The real significance of the US cables leak

The leaks tell us little we didn’t know already but have exposed the limits of confidentiality.

Cut through some of the hype about a "world diplomatic crisis", and the truth is that so far little of note has emerged from the US cables leak. The news that Saudi Arabia wants the US to bomb Iran (the region's rival superpower) should come as a surprise to no one.

Elsewhere, we learn that the US believes Silvio Berlusconi is "vain", that Angela Merkel is "risk-averse" and that Nicolas Sarkozy is "thin-skinned". Who doesn't? Similarly, the revelation that the US and the UK have "grave fears" over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme hardly sets the pulse racing.

As with the MPs' expenses scandal, the best may be still to come, but I'm yet to be surprised by anything I've read (the first 63 cables are available here).

Instead, what's significant about the leak is that it happened at all. As Simon Jenkins points out, it proves that "an electronic secret is a contradiction in terms". Allies and foes of the Americans alike will be alarmed that the US government allowed this to happen.

That the material was made available to no fewer than three million government employees (it was not classified "top secret"), one of whom allegedly copied a selection on to a fake Lady Gaga CD, will surely prompt a rethink in Washington. Unless governments are to revert to an era of pre-digital diplomacy, however, embarrassment is the price they'll have to pay for the foreseeable future.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Exclusive: Labour MEPs call for Jeremy Corbyn to resign as leader

Letter demands Corbyn's departure and attacks his office for "promoting" the work of the Leave campaign. 

Labour's MEPs have called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign in the latest challenge to his leadership. In a letter sent to Corbyn and leaked to the New Statesman, Glenis Willmott, the chair of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP), wrote: "We find it hard to see how any Labour leader can continue in that role if they do not have the support of their MPs." Corbyn yesterday lost a no confidence vote among the Parliamentary Labour Party by 176 to 40. The letter also attacked the leader's office for an "official Labour briefing document" which "promoted the work of Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart for the Leave campaign."

The demand for Corbyn's resignation is described by sources as the "majority position" of Labour's 20 MEPs. Their stance could prove crucial if the leader is not automatically included in any new contest (a matter of legal dispute) and is required to seek 50 nominations from MP/MEPs (20 per cent of the total). 

The letter reads: 

"The European Parliamentary Labour Party met today for its first meeting since the referendum and concluded that we should send you this letter today.

"The EPLP has always striven to have a loyal and constructive relationship with our party leader, and we have worked hard to cooperate with you over recent months. However, we have very serious concerns in the light of Labour's defeat in the referendum campaign.

"Responsiblity for the UK leaving the EU lies with David Cameron. That being said, we were simply astounded that on Friday morning, as news of the result sank in, an official Labour briefing document promoted the work of Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart for the Leave campaign.

"Labour's loyal and dedicated teams of activists had just spent weeks on the doorstep and on street-stalls making the case to remain in the EU and countering leave campaign arguments. Yet you and your office authorised a briefing that put the whole Labour campaign on a par with two Labour politicians who had been appearing for weeks alongside right-wing politicians, such as Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.

"Separate from the referendum issue, it has become clear in recent days that you do not have the confidence of the Parliamentary Labour Party. We find it hard to see how many Labour leader can continue in that role if they do not have the support of their MPs.

"So it it with a heavy heart that we urge you, for the sake of the Labour Party and for the people in our country who need a Labour government, to reconsider your position as Labour leader."

Yours sincerely,

Glenis Wilmott MEP

On behalf of the European Parliamentary Labour Party 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.