap:

Portland originally came to The Canary's attention after an incident involving abuse being thrown at Jeremy Corbyn as he supported Pride in London on 25 June.

He was heckled by an apparent Labour party activist Tom Mauchline, who jeered at him that:
it's your fault! When are you resigning? It's your fault! I had a Polish friend in tears because you couldn't get out the vote in Wales, the north and the Midlands. You need to resign. [...] Take control Jeremy and resign [...] stop using the gay movement as a shield to protect your weak leadership.
The video of the incident and a semi-professional looking interview with Mauchline appeared on the BBC website shortly afterwards. Suspicions were aroused as it seemed highly unusual for a member of the public to have a news item dedicated solely to their mobile phone footage.

Digging deeper, we found that Portland Communications appeared to be run by a group of individuals with historic links to the Blair/Brown era of the Labour party.

Originally set up in 2001 by Tim Allan, a former adviser to Tony Blair and director of communications at BSkyB, there were originally several names that stood out including:
  • Steve Morris, managing partner was formerly head of communications for both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
  • Mark Flanagan, senior partner, was head of digital communications for Brown.
  • Justin Kerr-Stevens, partner - former communications advisor for both Blair and Brown
  • Rebecca Gwilliam, director - former special advisor (SpAd) for both Blair and Brown.
There was also Gregor Poynton, who describes himself as "Formerly @ScottishLabour @UKLabour @bsd [...] Quite a bit of digital, politics". Poynton is head of content and brand at Portland. The Canary originally incorrectly identified him as a prospective parliamentary candidate for Labour: we later amended this to reflect that Mr Poynton (married to former Labour MP Gemma Doyle) did not stand, but was embroiled in some controversy in Falkirk after it was alleged he had paid for 11 people to join the Labour party.

Another individual that stood out was Kevin McKeever, whose Twitter header is an image of Labour pin badges. He also works for Portland as a partner and stood twice as a PPC. McKeever was noticeable because of a flurry of anti-Corbyn activity on his Twitter account, including this video from the Momentum rally on Monday:

As The Canary commented in its article on Tuesday:
but go higher up the food chain at Portland, and the links are even stronger. Its advisory council is made up of three members: Alastair Campbell, Blair's infamous spin doctor; Jimmy Leach, Blair's former head of communications and previously executive editor at the Guardian, and Kitty Ussher, former Labour MP for Burnley, parliamentary private secretary to Margaret Hodge (and who sits on the Progress committee with her) and a writer for Peter Mandelson's "Policy Network".
at the top of the Portland tree are the likes of Tony Ball, former CEO of BSkyB and Fox; George Pascoe-Watson, former political editor of the Sun; Jim Rosenberg, former head of communications for the World Bank, Lisa Shields, vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Sir Stephen Wall, former EU adviser to Tony Blair.
The hierarchy at Portland combined with their historical links and current activities appeared to tie-in with the ongoing Labour coup. Sky News' Sophy Ridge had reported that:
I'm told the Labour MP coordinating and choreographing the resignations is @ConorMcGinn - significant as he's in Jeremy Corbyn's Whips Office. He's ringing shadow cabinet members and ministers, organising the timings and co-ordinating the resignations to try to cause maximum impact. This is significant because he's one of Jeremy Corbyn's Whips - tasked with ensuring party discipline.
Nafeez Ahmed, in a separate report for The Canary, noted that some of Ridge's comments had been deleted from the original web page a few hours later. They were later also deleted from the Cache on Google. He noted in his article:
The Canary's investigation quoting the Sky News report was published on Monday at 6pm. In less than twenty minutes - by 6.19pm - Sky News had scrubbed these five paragraphs entirely from its report.
Conor McGinn was appointed chair of the Young Fabians, and is still active in the society today. And of course, Margaret Hodge, who co-penned the no-confidence motion, is vice president of the society. Take into account, also, Fabian journalists like Polly Toynbee calling Corbyn "dismal, spineless and lifeless" - and you may have your "committee of war". Furthermore, former prospective parliamentary candidate and Fabian Will Straw called for Corbyn's resignation - in his position as director of "Britian Stronger in Europe".

