Who's blaming who? Labour figures turn on each other over manifesto leak
John McDonnell was seen 'pacing up and down' Labour HQ.
The leaking of Labour's draft general election manifesto has prompted a furious row between Jeremy Corbyn's office and the party's HQ.
Sources close to Corbyn immediately blamed staff at Labour's base near Westminster for handing copies of the 43-page document to the Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph. It was claimed that the explosive move was designed to damage the Labour leader by revealing his left-wing prospectus for the country early.
But senior party sources suggested that the manifesto may actually have been leaked by the leader's office itself in a bid to blame Labour HQ for damaging the party's election campaign.
It was also suggested that a pro-Corbyn figure may have leaked the document as part of a strategy to ensure it was not watered down in today's Clause 5 meeting to finalise the manifesto.
Another theory doing to rounds is that The Telegraph got the first leak and called Corbyn's team for comment. The leader's office then counter-leaked the draft document to The Mirror in a bid to get more favourable coverage, according to this theory.
As he was quizzed about the leak on his way into Labour HQ this morning, shadow chancellor John McDonnell called the draft manifesto a "fantastic, exciting document". But McDonnell and Labour spin chief Seumas Milne were subsequently spotted "pacing up and down" Labour HQ as they worked out their next moves.
Within minutes of the story appearing on Wednesday evening, former Corbyn spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin - who remains a staunch defender of the Labour leader and maintains close links to his team - had pointed the finger at Labour staff for the leak.
He suggested on Twitter that "the whole manifesto has been leaked by Labour HQ".
But a Labour insider told PoliticsHome: "No one in HQ had the draft manifesto outside the leaders' office."
Another source said: "I assume it was leaked by the leaders' office to hype up their policies even more and so that HQ can get the blame. It damages HQ's reputation and gets them lots of coverage."
It was also claimed that Corbyn policy chief Andrew Fisher - who has played a key role in drawing up the manifesto - left a copy of the draft document lying on his desk in Labour's open plan office yesterday.
"It was noticed and commented on by various people," said one eyewitness.
More than 80 people were entitled to attend today's Clause 5 manifesto meeting to finalise the Labour manifesto. They include the 35 members of Labour's National Executive Committee and the 28 members of the shadow cabinet.
But it has emerged that shadow cabinet members were only given the section of the draft manifesto which specifically related to their brief, meaning none of them had access to the full document.
A source close to Corbyn said it was "categorically and completely untrue" to suggest his office were behind the leak. They also denied that only members of the leaders' office had a copy of the full draft.
A Labour spokesman said: "We don't comment on leaks. Our policies will be laid out when we launch our manifesto which is a plan to transform Britain for the many, not the few."
Picture by: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire/PA Images.