With an icepick in Oldham, Jeremy Corbyn’s purge of Labour has begun

Killing the hopes of Kate Godfrey, who criticised Labour’s new spin doctor, sends a chilling message to Jeremy Corbyn’s critics

Jeremy Corbyn and Kate Godfrey
Jeremy Corbyn and Kate Godfrey












Kate Godfrey isn’t exactly a Genghis Khan Right-winger. She’s a former Guardian researcher who went on to work for the UN in African slums, and various other development and charity roles.

She was one of Ed Miliband’s candidates at the general election this year. She isn’t Labour’s candidate for the coming by election in Oldham West, or even on the longlist of potential candidates. She’s fallen at the first hurdle.

“Before long, hard-faced political knife-artists like Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell will start to rid the party of those who fail their purity test.”  Officially, this is just normal business: lots of people apply for a winnable seat, only a few make the short list. Unofficially, Jeremy Corbyn’s purge has begun.

That, at least, is what many Labour people will think. Last month, Miss Godfrey questioned Mr Corbyn’s appointment of Seumas Milne, the Guardian’s leading apologist for Islamist terrorism and repressive regimes, as Labour’s chief spin doctor. Then, largely to test the new party leader’s self-proclaimed tolerance of internal debate and embrace of disstent, she put herself forward for the vacant seat. And now she gets the icepick in Oldham.

Seumas Milne is Jeremy Corbyn's new communications chief
Seumas Milne is Jeremy Corbyn’s new communications chief












Regardless of who actually rejected Miss Godfrey and why, many Labour people will have their fears confirmed. Talk to any non-Corbynite Labour MP these days and they’re fretting about deselection, counting the number of new members of their local party, waiting for the bullets to start flying when those new members start pushing for an MP who shares their views.

Labour is now a party dominated by fear. The fear of being purged is keeping many Labour people quiet about their fears over the direction their party is taking.

Now, Corbyn fans may well point out that controlling selection and weeding out opponents and critics is an old tradition: New Labour was pretty good at the game. Which is true, but I don’t think either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown (the real master of the selection fix) ever tried to eliminate the Left. Instead, they tried to check its power, and even harness its members when they could be useful. Oldham West was held by Michael Meacher, an unreconstructed lefty whom Mr Blair made a minister. That’s hardly the sign of a leadership that wants to wipe its internal opponents off the face of the earth. And let’s not even talk about John Prescott. Ever. Please.

Will the Corbynites reach a similar accommodation with the New Labour survivors in the party, ever attempt to build the sort of broad coalition within the Labour movement that allows the party to build a broad coalition of voters in the country at large?

There is as yet no evidence of that. But there is, in the form of Miss Godfrey’s political demise, evidence to suggest that those who dare to question that nice Mr Corbyn and his compassionate Left-wing friends can expect to be dealt with ruthlessly, to have their careers cut off.

Many Labour people fear that Mr Corbyn’s shambling piety and talk of a kinder gentler politics are just a mask hiding the brutal ideological politics of deselection, that before long, hard-faced political knife-artists like Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell will start to rid the party of those who fail their purity test. The purging of Kate Godfrey makes those fears seem all too sensible.


Constituency:North Islington
MP since:1983
Education:Adams’ Grammar School, Shropshire
Before politics:Official for the National Union of Public Employees
Did you know?He has won ‘Parliamentary Beard of The Year’ five times

What he stands for:

  • Ending austerity
  • Protecting workers’ rights
  • Blocking welfare cuts
  • Scrapping tuition fees
  • Creating a National Education Service (like the NHS for healthcare)
  • Ensuring the NHS is completely publicly run
  • Renationalising railways and utilities
  • Abolishing Trident
  • Withdrawing from Nato
  • Introducing rent controls in unaffordable areas
  • Investing more in the arts

“I don’t do personal, I don’t do reaction, I don’t do abuse. Life is too short and it devalues the political process. I think we should try and enhance the democratic life of this country, not reduce it to that level”

– Jeremy Corbyn 
By James Kirkup


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