5 Labour stories you might’ve missed over the weekend

Elliot Chappell

1. Laura and the oatcake

LabourList has an advance copy of Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour under Corbyn and our editor is currently trying to read it as quickly as possible before its publication. In the meantime, Sunday Times readers were given a sneak preview. One story in particular caught people’s attention on Twitter. According to the book, much tension was generated over the preparation of oatcakes during a campaign visit to Stoke. Jeremy Corbyn’s wife Laura Alvarez allegedly demanded an oatcake with honey, and in the process interrupted filming by ITV of the former leader and local general election candidate present.

It didn’t take long after the publication of the article for footage of the event to surface on social media. The clip contains a cut, which is apparently not unusual, and this has been the source of much debate on Twitter. Left Out says Alvarez refused to move when aides attempted to intervene and said of Corbyn: “I’m trying to make him happy and you’re stopping it.” It also reported that ITV cut out the incident from the clip at the request of aides, but ITV has denied doing so and had the article amended.

2. Tom and Jo

Another one from Left Out. The book by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire says then deputy leader Tom Watson considered defecting to the Lib Dems ahead of last year’s general election – though only “for five minutes”. After Labour conference, during which the national executive committee discussed abolishing his post, Jo Swinson invited Watson to stand for her party in Lewes. Instead, he agreed with the leader’s office to step down and be offered a peerage.

3. Outsourcing problems

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock seeking urgent clarity on who will be responsible for key public health services once Public Health England is scrapped. The UK government decided to abolish PHE last week and create a new organisation to be led by Dido Harding. Harding has been in charge of the NHS Test and Trace programme, beset with difficulties. She also happens to be a Tory peer. Hancock urged private firms to “join us” as he launched the new health body, and claimed that partnering with corporate giants is “the best way through”.

Rachel Reeves also drew attention to cronyism in outsourcing. Government Covid contracts worth nearly £500m have been awarded to companies linked to the Conservative Party, with 13 firms getting contracts that have not gone out to tender. Labour has called for a formal independent investigation.

4. Scottish Labour tensions mount

The constitutional question of whether to remain in the union dominates Scottish politics. Unionists are worried as a strong win for the SNP in the upcoming Holyrood elections next year will surely begin a countdown to another independence referendum. Seb Payne argued in the Financial Times that the only thing that can stop Nicola Sturgeon winning another large majority would be the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard quitting.

He reports one Labour shadow cabinet member as saying of Leonard: “He was riding on Jeremy’s coattails and has achieved, well, nothing… There is a feeling he isn’t working very hard and isn’t aware of the gravity of what is facing him.” Elected less than three years ago by the members, Leonard told ITV’s Representing Border programme last week that he has a strong mandate to lead the party into next year’s election.

5. Deadline for NEC voting approaches

The deadline for those wanting to join the party in time to vote in the upcoming national executive committee elections is midnight tonight. Over 170 candidates have put themselves forward for the 18 seats going on the party’s ruling body, and the contest is due to conclude in November. The process for electing the positions vary between the different posts – check out our full guide to the elections.

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