Portland Communications come into this equation via their countless links to the Labour party and the Fabians more broadly:
this is not a string of random acts. This is a coordinated attack on Corbyn's leadership (because let's be frank, that's what it is), and it is coming from one source. The Fabian Society. A society who are funded by the likes of HSBC, Cuadrilla (who, oddly, Portland do PR work for) Barclays and Lloyds [...] have mobilised their assets in both the parliamentary Labour party, in the media and in the sphere of public relations, namely via Portland Communications - to inflict as much damage as possible on Corbyn.
But the story doesn't end there. Such was the response to the original article, The Canary decided to dig deeper into the world of Portland Communications, and its links to Labour.

More questions

Portland's parent company is "Portland PR Holdings," and it is a subsidiary of a company called Omnicom, which is an international advertising and marketing holding company based in New York City. Portland Communications, along with its parent company and Omnicom Europe, are all registered at 239 Old Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5QT.

Also registered at that address are 15 other companies sharing the name "Omnicom". Furthermore, there are another forty-one companies registered at 239, Old Marylebone Road that have different names. Although they do all have the same director. One Peter Douglas Trueman.

According to the website Company Check, the combined value of these companies is £898.1 million, which would make him one of the wealthier men in the UK, to put it mildy. Oddly, despite extensive research,The Canary can find no record of Mr Trueman, except on registers of directors and companies. Nor can we find a record of one Sally-Ann Bray, who also features on the legal documents of every one of these companies.

A "Shell Company" is a non-trading company used as a vehicle for various financial manoeuvres or kept dormant for future use in some other capacity. They are often utilised in complex tax avoidance schemes, being set-up in the names of non-existent individuals to mask the identity of the real owner. Such examples are documented in the Panama Papers. The Canary will be investigating this line of enquiry further.

One, big Labour family?

To cement the notion that Portland Communications was, as The Canary described it on Tuesday "a company organised, fronted and controlled by a plethora of apparatchiks of Tony Blair and the centre-right of Labour", checks were made against all the employees registered on the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) website. Their LinkedIn accounts, employment history and also what social media they engaged with and in what manner were scrutinised.

Out of 119 employees registered, two were affiliated to the Liberal Democrats, 11 had either worked for or supported the Conservatives, and 47 had either worked for or were supporters of the Labour party, including 21 who had worked for them under the Blair or Brown administrations.

Nine employees of Portland previously worked for either the BBC or ITN, and 50 appeared to have no political leanings at all - however these were mainly junior account executives or members of Portland's healthcare division.

Jobs of the 47 Labour-affiliated employees included coordinating the "Yvette for Labour" leadership campaign, working for the New Statesman, a former deputy political editor for The Mirror (who ran a front page on Tuesday calling for Corbyn to go) and numerous positions within the team of the former Scottish Labour party leader Jim Murphy.

Tim Allan, the founder of Portland Communications, tells an interesting anecdote in an article from his years working for Blair: As PR Week reported:
to give but one example: many people play football in their twenties. So did Allan. But his team was called 'Demon Eyes' and featured, among others, David Miliband and James Purnell as centre backs, Ed Balls and Allan in midfield, and Andy Burnham up front. No, Blair didn't play. But Allan does recall that he used to join in kickabouts at Labour birthday parties.
Furthermore, Kevin McKeever shared a platform at an NHS conference with one Joe McCrea, a former advisor to Blair who now runs his own PR firm. It has come to light that the website set up to campaign for Fabian Angela Eagle to become leader is, in fact, owned by Joe McCrea. Even more intriguing is that the site was created on 25 June. Saturday. Before Hilary Benn was sacked by Corbyn. More investigation will follow on this topic.

The Canary are also currently investigating who owns the domain for - another website set up in the past few days.

The Canary stipulated in its last article that none of this could "surely be [...] a coincidence". The fact that 47 former employees or supporters of the Labour party all work for a guy that used to have a regular "kick about" with Balls, Burnham and Miliband seems to rule out any coincidence.

Old friends scratching backs?

Alastair Campbell, of Portland Communications, has been a rather busy man this week. He co-hosted a Portland seminar on the aftermath of the Brexit decision, where he appeared to be quoted as saying that:

Corbin ousting
He then went on Channel Four News later that day, endorsing one David Miliband for new leader of the Labour party:

Believe it or not, this would actually make sense (however technically impossible it may be) - considering the links that exist between Campbell, Portland and David Miliband.

