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History and profile
The magazine began in 1980 as London Labour Briefing. The founders were the members of the Chartist Minority Tendency, which was a former Trotskyist part of the Chartist Collective. It was edited by (among others) Graham Bash, Chris Knight and Keith Veness and counted Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn and other prominent Labour councillors and MPs among its supporters. Throughout the early period, Its masthead slogan was "Labour - take the power!" While the magazine's followers often acted as a political faction, its internal politics were non-sectarian and open, ranging from democratic socialist backers of the former Labour MP Tony Benn to some of the Trotskyist groups.
Jeremy Corbyn, later Leader of the Labour Party, became a regular contributor to London Labour Briefing in the 1980s, and was described by The Times in 1981 as "Briefing's founder". The Economist in a 1982 article named Corbyn as "Briefing's general secretary figure", as did a profile on Corbyn compiled by parliamentary biographer Andrew Roth in 2004, which alleges that he joined the editorial board as General Secretary in 1979. Michael Crick in his 2016 edition of Militant says Corbyn was "a member of the editorial board" in the "mid 1980s", as does Lansley, Goss and Wolmar's The Rise and Fall of the Municipal Left in 1989. The Times also said that Corbyn was still "closely linked" with the group in 1995. However, Corbyn said these reports were inaccurate in 2017, telling Sophy Ridge "Andrew Roth has a wonderful reputation for having the most inaccurate parliamentary profiles known to anyone", and that "I read the magazine. I wrote for the magazine. I was not a member of the editorial board. I didn't agree with it."
The group campaigned for left-wing policies and greater democracy in the Labour Party, and focused on issues relating to municipal affairs. The paper also emphasised sexual and personal politics and anti-racism campaigns. London Labour Briefing was also prominent in supporting Irish Republicanism and the UK Miners' Strike (1984-1985). In due course, London Labour Briefing spawned local papers around Britain, such as Devon Labour Briefing.
Following the Brighton hotel bombing by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the editorial board of London Labour Briefing said the bombings showed that "the British only sit up and take notice [of Ireland] when they are bombed into it". In December 1984, the magazine carried a reader’s letter praising the "audacity" of the IRA attack and stating: "What do you call four dead Tories? A start." It mocked Norman Tebbit, the trade secretary who was dug out of the rubble of the Grand Hotel and whose wife was left permanently paralysed, saying: "Try riding your bike now, Norman". The same issue carried an editorial piece from the editorial board which "disassociated itself" from an article the previous month criticising the bombing, saying the criticism was a "serious political misjudgment".
Throughout the 1990s, Briefing lost supporters and influence as New Labour's hold over the Labour Party increased. Liz Davies was vetoed by Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) as Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Leeds North East in 1995 in part for her association with Briefing. Corbyn called the decision of the NEC "totally unacceptable" at the time. In 1995 Central Books, a left-wing publisher which used to distribute the magazine, said: "It used to be wacky and even amusing. Now it's neo-Trotskyite rubbish."
London Labour Briefing was renamed Labour Briefing and was then known as Labour Left Briefing in 1995. In 2008, it reverted to Labour Briefing on merging with Voice of the Unions. It supports the Socialist Campaign Group of Members of Parliament, and aims to promote and build the network of local Campaign Groups.
Following a contested vote at the July 2012 AGM, some supporters of Labour Briefing decided to transfer control of the magazine to the Labour Representation Committee. Other Editorial Board members, including Labour Party NEC member, Christine Shawcroft, opposed the move, and continued to publish their own independent Labour Briefing magazine (sometimes known as 'Original Briefing').
There have been a number of notable former contributors and members of the editorial board for the Briefing. Most contributors in the 1980s were prominent members of London's "outside left".
- Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North, now Leader of the Labour Party
- Chris Knight, anthropologist
- Ted Knight, former Lambeth council leader
- Andy Harris
- Bryn Davies
- George Nicholson
- Tony Hart, husband of Judith Hart
- Tony Banks
- Tony Benn
- Jackie Walker, activist
- Peter Barberis; John McHugh; Mike Tyldesley (2000). Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century. A&C Black. p. 284. ISBN 978-0-8264-5814-8. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
- Walker, David (9 December 1981). "A briefing on 'Briefing': Left-wing activists unite in print". The Times (61103). London, England. p. 2. ISSN 0140-0460. OCLC 6967919.
Iits [sic] guiding spirit is Mr Jeremy Corbyn, aged 31, Briefing's founder, an official of the National Union of Public Employees.
- "Where Militant matters". The Economist (7231). 3 April 1982. p. 28.
... Briefing's general secretary figure, Mr Jeremy Corbyn, will be Labour's candidate in Islington North.
- Ridge, Sophie (21 May 2017). "Jeremy Corbyn on the IRA and immigration: Full interview on #Ridge". Sky News. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
- "FactCheck: Corbyn on Northern Ireland". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
- "Jeremy (Bernard) Corbyn Parliamentary Profile by Andrew Roth" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 September 2015.
- Crick, Michael (10 March 2016). Militant. London: Biteback Publishing Ltd. p. xvii. ISBN 978-1-78590-029-7.
- Lansley, Stewart; Goss, Sue; Wolmar, Christian (1989-10-01). Councils in Conflict: The Rise and Fall of the Municipal Left. Springer. ISBN 9781349202317.
- Pierce, Andrew; Landale, James (3 October 1995). "Liz Davies and the magazine link that blighted her career". The Times (65388). Times Newspapers Ltd. p. 6.
- Crick, Michael (10 March 2016). Militant. London: Biteback Publishing Ltd. pp. xvii–xviii. ISBN 978-1-78590-029-7.
An article in the July 1982 edition of London Labour Briefing illustrated Corbyn's public stance: 'If expulsions are in order for Militant,' he wrote, 'they should apply to us too.' And Corbyn, a year before he became an MP, announced himself as 'provisional convenor' of the new 'Defeat the Witch-Hunt Campaign'. It was based at an address in Lausanne Road in Hornsey, north London, Corbyn's own home at that time.
- Gilligan, Andrew (10 October 2015). "Revealed: Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell's close IRA links". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
- Foster, Jonathan; Davies, Patricia Wynn (29 September 1995). "Labour may be sued for dropping left-winger". The Independent. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
- Kogan, David; Kogan, Maurice (1982). The Battle for the Labour Party. Glasgow: Fontana. pp. 129–130.