Hard-left plot to elect Corbyn Labour leader? The numbers don’t add up

Sunday Times ludicrously inflates the popularity of communism in modern Britain


The Sunday Times yesterday ran a front page story claiming there was a ‘hard Left plot to infiltrate the Labour race’.

The story purports to expose a sinister cabal of left-wingers registering to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour party leader, noting that a projected 140,000 people will have signed up by the election deadline on August 12.

This claim is repeated by all the Tory newspapers today, along with hysteria about Corbyn’s admiration for Karl Marx. (The Daily Mail likens Corbyn’s call for public ownership of the railways to the policies of Lenin.)

Sadly for them, the numbers don’t add up. 

The Sunday Times claimed the ‘entryist’ plot includes members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), including the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), and – most nefarious of all – Green party activists.

Taking these in turn, the CPGB has around 40 members, according to a source with far-left connections.

In the last general election it contested, the party received 6,000 votes nationally. That was in 1987.

The TUSC is a federation of groups, with candidates standing in 135 parliamentary seats and 619 local election posts in the 2015 general election. They currently have four local councillors elected and no MPs.

Sunday Times 26 7 15

The SWP, part of the federation as the Times notes, publicly claims to have 6,000 members, (though I’m told few of these are active members beyond paying their subscription fee.)

The only source in the story for Greens joining is a quote from an unnamed shadow cabinet minister, who lists them as the sort of people joining. (Actual Green party activists would not likely join a rival party and vote for a candidate who will hoover up their supporters.)

How do we get from here to 140,000?

The story notes trade unions have signed up 25,338 members, with a further 30,000 applications being processed. The Sunday Times doesn’t know if these people are ‘hard-left’ or not – certainly no evidence is presented in the story. Basic arithmetic shows they are not militant activists for the groups the paper names.

But even if every one of the people signed up by unions is an extreme Leftist planning to vote Corbyn, the number still falls very short of the 140,000 the paper cites.

To claim a significant number of the projected 140,000 people registering to vote for a new Labour leader are members of ‘hard-left’ parties is not supported by the evidence.

Not least because you could fit the members of Britain’s hard-left parties on a single train platform.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

Read more: 

No, Lord Falconer didn’t say ‘women aren’t tough enough’: Times spin infects Labour leadership race

The Sun attacks Andy Burnham for claiming £39 on petrol over 4 years

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25 Responses to “Hard-left plot to elect Corbyn Labour leader? The numbers don’t add up”

  1. Phil Kelly

    The late Michael Foot was awarded large damages (which he donated to Tribune) after the Sunday Times mendaciously claimed that he worked for the USSR, but this is another Tory paper that never lets the facts get in the way of a good story

  2. GTE

    So the 140,000 are really Tories out to take the piss out of Labour

  3. David Henry

    I think you’ll find many greens and former lib dems and even snp leaving and signing up to support Labour (if only to rejoin if Corbyn isn’t elected). You only need to look at the numerous facebook and twitter campaign pages urging people to sign up.

  4. Dave Stewart

    I am one of those who has recently joined labour to vote in the leadership contest because for the first time in my adult life there is a prospect of a labour leader and hopefully labour party who I would be prepared to vote for. Namely someone that is an actual social democrat as opposed to the red Tories we have had since the 90s. I expect if Corbyn does not win I will leave the party as the other candidates will never provide a platform which I would be prepared to vote for.

    I expect that a large majority of these new members will be of a similar mind to me. It is also worth noting that Corbyn is hardly a hard left candidate, it’s just that the others are well past what was once considered the centre ground and this sort of absurd reporting is specifically designed to move what people consider to be the centre further and further right. I mean really Leninist policies what nonsense, but sadly the constant bombardment of alarmist misinformation has been working.

  5. Cives Mundi

    Left? These idiots don’t know the meaning of left (if it has any). This is ridiculous posturing and feigned hysteria of the media (and I don’t say right-wing media because it’s a given by 90%). Hard left means communism. There is no such thing as a communist movement in these islands. I don’t believe there has really been a sustainable communist state with the exception of Cuba, but that was a dictatorship so how is it communism? Hard left means “We know what is best for you and we will restrict your freedoms to make it happen, for you own good, but then we hope to give the power back to you because you’re sheep and idiots, but by the same token we will get used to patronising your existence and you will be stuck with us”. Britain doesn’t go for that old tosh, barely distinguishable from fascism or the USSR or last century China. Totalitarian is totalitarian and we as a nation reject it and always will. This isn’t politics it’s emotional fear-mongering, ‘reds under the beds’ kind of stuff. Unfortunately the current masses suck it up like twerking and celebrities eating maggots or whatever it is they do.

