One of Labour’s most formidable campaign organisers and the party’s former north west regional director has quit Jeremy Corbyn’s party, claiming: “I feel like I’ve been in an abusive relationship – and the only way you resolve that situation is by walking away from it.”
Sheila Murphy, who first joined Labour 49 years ago and has subsequently worked on campaigns for Ed Miliband, Yvette Cooper and Luciana Berger - becoming at one stage the top official for the entire north west region - said she had reached the painful decision to leave as a result of the bullying and divisive behaviour of “dysfunctional” left-wing members in her local Wirral Labour Party.
“People often talk about the Labour family – but on the Wirral we are in a very dysfunctional family,” she says.
“I just feel that I can’t stay and be part of it anymore.
“People wouldn’t speak to you at meetings, if I raised my hand to speak the chair would just point at me. It sounds so small, but in 2018 when I campaigned in another seat I was asked if I had permission to be here.
“I was called an impersonator, just sort of stuff that has made me feel very uncomfortable and unable to stay.
“With antisemitism, they try and tell you it’s not happened in the Party – but it certainly is.”
The defeat of Wirral Labour councillor Phillip Brightmore in local elections earlier this after Sheila helped with the campaign proved the final straw for her, with bitter divisions with the local party proving to be an important factor behind the loss.
Sheila revealed she has campaigned for every Labour leader since Harold Wilson and that even under Michael Foot “when things weren’t great” she worked as hard as she did for him as she did under Tony Blair.
Ed Miliband personally asked her to come out of retirement to sort out Labour’s faltering ground campaign during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. She was then involved in the successful effort to defeat Esther McVey in Wirral West in 2015.
After heading Yvette Cooper’s leadership campaign in 2015, Shelia said she would regularly came into contact with the eventual victor Jeremy, who she personally had no problem with.
“Yvette’s campaign was much more about policy, Jeremy was much more about emotion. He told members what they wanted to hear. He only had to mention the word NHS and they all went crazy. All credit to Jeremy’s campaign – he really tapped into something.”
The real problem said Sheila came as result of Ed Miliband’s decision to open up the membership rules. “I think he made the change for the right reasons – but no-one realised what actually would happen,” she says.
“A genie has been let out of the bottle and we can’t put it back in.
“We now have a membership – they’ve been members of the Greens, they’ve been Socialist Workers, they’ve been Communist. It’s quite hard to bring that group together.
“When you try to run campaigns for Labour to win they are so fragmented, even the thought of coming together to win an election, they just don’t seem able to do this.”
Sheila also suggests that the current Labour leader’s surprisingly good showing in the 2017 General Election was more down to a protest against an appalling Tory government rather than support for Corbyn.
“They talk about the 2017 manifesto and how everybody loved it, do they really think ordinary people read their manifesto?,” she says. “I think they are kidding themselves.
“I just don’t think their policies hold up. I come from a traditional Labour family who have always voted Labour. My daughter and son-in-law, they done ok, have a house and are comfortable.
“But she said to me Labour makes her feel guilty now – and she would not vote for them.
“My dad would turn in his grave, because he was a miner from that sort of tradition, a Labour family.”
Asked what he message to the Labour leadership would be as she walked away from five decades of devotion to the party would be, Sheila takes a deep breath and says: “I just think, whether it’s Lansman or Jeremy or any of them.
“Nobody has got control of these people anymore."