Miliband is currently heading up the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in New York. On the board of this "charitable" organisation sit many heads of big business. Including one Alan Batkin - the director of Omnicom Group. Seems strange? What is equally curious is that Miliband's head of communications, Laura Kyrke-Smith, used to be a partner for Portland Communications. She was also previously the chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID) and a speechwriter for Glenys Kinnock.

As things stand, there appear to be more questions than answers surrounding Portland Communications, the Labour party and the attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn.

However, as the petition supporting his mandate as leader reaches nearly 250,000 signatures, one thing can be said.

Whatever the PLP may think of him, he still appears to have the backing of the majority of the membership.

Get involved

This is an ongoing investigation by The Canary, and if you have any information that you feel may be relevant, please feel free to contact us in the strictest confidence.

Comment: In this third piece by the Canary's Nafeez Ahmed, we learn that Corbyn was targeted for ousting just as soon as he came into his leadership position. "He wasn't supposed to win!!"

A senior policy official in the Labour Party has told The Canary that the decision to challenge Jeremy Corbyn's leadership was planned by a core group in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), almost as soon as he won his landslide victory in September 2015.

The lifelong Labour member, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to potential political repercussions, has held high-level executive positions in several Labour groups formally recognised by the party's National Executive Committee. She currently chairs one such major Labour Party group, and has briefed prominent MPs and Shadow Cabinet members on key policy issues.
"Jeremy Corbyn's victory was a complete shock to the PLP, and even after the leadership elections, the PLP refused to accept it", said the Labour insider. They continued:

"I was among the party officials who had lobbied MPs to add Corbyn's name to the ballot sheet. And I can tell you that not a single MP who did so believed that Corbyn had even the slimmest chance of winning the leadership contest. When he did, they couldn't believe it."
The Labour official said that although she had supported Corbyn's nomination, and welcomed his capacity to mobilise voters, she did not believe he had the qualities to lead the party into winning a national election.

But she said that his radical approach had brought a much-needed shake-up that was making the party more in tune with its members.

Open secrets

"It was an open secret in the party that a leadership challenge would take place," the official said.
Discussions about this started in September last year. The PLP believed that Corbyn was a liability for the party, and that he had to be removed one way or another. The only question was when, and how.
According to the senior Labour Party official, within a month or so after his victory the PLP had already decided on a basic strategy that would depend on how Corbyn fared in coming elections:
It was agreed that they would assess how he did in the council elections, the Mayoral elections, and the EU referendum. The PLP knew he had massive popular support amongst the party membership, so they had to find a way to justify a leadership challenge that would somehow bypass the members. Focusing on and exaggerating weaknesses during those elections was one way of doing this. They agreed that this would allow them to challenge Corbyn's suitability to lead.
She added that the thrust of anti-Corbyn plotting came from MPs active in two Labour Party organisations, Labour First and Progress. Progress, described by the New Statesman as "the original Blairite pressure group", is directly connected to several key MPs in the coup.

Too much democracy

The biggest fear in the PLP, the source said, was that consolidation of Corbyn's power in the party would lead to a fundamental shift that could endanger the position of the more 'moderate' or centrist MPs.

The rise of Momentum, the grassroots campaign that has emerged around Corbyn's leadership, was increasingly seen as a threat to the Labour status quo.

Momentum activists have urged Labour members to block right-wing candidates in the National Executive Committee elections. The PLP feared that if Corbyn survived as leader of the party, the future position of centrist and centre-right MPs in the party would be threatened. The Labour insider said:
Jeremy Corbyn and those close to him knew that this was coming. People talk, and the discussions about a leadership challenge were happening everywhere at certain levels in the party machinery. However, they did not know exactly who was going to instigate it, or how.
According to a member of Momentum's national leadership team, a coup against Corbyn was widely anticipated due to the movement's growing power:
The National Executive Committee (NEC) elections are coming up, and already Momentum campaigning has meant that the Constituency Labour Parties (CLP) have overwhelmingly nominated pro-Corbyn, left-leaning candidates. That's despite a lot of savvy campaigning from the more right-wing sections of Labour, which means that the PLP knows that after the NEC, they will be increasingly marginalised from the party machinery.
The source mentioned that the right-wing Labour group, Labour First, had invested significantly in its own NEC candidates, but largely failed due to the popularity of nominees backed by Momentum.

