Labour Insiders Have Described An Internal Election Post-Mortem Document As “Propaganda”

    The report was seen as being used to justify a controversial reorganisation of the party's campaigning operation.

    Jeremy Corbyn with his wife
    Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

    Labour insiders have described an internal analysis of the role Labour's controversial community organisers played in the general election as "propaganda" and a "silly document".

    The community organiser roles were created under Jeremy Corbyn's tenure and were designed to "organise around local issues and develop campaigns", but the positions have been controversial, with a view among some in the party that the project had failed to deliver results, and was not worth the estimated price tag of almost three million pounds over two years.

    The leaked report, presented at a meeting of Labour's National Executive committee today, suggested there was a direct correlation between the presence of community organisers in key seats and an improved result.

    However, Labour Party and trade union sources have poured cold water on the claims, saying that it was "a work of fiction" and "a silly document".

    One trade union source was heavily critical of the document, suggesting that Labour's ruling body, the NEC, should have thrown it out.

    "I'm amazed that the NEC accepted a report like that, that is so light on quantatitive data," they told BuzzFeed News.

    The trade union source said the analysis failed to take into account demographic changes, pointing out that in many seats singled out in the document the characteristics of the electorate, such as a higher proportion of students, were as likely to be responsible for a better Labour result as community organisers, and that a true analysis would need to compare seats with similar demographics.

    "If they wanted to demonstrate outperforming seats, it should be demonstrated in seats that are demographically similar," they said.

    They also pointed out that the Broxtowe contact rate had been compared to the average for the entire East Midlands and not the other East Midlands key seats — which means the result is skewed by including safe Tory seats where no campaigning will have been done.

    The source also highlighted the fact that there were no months listed on the comparison between contact rates in 2017 and 2019, and suggested that comparing calendar years would give a different result to comparing general elections.

    Exit poll results projected on the outside of the BBC building in London
    Tolga Akmen / Getty Images

    The trade union insider, who works alongside Labour party staff, said they had seen little evidence of community organisers making a difference on the ground, and that in their view, candidates themselves are best placed to build relationships with community groups and local networks outside of the Labour movement.

    "They ride off the back of local members doing hard work and take the credit for it," they said. "At no point during the last two or three years have I had a community organiser ask of trade union branches or activities that are taking place in my region."

    They dismissed the document as "propaganda", adding "it's absolutely pure cherry-picking."

    "It's just a case of trying to justify their existence. This document should have been highly challenged at NEC," they added.

    Greg Cook, a pollster and former head of political strategy who worked for the Labour Party for nearly 30 years, gave a similarly withering assessment on social media.

    This looks like the most worthless and disingenuous piece of electoral analysis I have ever seen. https://t.co/NHtLy9OPEk

    Josh Fenton-Glynn, a local councillor and a Labour candidate for Calder Valley in the 2019 election told BuzzFeed News: "It looks like a conclusion seeking evidence whereas an honest evaluation of any campaign should be the opposite. If your question is should Labour do more to be part of our communities, of course I think we should.

    "But that is better achieved by doorstep organising being supported by the regional office and taking the administrative burden off candidates. A good candidate is a community organiser."

    If a candidate doesn’t know how to involve themselves in their community then they aren’t doing a good job as a candidate and no paid staff members can AstroTurf that. During the campaign Com organisers organised rallies with minister while the regional staff did door knocking

    Labour insiders described the report as a "silly document" and an attempt to justify the money the party had spent on the roles.

    “This report is tragic and is not fit for presentation to a CLP meeting," one told BuzzFeed News. "Community organisers are attempting to take credit for the hard work put in by local members, trade union branches, and candidates.

    "The community organising unit know their days are numbered. The £3m albatross around the neck of the Labour Party knows the game is up."

    Another Labour insider with a working knowledge of the NEC told BuzzFeed News that the document was "nonsense", asking why, if extra contacts were being credited with a win in Putney, they were not also being attributed to the loss in Hendon, and described it as "a transparent attempt to hide the fact that the leadership has driven the party to the financial precipice with community organising and Labour Live."

    They said: “That such a silly document can be presented to the NEC as ‘analysis’ shows how far the Labour Party has fallen.

    "Those who spent millions of pounds of members’ money on the worst Labour campaign ever should be taking responsibility, not indulging in desperate spin.”

    A Labour Party source said: "It was made clear this was intended as an overview ahead of a more detailed analysis, which will feed into a full review of all aspects of the election."


    Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Hannah Al-Othman at hannah.al-othman@buzzfeed.com.

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