  6. stevep

    Never mind “hard left plot to infiltrate the Labour race”. There`s been a hard Right plot to infiltrate Britain since the 1970`s. It`s been successful.
    If the Left try to explain it, it`s leftie propaganda or conspiracy theorism.
    Anything the right says must be the gospel truth.
    Thank goodness for websites like Left Foot Forward.
    Time for redress.

  7. David Lindsay

    If Labour has rejected only 30 applications, then mine is one of them. I told several NEC members, my Labour MP, and various others, that I was going to vote for Burnham, and that was true at the time. He then wouldn’t vote for us cripples, so I changed to Corbyn; the personal is political. But even so. Someone needs to look into the other 29.


    If they elect Corbyn they will definitely win, everyone who has been voting for LibDems and Greens will hedge their bets with Labour under Corbyn, because he is a genuine left-wing leader, and if you get all the left-wing votes for one party they will definitely win.
    There is no ‘plot’, this is what democracy actually looks like, we’ve just never seen it before in the UK!

  9. Martin McGrath

    At the last general election “far left” groups (and in that I’m including that NHS party – which is a dubious one) stood just under 200 candidates and managed 75,000 votes (they averaged around 390 per candidate). Even if every single one of their voters joined Labour and voted for Corbyn, they’d still only make up one quarter of the electorate for the leadership.

  10. disqus_izKB2mVZ9T

    I’m not hard left, for a start I’m very skeptical about immigration and I don’t begrudge anyone being rich. I wouldn’t have voted for her but I’m an admirer of Thatcher too. Corbyn will be getting vote.

  11. Steve Cheney

    The problem is that positions on the left-right spectrum are meaningless without a reference point.

    This is most obvious when people refer to “the centre” – which is generally just whatever the speaker considers a reasonable position, unless they’re a tabloid or politician in which case it’s whatever they think their audience considers a reasonable position. Most right-wing people seem to consider their position to be “centre”, “centre-right”, or “not left, not right, just common sense”; yet they *are* right-wing, and often extremely so.

    If the centre is wherever you feel like putting it, then “hard-left” or “far-right” are no more meaningful. What does it mean? As left-wing as I can imagine? What if I can’t imagine anything particularly left-wing?

    It is pretty obvious that right-leaning media sources are keen to get “Corbyn” and a scary-lefty trigger word (e.g. “communism”) as close to each other as possible, even if that means reporting complete non-stories as though they were of interest or importance.

  12. Steve Cheney

    It is certainly frustrating to find Labour questioning why people are joining the party. I’ve voted for them for the past two elections, but apparently because I only just became a member I’m “infiltrating” the party?

    And because I want to vote for them with enthusiasm rather than grudging resignation – in other words, because I want to get involved in the party rather than just passively tick a box now and then – that gets me put down as a troublemaker!

    I’ve heard about voter apathy for decades. But it seems that some politicians were a lot more comfortable with it than they were letting on, when you see how they react to actual engagement.

  13. Paul Trembath

    You say: “Actual Green party activists would not likely join a rival party and vote for a candidate who will hoover up their supporters.”

    I suppose it’s possible that Green activists care more about which tribe wins than whether ideas like theirs make a difference in the world. But that would be a mistake, wouldn’t it?

  14. JohnSmith

    What planet are you on?


    Stevep. You have to face up to reality. During the seventies the left did control most of the unions but not all ordinary members were left wing but probably homophobic and thought the wife should be washing the dishes. The hard left had no chance of taking power as they did not control the army and police. The right were subtle in undermining Harold Wilson who was a progressive man. That is the way the right work to keep power even when Labour are in power. I think Labour realise this and if they try anything radical then the right will fuck them.

  16. Cole

    You don’t seriously imagine the Tories have that number of activists, do you?

  17. Peter Powell

    On a more humorous note, today’s top UK twitter trend – #I’mHardLeft – showed many thousands of Corbyn’s supporters parodying the very label. Examples include #I’mHardleft because I’d expect an NHS ambulance to take me to an NHS hospital, #I’mHardleft because I think foodbanks have no place in the UK, #I’mHardleft because I want politicians that work to end poverty not ‘redefine’ it (& even ‘If @JohnRentoul is anywhere near the centre or centre left, then #ImHardLeft!) Shows that the ‘Hard-Left’ is a pretty broad church!