Secret coup plot proposed seven months ago

Commentators have thrown cold water on the idea that the uprising against Corbyn in June was pre-planned or staged, insisting that all the evidence shows the spate of mass resignations that followed Hilary Benn's sacking from the Shadow Cabinet was "spontaneous."

But these pundits appear to have a short memory span. In November 2015, The Times confirmed that a "secret plot" to oust Corbyn as leader was already underway, and being explored by a number of prominent Labour MPs.

According to The Times report (paywall):
Senior Labour figures and MPs have sought legal advice on how to unseat Jeremy Corbyn in the hope of building support for a plot against him... rebels, including some of the party's most prominent MPs, have been told by lawyers that in the event of a leadership challenge Mr Corbyn could be removed and denied a place on the ballot paper by MPs.
The report by Sam Coates, Francis Elliot, and Philip Webster noted that the 'rebel' Labour MPs were fully aware of Corbyn's popularity amongst the party membership, and sought to use party procedures to bypass them:
Mr Corbyn's critics fear that his popularity among the party's supporters would make him easily re-electable as leader in the event of a putsch. He has gained support among Labour's 383,000 members since he was elected in September, all of whom would have the right to vote in a leadership election... Rebels are desperate to keep Mr Corbyn off the ballot paper after a Timespoll last week found that 66 per cent of Labour members and supporters still thought he was doing a good job. His support among his own MPs was much lower... Rebels believe that if they can find a challenger to Mr Corbyn and unseat him, he will struggle to obtain the support of enough MPs to get back on the ballot paper.
Coup preparations

The acceleration of the coup plot can be detected from subsequent press reports.

In March, The Independent reported that Corbyn's own allies were expecting a coup: "Mr Corbyn's allies in the party fear that MPs dissatisfied with his leadership could stage a coup if Labour performs badly in May's elections."

That month, Paul Waugh offered further detail in the Huffington Post:
'Moderate' Labour MPs believe that they have 'one last shot' at ditching Mr Corbyn before his allies use this year's party conference in September to change the rules to protect him from a 'coup' by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
These Labour sources confirmed that they had decided to push forward the coup plan until after the EU referendum:
With few MPs wanting to disrupt the EU referendum on June 23, the expectation among a growing number of MPs is that there could now be a challenge in July, before the Commons breaks up for its annual summer recess.
Lucy Powell's husband: "Corbyn will not be leader"

The following month, according to 72-year old Labour Party member Malcolm Cowl, in casual conversation he was told by James Williamson - husband of former Shadow Cabinet Minister Lucy Powell - that a coup against Corbyn would be launched after the EU referendum.

In an interview with The Canary's Bex Sumner, Cowl described the conversation in early April at the Railway pub, on a Tuesday quiz night:
This particular night, one of the members of the quiz team, who is an A&E consultant [called James]... suddenly turned to me, who he didn't really know, although I think he'd been told about me, and said: 'Jeremy Corbyn will not be leader of the Labour party by October.' And so I asked him why October was significant. And he said: 'We won't be making a move against him until after the local elections and the referendum.' So I said: 'Oh, there's a coup planned, is there?' and he said: 'Yes.' Now what he didn't know is that I knew he was Lucy Powell's husband, and I knew that because another friend of mine had told me, and this man was the best man at their wedding.
The Canary received confirmation of the conversation from the Office of Lucy Powell MP, but a spokesperson denied that the discussion implied a coup. In a statement, Powell's office said:
... having spoken to Lucy's husband this was a conversation that was listened into in the pub months ago. Someone raised the issue of a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership after the local elections, and her husband commented that if there was a challenge to come, it would be after the European Union referendum given the importance of that vote.
A spokesperson for Powell, however, said that Cowl's interpretation of the conversation was mistaken:
"This misunderstanding of a conversation in the pub weeks and weeks ago does not amount to anything. Lucy's husband has been a member of the Labour Party for 15 years and had no knowledge of any plot because there wasn't one."
Cowl has been heavily involved in the trade union movement and wears his radical political views on his sleeve. An avowed anti-capitalist, he recently rejoined the Labour Party due to his support for Jeremy Corbyn, but stands by his recollection of the conversation with Powell's husband.

