Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Corbyn universe

Who’s who: James Bloodworth profiles the hard-left networks now reaching into the Labour party

John McDonnell The former chair of the Socialist Campaign Group and the Labour Representation Committee, John McDonnell’s appointment to the role of shadow chancellor was seen as Jeremy Corbyn thumbing his nose to Labour moderates by appointing his closest ally in parliament to the most important role after the leadership itself.

Seumas Milne Jeremy Corbyn’s director of strategy and communications Seumas Milne is the son of former BBC director general Alasdair Milne and is widely known on the left as a columnist at the Guardian and author of a book on the 1984 miners’ strike, The Enemy Within. Prior to that Milne worked for Straight Left, the newspaper of a Stalinist faction within the Communist Party of Britain. George Galloway describes Milne as his ‘closest friend’.

Jon Lansman Jon Lansman worked on Tony Benn’s unsuccessful campaign for the deputy leadership in 1981 and directed Jeremy Corbyn’s successful leadership campaign. A supporter of mandatory reselection of members of parliament, the longer Corbyn hangs on the more likely it is that Lansman will be found a formal role. Lansman’s views on most things can be gleaned from Left Futures, the website he founded and edits. He is currently the sole director of Momentum.

Owen Jones Owen Jones rose to prominence in 2011 with his book Chavs, a spirited attack on the last acceptable prejudice – the demonisation of working-class people for being working class. Now a columnist at the Guardian, Jones was Jeremy Corbyn’s most high-profile media cheerleader during the latter’s campaign for the leadership. Alas, Jones, a former employee of John McDonnell, has struck a more critical note of late.

Nancy Platts Former Labour candidate for Brighton Kemptown, Nancy Platts is Jeremy Corbyn’s trade union liaison manager. Part of Platts’ job will involve keeping the trade unions sweet if Labour’s dire poll ratings do not improve. Unison’s Dave Prentis and Unite’s Len McCluskey have already broken rank. Unions such as GMB and Unite will also want regular reassurance on controversial issues such as the renewal of Trident.

Simon Fletcher Ed Miliband’s former trade union liaison officer, Simon Fletcher made his name working as chief of staff for Ken Livingstone when mayor of London. Fletcher is believed to have been a member of Socialist Action, a secretive Stalinist group.

Neale Coleman Neale Coleman is Jeremy Corbyn’s new head of policy and rebuttal, and has in the past worked for both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. An adviser on the Olympics and Paralympics, it is testament to Coleman’s talents that he was one of the few advisers to Livingstone kept on by Johnson when he became mayor.

Ken Livingstone The former Labour mayor of London and leader of the Greater London Council looks to be making another political comeback, this time in the incongruous role of joint chair of Labour’s defence review. Ken Livingstone’s stint in the new role began inauspiciously – on his first day he smeared Labour MP Kevan Jones, who has suffered with depression – as needing ‘psychiatric help’. When mayor of London he employed a number of people involved in Socialist Action. Some of these remain in Labour while others, like Lee Jasper, stand against Labour for Respect.

James Meadway James Meadway was formerly a senior economist for the New Economics Foundation and is said to be an ‘unofficial’ adviser to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. A member of the Trotskyist group Counterfire, a Socialist Workers’ party splinter, Meadway has in the past supported George Galloway’s Respect party as well as Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets.

Andrew Fisher An adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, Andrew Fisher was suspended from the party by Labour’s National Executive Committee for allegedly supporting a candidate from a rival party at the general election. Fisher has apologised ‘unreservedly’ for the Class War tweet. However, he has not apologised for calling Rachel Reeves a ‘w****r’, nor for speaking about how he would like to ‘thump’ James Purnell.

Kat Fletcher Kat Fletcher was president of the National Union of Students between 2004 and 2006 and is a former member of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty – though she left the AWL prior to her stint as NUS president. After volunteering on Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign, in 2013 Fletcher won a byelection in the St George’s ward of Islington. Since then she has acted as an election agent for Jeremy Corbyn and was part of his campaign team for the Labour leadership over the summer.

Carmel Nolan A former journalist and campaigner for the Stop the War Coalition, Carmel Nolan (formerly Carmel Brown) was a press officer for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign. Nolan has described the Corbyn team as ‘Stop the War with bells on’. In 2004, her eight-year-old daughter reportedly came up with the name of George Galloway’s Respect party.

