Corbyn staffers backed Labour snub, says Campbell as support grows
Alastair Campbell has claimed “senior” figures in Jeremy Corbyn’s office recommended voting against Labour as support for his decision to shun the party in the European elections grew.
Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, a leading campaigner for a second referendum, was ousted from Labour after he backed the Liberal Democrats at the polls.
On Tuesday night Mr Campbell said members of Mr Corbyn’s staff were among those who sent “many, many messages of support” for his decision.
Hours earlier Charles Clarke, the former Labour home secretary, said he also voted Liberal Democrat in the election.
Speaking outside his north London home, Mr Campbell said he will appeal the expulsion and warned Labour faces “oblivion” unless it clarifies its Brexit position.
“I think that there are people in Jeremy Corbyn’s office, senior positions in Jeremy Corbyn’s office, who have recommended voting against the Labour Party,” he said.
“You can interpret the rules in all sorts of different ways, but one thing I know is I’m not going to leave the party just because some random email comes in telling me that I’ve been expelled.”
In a tweet he added: “Among many, many messages of support have been some from Corbyn’s office, shadow cabinet, MPs, union leaders and party staff including one telling me there is a mountain of emails from members who responded to mobilisation email by saying no to campaigning and not voting Labour.”
He said it “remains to be seen” whether other members who admitted opting against Labour at the polls would also be expelled.
Mr Campbell described his rapid expulsion as “strange” and said “people will inevitably draw the contrast with the lack of rapidity in dealing with cases involving anti-Semitism”.
Labour said “support for another political party or candidate is incompatible with party membership” but declined to say whether Mr Clarke would also be ousted.
In a statement, Mr Clarke said Labour “should immediately withdraw its expulsion of Alastair”.
The former party chairman, a member for 47 years, added: “I was not aware that Alastair had voted Liberal Democrat in the European election until I heard him say so on television on Sunday evening.
“His expulsion from Labour Party membership is a disgrace and only compounds Labour’s current political difficulties.
“I also voted Liberal Democrat. This was a one-off decision because of the hopeless incoherence of Labour’s position, particularly that of Jeremy Corbyn, on Brexit.”
Labour and the Conservatives received a drubbing in the European elections as Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party romped to victory and the Liberal Democrats took the second largest share of the vote.
Mr Campbell said Mr Blair, who was Labour prime minister between 1997 and 2007, refused during his tenure to withdraw the Labour whip from Mr Corbyn when he rebelled.
“Tony was of the view, no, you’ve got to have dissenting voices around,” he said.
He said he is “still in the Labour Party” and will “always be Labour”.
Mr Campbell, a key player in the New Labour era, declined to rule out shunning the party again in a snap general election and said it would “depend” on its Brexit policy.
Labour rules say members who support a party other than Labour are automatically ineligible for membership.
Mr Campbell’s expulsion was also described as an “absurd act of political self-harm” by former Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, who announced he had joined the Liberal Democrats on Tuesday morning.