So who is lying? The eyewitness who supports Corbyn, or the Office of Lucy Powell MP?

Well, by May press reports were emerging that quoted Labour insiders admitting - contrary to the statement from Powell's office - that a "plot to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader" was in full swing at that time, "with veteran MP Margaret Hodge said to have been persuaded to stand against him to spark a leadership contest."

The idea was for Hodge to be "used as a stalking horse before dropping out to allow moderate MPs to remain unscathed as they launch their leadership bids." And a large cohort of MPs had already been enrolled in the coup plot.

The plotters, reported The Telegraph, were "close to signing up to 50 MPs to the cause" - indicating that a month before the uprising began, Hodge was part of a core PLP group lobbying Labour MPs in preparation for the coup:
It is thought any coup will not happen before the June 23 EU referendum so as not to damage the party's pro-EU efforts.
Of course, it was Margaret Hodge, Tony Blair's former Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry, who tabled the motion for a vote of no confidence against Corbyn on 24 June. Hodge's motion was backed by fellow Blairite, Ann Coffey, a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Blair in 1997, before holding several junior ministerial positions in Blair's government under Alastair Darling.

Hodge's central role in the coup preparation fits with what has been revealed by The Canary's Labour source: that much of the plotting for the coup against Corbyn was going on amongst senior PLP members through the Blairite pressure group, Progress.

Margaret Hodge sits on the Board of Patrons of Progress. One of her colleagues at Progress is Kitty Ussher, who used to work under Hodge as her Private Parliamentary Secretary when Hodge was Blair's Trade Minister.

Progress Green Paper

Screenshot from Progress green paper, ‘A positive benefit’, published in December 2013
As The Canary has previously reported, Ussher is Chief Economic Advisor at Portland Communications, the PR firm founded and run by former government spin doctor for Tony Blair, Tim Allan.

Back during the Labour leadership contest, BuzzFeed reported that Allan was a key funder of Corbyn competitor Liz Kendall. And six months ago, Portland published an analysis on its website noting the existence of a "mass resignation" pact among Shadow Cabinet members that would be invoked to isolate Corbyn if key 'moderates' were sacked by him.

The Portland-Progress connection through an ongoing working relationship between Hodge and Ussher perhaps explains how Portland was aware of the "mass resignation" pact - one of its key leaders was in direct contact with a Labour MP plotting a coup with Shadow Cabinet members instrumental in that very pact.

Democracy without the people

The Canary's findings raise urgent questions about the Labour coup, its driving motivation, and its undemocratic nature.

The official position, uncritically endorsed by the wider media and political class, is that the coup against Jeremy Corbyn was a spontaneous democratic response to a shocking loss of confidence in his leadership due to the failure of his EU referendum campaign.

But 63% of Labour voters, like that of the SNP, chose Remain. No similar calls for the removal of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon were forthcoming, demanded or expected in that party.

Rather, as the Labour Party members who have spoken to The Canary allege, the coup against Corbyn had been planned by a core group in the PLP as soon as he had won the leadership elections in September 2015 - the EU referendum simply provided a pretext to pull it off.
Far from being a concern about Corbyn's 'unelectability', their chief concern has been their own electability in the context of a Labour Party whose members reject the 'moderates' or 'Blairites' or whatever you want to call them," said the senior insider in charge of a Labour-NEC affiliated group.
This investigation provides compelling evidence that the coup to depose Corbyn has been conceived and led by a cohort of senior Labour politicians with close ties to Tony Blair, and others who align themselves with the New Labour 'old guard.'

Those who began leading discussions and plans for the coup appear to have operated across a range of different institutions and networks linked to the centre and centre-right of the Labour Party, and have attempted to leverage their connections in these networks to push forward the campaign to oust Corbyn.

In a follow-up investigation, The Canary will flesh out the allegations of our Labour source using public record data to identify the core group in the PLP who led this process.

If our Labour insider is correct, then the coup plans were motivated by the self-serving fear that Corbyn's transformation of the party would mean Blairite, centrist and centre-right politicians lose their power, popularity and perhaps even their positions.

In that case, then the coup is not at all about 'saving labour', or 'saving democracy' - it's about saving the Blairites from the democratisation of Labour.