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How Jeremy Corbyn stitched up Labour’s Brexit vote, writes Robert Peston

Jeremy Corbyn has seen off Remain supporters in Labour - for now. Credit: PA

Labour's leadership may have failed in the "drive by shooting" of Tom Watson (using his colourful words) but they have totally stitched up NEC and conference Brexit votes - by making sure their supporters were largely in the room, and keeping out those pesky Remainers.

None of this should come as a surprise. But it was still awe-inspiring to watch in action.

The point is that for the past 24 hours, all the attention has been on which way the big unions would vote.

And when Unison turned against Corbyn's Brexit neutrality it looked as if the Remainers might just squeak a victory. But in the end the unions' position was irrelevant.

Because the conference votes were done by a show of hands. And guess what? There just weren't many Remainers on the conference floor.

I wonder how that happened?

It's a bit like how two crucial 8am NEC meetings were cancelled and requests for emailed submissions on the Brexit policy were made at around midnight on the prior evenings, making it almost impossible for Corbyn's critics to get their act together.

The Brexit position of the trade unions was always a red herring, what magicians call misdirection. What mattered was who was in the hall.

And that was sorted weeks ago though the choice of delegates.

For spectators like me - who spent 15 years observing the tactics of China's leaders - all this is quite familiar.

For passionate Labour Remainers, it's infuriating.

  • Update 20.05:

Just to explain in more detail the preceding points, a senior member of the shadow cabinet told me days ago that constituency Labour Party delegate selection had been organised to favour Corbyn loyalists.

About half those present were trade union delegates, who were thought to narrowly favour Corbyn’s Brexit ambivalence.

And immediately before the vote a delegate made a point of order from the platform alleging there were many in the conference room not entitled to vote - which was a suggestion she thought the vote was not being conducted in a robustly fair way.

Also there were lots of shouts at the end for a card vote, to verify the result via a formal counting process - which showed not everyone present thought the results accurately captured the view of Labour members.

All that said, Jeremy Corbyn won handsomely, which his allies told me he would over the preceding hours.

You can admire or criticise the professionalism of the operation to secure the win.

And of course I regret and apologise for my comparison with China which I thought was a joke but has caused unnecessary offence.