Have Trotskyists invaded the Labour Party? Corbyn supporters laugh off deputy leader’s theory

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (R) and deputy leader Tom Watson. © Neil Hall
Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson believes his party has been taken over by “Trotskyists” who bully other members to support Jeremy Corbyn, but the leader’s supporters have laughed off the grievance on social media.

Watson told the Guardian that new members were using the party “as a vehicle for revolutionary socialism” and “peddling baseless conspiracy theories.”

Most new recruits are well intentioned, he added, but some “old hands” are “twisting young arms” and bringing them into sectarian disputes between the party’s right-wing and the Corbyn camp.

“There are Trots that have come back to the party, and they certainly don’t have the best interests of the Labour Party at heart,” the deputy leader said.

“They see the Labour Party as a vehicle for revolutionary socialism, and they’re not remotely interested in winning elections, and that’s a problem. But I don’t think the vast majority of people that have joined the Labour Party and have been mobilized by the people that are in Momentum are all Trots and Bolsheviks.

“Some of these people are deeply interested in political change, in building a more equal society, and are just on a journey in politics that they’re new to, and I don’t want them to feel that I’m labeling them because I’m not.

“But there are some old hands twisting young arms in this process, and I’m under no illusions about what’s going on. They are caucusing and fictionalizing and putting pressure where they can, and that’s how Trotsky entryists operate. Sooner or later, that always ends up in disaster. It always ends up destroying the institutions that are vulnerable, unless you deal with it.”

Many Corbyn supporters felt the jibe was directed at them and challenged the deputy leader on social media.

Royal Air Force veteran and long-time Labour supporter Harry Lesley-Smith wrote on Twitter: “Panic and desperation have now overtaken reason in the #LabourLeadership.”

Another user, Ronan Burtenshaw, quipped: “The more Watson infantilizes young members like this, the more they’ll despise him and his co-travellers. Good.”

Even one-time Labour MP Tony McNulty offered an opinion, writing: “Put your tin hat on Tom – trot trolls are coming for you – despite your mandate.”

The Corbyn team slammed the accusations as “baseless” and part of the right-wing of the Labour party’s “Project Fear.”

A spokesperson for Corbyn’s leadership campaign said: “This is a disappointing remark by Tom Watson, who seems to be sadly using the Owen Smith campaign’s ‘Project Fear’ approach to this election.

“Labour members want a politics of hope, reflecting the fact that our party’s membership has grown to become the largest of any left of center party in Europe under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

“Rather than patronizing members and peddling baseless conspiracy theories about ‘Trotsky entryists,’ he should be working with Jeremy to unite our party so that we can get back to campaigning to dislodge this Tory government, and help elect a Labour government in its place.”