Katy Clark Jeremy Corbyn recently appointed as his political secretary the former North Ayrshire and Arran MP Katy Clark. During her time in parliament, Clark was a member of the Socialist Campaign Group and the Scottish Labour Party Campaign for Socialism. A republican, Clark was a rebellious MP, voting against ID cards, the welfare cap and the renewal of Trident. In 2014 she stood against Kezia Dugdale, the current Scottish Labour leader, to be deputy leader, and lost.

Andrew Murray Andrew Murray is the chief of staff at Unite the union and runs the Stop the War Coalition, formerly a front for the Socialist Workers’ party, along with John Rees and Lindsey German of Counterfire.

Ben Soffa Ben Soffa was Jeremy Corbyn’s tech whiz during his successful leadership campaign. Soffa developed the Canvassing App, which allowed volunteers to set up a phonebank anywhere with an internet connection. Soffa is secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and is rumoured to be a member of Socialist Action, having been a leading member of Student Broad Left.

Hard left universe
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Alliance for Workers’ Liberty

The AWL’s precursor was the Socialist Organiser, a Trotskyist group proscribed by Labour’s NEC in 1990. The group, which saw several of its members expelled from the party during the leadership contest over the summer, is now seeking control of local Momentum groups. AWL is rumoured to be heavily involved in Momentum.

Socialist Action

Socialist Action is a shadowy Stalinist group whose members never publicly acknowledge their membership – though Simon Fletcher and Ben Soffa are thought to be former members. SA’s NUS student faction is Student Broad Left, and SA sees progressive socialist politics as represented by Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and, until he was deposed in 2011, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.


Momentum is a self-proclaimed ‘grassroots network’ of Jeremy Corbyn supporters set up in the aftermath of his successful campaign for the Labour leadership. Despite plans it says to organise ‘in every town, city and village’, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has described Momentum as a ‘rabble’. However, the group says members of other parties will not be allowed at decision-making meetings.


Today Respect is little more than a vehicle for George Galloway’s Jupiter-sized ego, but the party was originally born out of an amalgamation of the Socialist Workers’ party and the Muslim Association of Britain – a non-violent Islamist group – in response to the Iraq war. Former leader of Respect Salma Yaqoob is reportedly being lined up for a seat, and James Meadway, ‘unofficial’ economic adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, was a member.

Socialist Workers’ party

Since the party was rocked by the ‘Comrade Delta’ rape scandal in 2011, the Socialist Workers’ party is notable more for its former members than its card-carrying members. That said, the SWP has been trying to infiltrate the new Cobynista Momentum organisations. Recent ‘party notes’ from the SWP stated: ‘There are also various initiatives to re-launch the Labour left. Momentum which has the backing of a group of newly elected Corbyn-supporting MPs such as Clive Lewis and Richard Burgon, looks like it might be the most significant to date … We should go along to any local Momentum meetings with the aim of taking part as open SWP members, suggesting joint activity, and sign up to be on the email lists.’

Stop the War Coalition

The Stop the War Coalition was formed in the weeks after 9/11 to campaign against what it called ‘unjust wars’. Initially a front group for the SWP, StWC is today led by John Rees and Lindsey German of Counterfire and Andrew Murray of Unite. The list of controversies the group has found itself embroiled in is long: among other things, StWC was accused by Labour Friends of Iraq of tacitly calling for the murder of Iraqi trade unionists. More recent controversies include blaming November’s Paris attacks on ‘western support for extremist violence in the Middle East’ – the day after the attacks occurred.

Socialist party (England and Wales)

Led by the reclusive Peter Taaffe, the Socialist party is a Trotskyist organisation that adopted current its name in 1997 – it was previously known as the Militant Tendency. Militant heavily infiltrated the Labour party during the 1980s but abandoned entryism in the early 1990s. Since then it has stood for elections under the banner of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, though it appears to be heavily involved in Jeremy Corbyn’s grassroots Momentum movement in Lewisham and elsewhere.

Socialist Campaign Group

The Socialist Campaign Group is a group of leftwing Labour members of parliament. Formed in 1982, the ideology of the Campaign Group was broadly Bennite – it was set up in opposition to the ‘soft left’ Tribune group of MPs and the late Tony Benn was a founding member. Jeremy Corbyn resigned from the group when he became Labour leader in August – since the group was founded, members have resigned on getting frontbench jobs.

Campaign for Labour Party Democracy

Founded in 1973, the primary aim of CLPD is to change the constitution of the Labour party in order to make MPs accountable to party members rather than the wider public. In practice this results in CLPD pushing policies such as the mandatory reselection of MPs and the drafting of manifestos by the National Executive Committee rather than the party leadership. The secretary of CLPD is Peter Willsman, who also sits on Labour’s NEC.