  18. stevep

    I do understand what you are saying. I`ve given it a lot of thought over the years.
    The seventies were the seventies. A peculiar decade dominated by energy price hikes and dodgy fashions!
    The unions did have a say back then, because members understood the need for collectivity during a period of upheaval, this gave unions a little parity with more powerful organisations like multinational companies. The members were undermined by the media, predominantly The Sun, during this period. This led to the fracturing of solidarity a decade later.
    Reality is what you make it. you can choose to give up and lie down meekly and let events wash over you or you can try to influence events. I choose to at least try.
    History has shown us that extraordinary things can happen almost overnight, if the conditions are right.

    I believe that if Labour takes a more left-wing direction and stands up for British people, then they will respond in kind. Events in Europe has shown us that there is no great yearning for a hard-line Capitalist superstate. Let us lead, others will follow.


    It was indeed the seventies and Labour were being attacked right left and centre including the SNP. The outcome was inevitable and Thatcher had her way. Those of us who were activists knew exactly what the Tories would do. When I hear that song with the words ‘Linwood no more’ I just think of the scum SNP that helped her to power.

  20. jackanded

    As a Green Party member I am aware of many Greens signing up to Labour to support Corbyn. Whether this is enough is debatable and doubtful. Personally I believe Corbyn as leader would be a disaster for Labour, for many reasons, not least because it would consign Labour to opposition for a long time. But this is not a view held by the Greens I speak to – but then the GP has inflamed ideas of its own popularity and many of its younger members have a view that their twitter followers and facebook followers represent the entire nation. A view which is soon dispelled by simply knocking on doors and talking to ordinary people

  21. stevep

    Back in 1979, only the unions and Labour activists knew how hard-right Thatcher and her cronies were, the electorate succumbed to the soft sell.
    She had lost the plot by `82 and was about to be knifed in the back when the Falklands changed everything.
    I often wonder whether Labour`s big lead in the polls pre-Falklands would have translated into election victory in 1983. Despite the lib/sdp alliance, it might well have.
    By `85 after the miners strike and the disgraceful scenes at the beanfield, only one word came to mind – coup. A planned right wing one, dating back to the `70s.
    Still, it`s 30 years on now and I`m pretty optimistic about change. I think there`s no great enthusiasm for hard-right politics in the UK, it`s just there has been little opposition to them. Maybe that`s about to change. we`ll see.

    The next few years will be interesting.

  22. mervynhyde

    I am not sure, but I think you mean SDP, not SNP.
    I think we all understand the threat of the right wing media, and those that have betrayed us in the past such as the SDP, but we locally fought them off, they left our party and called us the rump of the Labour Party, we outnumbered them by at least 3-1 some rump.
    We saw them off by campaigning with all our might leafleting and knocking on doors, they appealed to people who did not understand the political nuances of the day and thought they were the nice people and we were the kind of people that wanted to raid their bank accounts to squander as we please. We campaigned through that and actually won to the point that we drummed them out of town.
    Hence they were forced to join the liberals they had fallen so far.
    These same forces are at work in the party today, and you don’t need to put names to those that we all recognise are not Labour.
    We beat them off in the past by sheer will power, hard work and winning people over on the doorstep, today we have the technology to combat the power of the media, we have the evidence on our side and Greece is a window on the future we all face should we fall on our knees and allow it.

  23. Ringstone

    You don’t need to be an activist, you just need a sense of the ridiculous. A coffee money vote and a throwback comedy candidate that even his backers don’t support; the combination is toxic and therefore too good to miss. I’ve certainly invested my £3 to add to the hilarity. If Labour can’t even organise its own leadership election without falling over its feet; indeed even seem to regard itself as a serious organisation any more, why should I?.

  24. ReynardFx

    the problem Phil is that the right-wing press is repeatedly allowed to get away with it

  25. petra kaliq

    The oddity of the coming Labour Party election is that unlike all other elections, it can actually be decided by the electorate, by ordinary voting people.
    Parliamentary candidates are elected by obscure committees, local officials and councilors are likewise chosen by committee, not by the rank and file members, meaning that when electors go to the ballot box and put a cross on the paper, they are given a choice of candidates chosen by committee, groups that are notoriously conservative and prone to choose from a pool that represents a status quo and the preservation of the current order, avoiding conflict and radical change that many expect from politics.
    This is not a complaint of the Labour Party, it is a fact of life for most political parties in modern democracies, where business and money have come to have more say than the membership and the electorate

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