Sam Tarry, Jeremy Corbyn’s Campaign Director, Says ‘Intellectually Bankrupt’ Labour MPs Need Replacing

Since the result, Tarry has been having coffee with people he knew on the Smith campaign. To exchange stories. But he is damning of the Smith strategy. “It was kind of ‘let’s torch the place just to try and stop Jeremy winning’. And I just think that is completely unacceptable really. Even if we were running against Tony Blair I wouldn’t have behaved in that sort of way. I wouldn’t have allowed the campaign to behave in that sort of way.”

As an aside, Tarry laughs at the idea of Blair returning to British politics, as the former prime minister recently hinted he would like to do.”He wouldn’t be leading the Labour party would he. I think there is more chance of it snowing on the sun than that happening.”

Tarry says from the perspective of the Corbyn campaign, Smith’s operation “seemed to be run essentially by corporate lobbyists by the end of it” having pushed out soft-left MPs such as Lisa Nandy.

“They did not really give a monkey’s about the Labour Party. ‘Let’s just smash it to pieces and hope it just takes Jeremy Corbyn out’. And I just think that’s unforgivable. It’s difficult to know why they decided to embark on an almost scorched earth sort of strategy. I think that was a huge bit of disloyalty to the Labour Party itself.”

The PLP had gone on the offensive in such a strategically wrongheaded way. The other side seem to lack any serious political strategy, any analysis of the crisis in social democracy.

“I was always of the view that our goal was to push as far as possible in terms of maximising Jeremy’s mandate,” he says, as a way of solidifying Corbyn’s position. “Yes that’s a bigger stick. Yes that’s a bigger carrot.”

“I was actually, to be totally honest, kind of disappointed,” Tarry volunteers of the result. “In the end we didn’t get 65%-plus. The potential Corbyn vote could have been nearly as high as 70%,” he says. Tarry puts the lower than expected margin down to Labour’s decision to increase the registered supporter fee to £25 and its so-called “purge” of members. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused party HQ of trying to rig the contest in Smith’s favour. 

Yet it was still an increase. Corbyn won with 61.8% of the vote. In 2015, he secured 59.5%. “We knew that if we didn’t increase the mandate or only got the same as before, it would give people the opportunity to come in for round three. I think that idea is just totally dead in the water now,” Tarry says. 

“The final nail in the coffin for Owen Smith’s campaign before it really even got running was when the party took its own members to court to stop them being able to participate. I mean that was ludicrous in my view. I think those sort of things almost guaranteed us winning,” he says.

“Some of those people debarred from voting behaved intolerably online and absolutely shouldn’t have been able to participate,” he says. But adds: “The party took its own members to court – complete madness.”

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