View the full Corbyn universe here


James Bloodworth is a contributing editor to Progress

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James Bloodworth

is a journalist and author of The Myth of Meritocracy


  • It’s not the “hard left” that is “taking” over the Labour Party. It’s the hard right Blairites that are loosing their grip! These people turned the Labour Party against its founding principles, it’s heritage, it’s strong links to unions and working people and turned into a neo-liberal, neo-conservative, corporate party. Since the members have now been given the power to choose their leader and never signed up to changing it away from its founding principles, they have now got an anti Blairite leader who is just returning the Labour Party back to the way it use to be, which is much more democratic and socialist.

  • “Loosing”

    Sort of how you’re “loosing” your mind? Take yourself and your senile ideas back to the 30’s where they belong.

  • What a ludicrous article. Still, according to Bloodworth, perhaps it’s good to see Trots and Stalinists bedfellows again! Sorry to be so naïve, but can someone explain to me why it’s ok for Progress to be a party within a party but not Momentum? Also, if members of the Co-op Party can be members of the Labour Party, why not members of the Socialist Party.

  • Reading the convoluted history of the far left (in the UK mainly Trostkyist, unlike Germany where they were predominantly Maoists), makes the Life of Brian seem quite unremarkable. No wonder I baled out in the mid 1970s after a brief flirtation with their determinist Marxism. Makes me shudder to think they might be getting second wind via the Labour party. Hopefully the shedloads of new members are too interested in popular, radical and effective change to have any truck with those for whom the problem is always capitalism, the answer always socialism and forming a new faction at the drop of a hat is the path to victory – as if all that has ever changed is the level of betrayal by ‘bureaucrats’ rather than the actual nature of capitalism, technology and people’s understanding of their place within it.

  • They might be ‘big in the party’ but they are not/ have never been/ and never will be ‘big in the country’. Once they take full control and we get walloped time after time in elections watch for the ‘democratic left’ and the TU leaders who actually want governmental power to move against them. Once more, as they did between 1985 and 1992. It will be bloody, but absolutely necessary. For the moment though every Stalinist/ Trot dog is having their day. I just find it mildly amusing to hear all the sloganeering and absurd posturing again!!

  • This is unedifying venom.

    What a bloody disgrace the Blairites are.

    Corbyn was elected by 60% of eligible members and supporters.

    Do you think you’re better or know better?

    You are taking a sledgehammer to your own party and doing grave damage.

    You have just gone after your own front bench with condescending aggressive vigour.

    Enough to make people who care about defeating the Tories sick to the stomach.


    What a revolting bitter disgraceful group you are!

  • I also love the tag team of Progress and your feral mates in the Murdoch media.

    You guys trash the joint and then point to the rubble right?

    That the plan?

  • When did Labour used to be controlled by the likes of Corbyn and his hard left allies? Corbyn is from the Bennite left, allied to Militant, that was defeated in the 80s — the sort of left that thought Michael Foot was too right wing.

  • I am not sure why Corbynism is termed ‘hard left’. Why the adjective ‘hard’?
    Nor why Progress is termed ‘moderate’ and ‘progressive’. do you have a left hand and a moderate hand?

  • It’s a term from the past when it was hard vs soft. The hard left was Bennites (such as Corbyn) and those further left such as Trotskyists like Militant (now called the Socialist Party) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The soft left was more moderate and was people like Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. The hard left lost the battle for control of the Labour Party in the 80s, but is trying again now with Corbyn and seems to be succeeding.

  • Labour has never been a hard left party. There has been a long history of the hard left trying to infiltrate Labour and failing. Ed Miliband changing the rules and allowing £3 “supporters” has basically allowed them to be successful. There are a number of hard left parties, non of which have ever had any kind of sustained success. This is for a reason, people do not vote for far left parties. I said before the leadership election that a vote for Corbyn will have the same result as voting for the Tories in 2020. It’s just self indulgent and inward looking. The Tories did it after 1997 to absolutely no success whatsoever. Labour is making exactly the same mistake.

  • Tony Blair: poodle to Washington, decision maker for illegal Iraq War, one million + protestors. By keeping Nigel Lawsons big bang(bank deregulation, along with Clinton), caused the greatest financial crash since 1929.
    Gordon Brown likewise. Peter Mandelson likewise. In the case of Peter and Tony, given massive rewards, Lazard Investment Bank directorship for Peter, and 2.5 million a year from JP Morgan for Tony.
    Alan Milburn, Patricia Hewitt, Frank Field: Interests in Private Health care, started the Privatisation process off for health, now making good profits.

