Tribunes of the right

Peter Manson lays bare a blatant case of political theft

There can be no doubt that the Labour right includes the reformed Tribune group of Labour MPs - even though it states on its website: “The Tribune group has a long and proud record as the voice of the centre-left of the Parliamentary Labour Party.”1

The original Tribune group consisted of left Labour MPs and was formed in the 1960s, but eventually became more rightwing, split and folded in the 1990s. But the new version was set up in 2016 on the initiative of Clive Efford, the MP for the London constituency of Eltham, who many regarded as a centrist - he nominated Corbyn as a leadership contender and opposed the attempts to depose him. But look at who is part of this “centre-left” grouping today - Yvette Cooper, Stephen Kinnock, Owen Smith ...

Immediately before the screening of the BBC’s notorious Panorama programme, entitled ‘Is Labour anti-Semitic?’, Tribune issued a statement which read: “We support former employees in speaking out and commend their bravery in doing so.” And: “It is totally unacceptable that Jewish members no longer feel welcome or safe in the Labour Party.”

Who says they “no longer feel welcome or safe”? Only the likes of Panorama, which featured several prominent members of the rightwing, Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, claiming to be distressed at the leadership’s “interference” in their ‘investigation’ into claimed examples of anti-Semitism. This “interference” consisted of the occasional email or phone call suggesting how a particular case might be handled.

The statement produced by the Tribune group - which, by the way, had previously been amongst the first to demand the suspension of Chris Williamson MP for stating that Labour had been “too apologetic” over (largely false) claims of anti-Semitism - continues:

Given the seriousness of the concerns that have been raised, an internal inquiry would not be adequate or trusted and so we call on the NEC to set up an independent investigation into the allegations of interference into party procedures.2

Well, an internal enquiry would not be “trusted” by the rank and file if it was run by the likes of Efford and co, but that applies rather less to the Corbyn leadership and his team.

Of course, the right had been pressing for “a fully independent disciplinary process” in relation to anti-Semitism cases - in other words, reliable, pro-establishment people, who know what the anti-Corbyn smear campaign is all about and how it should be furthered. Thankfully, however, earlier this week the NEC rejected that call - although it has not ruled out putting proposals for “independent oversight” of its processes before this year’s Labour conference.

Corbyn made concessions in the direction of the right’s call for the “auto-exclusion” of alleged anti-Semites. If the conference proposals are agreed, the “most serious cases” will be “fast-tracked” before a special panel of the NEC, following which Jennie Formby et al will be empowered to expel them. According to Corbyn, however, the new system will be “fair and legally robust”.

Symbolising the interest of the entire establishment in removing Corbyn through the weaponisation of anti-Semitism was Theresa May’s virtual last act as prime minister before she was replaced by Boris Johnson on July 23: she appointed the ultra-Zionist, rightwing Labour MP, John Mann, as “government advisor” on anti-Semitism. We know what ‘advice’ he will give in relation to Labour!

It is clear that the Labour right - including members of the Tribune group, it seems - is preparing itself for a possible split. If the trigger ballot process that facilitates the reselection of sitting Labour MPs is quickly introduced and Johnson does not call a general election in the immediate future, a whole number will want to jump before they are pushed. And, following the ‘Change UK’ debacle, this time they will want to be better prepared

Tribune, the paper, was founded in 1937 by the leftwing Labour MPs, Stafford Cripps and George Strauss. The aim was to promote the idea of an anti-fascist and anti-appeasement united front between the Labour Party, Socialist League, Independent Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain. The paper’s first editor was William Mellor. Among its journalists were Michael Foot and Barbara Betts (later Barbara Castle). Its editorial board included Labour MPs Aneurin Bevan (pictured), Ellen Wilkinson, Harold Laski of the Left Book Club and the veteran leftwing journalist and former ILP member HN Brailsford.

Mellor was fired in 1938 for refusing to adopt a new CPGB policy - a policy supported by Cripps - backing a popular front against fascism, including, of course, bourgeois parties. Mellor was succeeded by HJ Hartshorn, secretly a CPGB member.

However, throughout its entire history Tribune was committed to a tame reformism. The paper finally folded in January 2018


  1. www.labourtribunemps.org.↩︎

  2. www.labourtribunemps.org/statement_antisemitism.↩︎