Labour candidate Anna Turley arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London where she is fighting a libel case against Unite the union and Sqwawkbox, November 12
A secret WhatsApp group of moderate Labour MPs plotted to unseat Unite boss Len McCluskey in a bid to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, the High Court heard today.
Anna Turley - who was a Labour MP in Redcar, North Yorkshire, and hopes to regain the seat - is suing the union and Skwawkbox journalist Stephen Walker for publishing claims that she ‘dishonestly’ got cheap subscription to the union.
But the politician told the High Court she had ‘unknowingly’ breached membership rules by signing up for a 50p-per-week subscription to the Community branch of the union exclusively for the unemployed and retirees.
Turley, 41, infamously called the general secretary an ‘a***hole’ but refused to apologise for her comment today - insisting that to do so would be ‘disingenuous as it was part of her view.’
She admitted she believed the party had ‘moved too far to the left’ under Corbyn and slammed McCluskey as having 'no accountability and too much influence'.
A barrister for Unite read messages to the court from a secret WhatsApp group known as the ‘Birthday Club’, including Labour MPs Ruth Smeeth, Stella Creasy and Chris Leslie - now of the Independent Group - where it had been discussed how to unseat the general secretary.
The court heard Ms Smeeth sent a link to an online article suggesting McCluskey could step down ahead of a snap election to fellow detractors in September 2016 with the message: ‘It’s game on in Unite!’
Anthony Hudson, QC, for Unite and Stephen Walker, said the MPs leapt at the opportunity to join the union and vote against McCluskey to trigger another ‘coup’ against Corbyn.
The barrister said: ‘You wanted to remove both of them but your ultimate aim was to get rid of Mr McCluskey so that you could leave Corbyn vulnerable to another coup didn’t you?’
‘It’s clear my position,’ Turley replied.
‘It’s not a secret that I didn’t want Corbyn to be a leader of the Labour Party and I had resigned but the idea that there was another big strategy to get rid of him, you know, we had a motion of no confidence and it didn’t work.’
Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, speaking at the Jewish Labour Movement Rally Fringe event at the 2019 Labour Party conference
Turley, 41, infamously called the general secretary an ‘a***hole’ but refused to apologise for her comment today (pictured: Len McClusky, 2018)
‘It’s an overall shift that I felt uncomfortable with.
‘I believe the party had moved too far to the left.’
The court heard Turley replied within two minutes of Ms Smeeth’s message saying: ‘Do you think they (Unite) will notice if I join?’
She claimed she had ‘forgotten’ about the 50-strong group of MPs but Mr Hudson slammed the MP for ‘concealing’ its existence.
‘For at least two years you kept hidden the existence of the Birthday Club and the members,’ the barrister said.
Turley replied: ‘No I completely forgot that was the origins of me joining the Unite Community, it was only on receiving a letter from my solicitor when I was asked to look again.
Ruth Smeeth Labour MP for Stoke on