    Describing Corbyn and McDonnell as hard left is pure mischief. This is done to preserve the mischief of the RIGHT.

  • Blair drove a coach & horses through Labours democracy.
    The NEC is supposed to decide policy, which was voted on.
    Now we have the PLP thinking the membership exists to work to get them elected so they can act like Tories …… It has to be sorted out.

  • Take away the £3 supporters, count it how you like … Corbyn won hands down.
    This diatribe is a disgrace, it could have been scrawled by the Daily Mail, and probably was.

  • ‘Moderates’ … Such ad those that prescribe to Tory principles, and bombing people.
    The use of the word is an attack anyone not agreeing with them as wrong and militant, whilst the write for right wing papers and let the Tories define Labours narrative.

  • They will not answer because 1) They are too slow to read his manifesto. 2) It is not what carpet baggers want to hear.

  • “This diatribe is a disgrace”. This is the new kinder politics. Don’t agree with the hard left then get out.

    Why is it exactly a disgrace? Main points I made are as follows.

    1. Labour has never been a hard left party. I don’t think this is a disgraceful comment. I’d call it a fact.

    2. The £3 Supporter rules has been used as a tool for entryism. Again, seeing as I think it was 56,000 people were blocked from voting I’d call this a fact rather than a disgrace.

    3. Hard left parties have never had any kind of sustained electoral success. Again, rather than a disgrace I’d call it a fact. Give me an example of any hard left party having this success in the UK.

    4. A vote for Corbyn will be the same as a vote for the Tories. Now this I can see as upsetting his supporters but he has a personal approval rating of -28 last time I looked with the electorate. An opinion poll produced on Sunday put the Tories on 40% and Labour on 29% again with the electorate. These are the people making the decision in 2020 not the hard left. It’s going back to the days of not compromising with electorate and years in opposition.

    5. The Tories did it in 1997 and Labour are making the same mistake. This is a fact, they got hammered in ’97 and voted for William Hague who took them to the right. He gained 0 seats in 2001. Iain Duncan Smith then went ever further right and even the Tories were not stupid enough to allow them to wipe them out in 2005 and dumped him. Elections are won on the centre. Taking Labour to the hard left is not going to win the election.

    Now you call me a disgrace for pointing out facts that the hard left refuse to acknowledge. But the way I see it the sooner Labour faces up to these points and deals with them then the sooner they can start winning elections.

  • Not the point I was making. As it happens I think capitalism has produced some benefits for some people in some places, though overall it’s effect has been to perpetuate rather than eliminate class differences and it is certainly a threat to our planet’s survival. However we don’t have current models of socialism that show a clear alternative either – doesn’t mean we can’t construct a more democratic and green economy but we need to experiment, learn, be open to new ideas and be prepared to work with the world as it is now, not how it was when Marx wrote or even when Atlee helped bring the welfare state into being.

  • i think progress have only scratched the surface of what’s going on here….. there is a secret organisation pulling all the strings on the political left, what there motives are who can say.

    Or maybe progress has just maxed out on Macarthyism and watched Spectre too many times

  • By “those that prescribe to Tory principles, and bombing people” do you include people like Michael Foot who supported the Falklands War (while Corbyn opposed it)?

  • Where do you think I deemed any policies as ‘Militant’? Indeed, I described Corbyn as Bennite and Militant as “further left”, which if anything has Corbyn’s views as different from Militant’s.

    Do you think Corbyn has moved to the right since the 80s? Perhaps he has, even since he was elected leader, because he seems to have dropped the idea of nationalising the big six energy companies and ending the Bank of England’s independence.

  • Your ‘never have been’ comment shows the depth of your delusion.
    The only advances this country has ever made was when we briefly followed a left agenda post war …… the NHS, welfare and education systems introduced brought us into the 20th century.
    Ever since the right wing have been intent on destroying it.

  • I didn’t mean your comments were a disgrace but the entire onslaught on Corbyn in general.
    I agree Labour has never been hard left, but what in Corbyn’s agenda is hard left because I can’t see it.
    The country is in an awful mess and going downhill fast. A Tory facsimile is not going to achieve anything. For all the good things done in the last Labour administration we did not repeal anything that would help stop or even impede the continual march of the right.
    It’s no wonder that Cameron has found it so easy to wreak his devastation.

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