John McDonnell ‘soft coup’ claim is blamed on the ‘late night typewriter’
Has shadow cabinet member Barry Gardiner invented a new political euphemism?
Why did John McDonnell pen an opinion piece claiming there was a “soft coup” underway to oust Jeremy Corbyn?
In an explosive article for the Labour Briefing website published on Sunday night, the shadow chancellor said an attempt to take down the leader was “being perpetrated by an alliance between elements in the Labour Party and the Murdoch media empire”.
But spokesperson for McDonnell indicated today that the shadow chancellor had changed his tune since he penned the piece last week.
The aide said that the article was written in response to Tony Blair’s remarks, but added: "However, as John said yesterday he wants us all to focus on party unity following last week's by-election results. And he is looking to reach out in the coming days to those across all sections of the party and none."
As he appeared on the BBC’s Daily Politics how, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner had a different explanation.
Asked whether there was a coup underway to topple Corbyn, he replied: “Not as far as I’m aware. I think this was frustration. You will recall that there were the interventions by the Labour grandees just before the by-elections.
“John obviously got on the late-night typewriter, as it used to be, and out of frustration penned this”
He added: “I haven’t had the distinct pleasure of reading Labour Briefing. I’m not a normal reader of it and I haven’t read the article. But I think this was written for a section of the Labour party and clearly it was written out of frustration that John felt.
“He has retracted it, he said 'look it was wrong to put that out' and he wants now to focus on what I think all of us in the PLP ought to be focussing on, and that is uniting the parliamentary Labour party and listening to the country so we can better do our job of opposing the Government.”
In the piece, McDonnell said that a barrage of negative briefings against Corbyn and the shadow cabinet from anonymous sources were making it impossible for the leader to do his job. As evidence, McDonnell cited a Sunday Times story about leaked internal polling conducted by Labour that was presented as a search for a post-Corbyn successor.
"The plotters are effective in distorting the media coverage because they have extensive contacts and allies in the media, many inherited from Mandelson’s days," he said.
"The professional planning of interventions in which attacks to undermine Jeremy are framed evidences an exceptionally well resourced ‘dark arts’ operation of the old spin school.
"The coup plotters are willing to sacrifice the Party at elections just to topple Jeremy and prevent a socialist leading the Party. It is more important to them that they regain control of the Party than it is to win elections."