Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto was cleared by the party’s Clause V meeting virtually unamended after a meeting that was low in acrimony but high in what one attendee described as “dark humour” about leaks.
Attendees at the meeting – which comprises the party’s ruling national executive committee, the committee of the parliamentary Labour party, the heads of the national policy forum and the Shadow Cabinet – arrived before Jeremy Corbyn, who was delayed when his police minder accidentally ran over a journalist’s foot.
At the sound of an ambulance outside, one attendee joked that it was there for the leaker. In what one Corbynsceptic described as a “pointless bit of theatre”, attendees were made to sign a confidentiality agreement by party staffers before being handed an individually numbered copy of the manifesto, which they had to hand back after leaving.
Although meetings of the NEC – which is evenly split between Corbynites and Corbynsceptics – are often acrimonious, the meeting largely passed without incident. “It’s an 80 person committee going over a 50 page document in three hours,” one NEC member explained, “You don’t have time to going at each other, really.”
Participants went through the draft manifesto section by section, with most amendments passing without disagreement. For the most part, the changes were about “addition not subtraction” in the words of one present. “You have a lot of people with very specific expertise,” one trade unionist explained, “So there are few things in the draft that don’t quite work that have been tidied up but nothing that has actually changed, I think.”
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, annoyed several present with her interventions. “Grandstanding is what she was doing,” said one, “Every time she spoke she gave a speech about how terrible the leak was and how they should be ashamed.”
But for the most part the mood was sombre. Of the representatives from the parliamentary Labour party, they were all “very jittery”, with the exception of Tom Blenkinsop, who is not standing again.
There were no major fights. “It’s academic, isn’t it?” said one usually pro-Corbyn member, “Apart from Ian Lavery, everyone else can read the writing on the wall.”
There will be changes to further toughen Labour’s opposition to the planned funding formula, which most Labour MPs are already campaigning against in their own constituency, and a slight reworking of the sections on defence, but there will, otherwise, be no major shifts when Labour’s manifesto is unveiled next week.