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

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

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