Newman backs former Blair aide for Labour Party top job

Our Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on how Croydon has two prominent candidates for the position of general secretary

Former Bliar official David Evans: has backing of Starmer for Labour job

Tony Newman, the increasingly beleaguered leader of Croydon Council, has given his backing to his old mate David Evans as he applies to become the Labour Party’s general secretary.

Evans is a former close aide to Tony Blair, though for the past two decades he has stepped away from national Labour Party activities and has been running locally-based consultancy The Campaign Company.

Evans was assistant general secretary of Labour Party between 1999 and 2001 and played a leading election strategy role in the landslide General Election victories of 1997 and 2001. His Blairite past is unlikely to make him a popular choice with many of Labour’s newer members, nor officers of the local parties around the country.

In the past, Evans has made disparaging remarks about Constituency Labour Parties, comparing them to Del Boy’s Trotters Independent Traders.

He has also publicly advocated “hammering” the left of the party.

Indeed, even being associated as “the Leader’s pick” could backfire for Evans: Sir Keir Starmer does not have a strong majority within the NEC, whose members could be minded to thwart the ambitions of someone being imposed upon them.

In an article for the party’s website, Labour List, right-winger Luke Akehurst observed: “Given the political nature of the role, the appointment of general secretary is intrinsically political… it has characteristics of a political election, as the decision-makers are the elected members of the NEC, the candidates have known political views, and the NEC takes the decision by a secret ballot vote…

Tony Newman (standing) and David Evans (seated to Newman’s right) at a recent ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ meeting. Evans’ company has been handed several lucrative contracts by the council

“Leaders like to try to get the GS of their choice but aren’t always successful. Peter Watt was not Blair’s pick in 2005, and won by 16-11 with support from the left, despite having rather Blairite political views.”

According to newspaper reports this morning, there are two Croydon figures in the running for the job, which has been vacant since Jennie Formby “resigned” earlier this month – it was a badly kept secret that negotiations were taking place since before Christmas for the Jeremy Corbyn ally to stand down once it was plain that Sir Keir was likely to become party leader.

Applications for the job closed last night, and also among the candidates on the long-list is Andrew Fisher, the South Norwood resident who worked as Corbyn’s policy adviser from 2015 to last year. Fisher worked very closely with John McDonnell on the “For The Many Not The Few” Labour manifestos in  2017 and 2019, on a set of policies which proved very popular with the vastly increased Labour membership.

Tony Newman, however, has been telling Town Hall colleagues how much he rates Evans and how he hopes he gets the party job.

Andrew Fisher: policy chief under Jeremy Corbyn

Certainly, Newman has had plenty of opportunities to see Evans’ much-lauded “organisational skills” at first-hand. Evans’ The Campaign Company has benefited from regular generous and lucrative contracts awarded by the Labour-run council.

Anyone remember the £200,000 Fairness Commission, whose leading recommendation was that Council Tax should rise to pay for services?  No shit, Sherlocks…

Evans just happens to be a former partner of Alison Butler, with whom he shares a daughter. Butler is Newman’s deputy leader on the council.

Labour’s new general secretary is expected to be elected by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee next Tuesday.

Evans is understood to have the backing of Starmer for the role. And Evans comes with a recommendation from Morgan McSweeney, Starmer’s recently appointed chief of staff, who worked at The Campaign Company from 2007 to 2009.

The deadline for applications for the job was extended, some suggest to enable Evans to make an application.

“David is really hot on understanding voters, working with data, putting together election campaign plans, that’s basically what his firm does,” an unnamed Labour source was quoted by the Daily Mirror today.

“Given that Boris Johnson’s support looks quite volatile suddenly, Labour needs to be absolutely focused on winning back voters. The party’s campaign machine is near collapse and we have a mega set of elections next year – almost every part of the country will get a vote. That is a big moment.”

The longlist process begins today, with shortlisting interviews carried out by NEC officers taking place this Thursday, and final interviews next Tuesday.

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5 Responses to Newman backs former Blair aide for Labour Party top job

  1. sebastian tillinger says:

    The content on The Campaign Company’s website is a depressing read. Organisations like this fill the vacuum left when ideas and conviction left British politics.

    Tony No-ideas-Newman is an example of why companies like The Campaign Company exit. Nobody I have ever spoken to about Croydon politics knows what Newman stands for. What his political passion is, what his convictions are. How can you be leader of a major Metropolitan Council and residents haven’t got a clue about you?

    If Tony Newman was not leader of Croydon Council tomorrow, he would be unemployed. It’s the local politics gravy-train and Campaign Company fill in the gaps and maintain the mediocrity.

  2. jackgriffin1933 says:

    Heaven forbid that the left would want to be associated with landslide election wins.

    Obviously maintaining purity is much more important than, you know, being in a position to actually enact the policies you espouse or help the people you claim to represent.

    I’m no shill for Blair, yet it’s easy to forget that he’s the only Labour leader to win a General Election since 1975. That’s a 27% win rate against the Conservatives over 45 years.

    “Given that Boris Johnson’s support looks quite volatile suddenly…”

    The Times this morning has the Conservatives down from 50% to 48% (“Who would you vote for if there was an election tomorrow?”) with new man of the people Sir Keir Rodney Starmer clawing three points back (30% to 33%).

    Boris’s personal ratings are down more but still he’s pulling 39% in terms of positivity compared to KRS’s 15% (both YouGov, as of today).

    If that’s volatile, Gawd help Labour should the Conservatives prove popular.

    • To paraphrase the football chant, “Three General Elections and one illegal war that killed millions…”.

      Running a country by focus group provides all the leadership of a weather vane, Jack.

      • jackgriffin1933 says:

        If the UK electorate is a ‘focus group’, then it’s one that holds ultimate sway.

        I don’t think anyone was canvassed about getting into Gulf II. And as that was mid-second term, he should have been properly damaged goods come the 2005 GE, it being BS from the off, yet luckily had Hopeless Howard to face.

        I don’t think you’ve wilfully overlooked or mistinterpreted my point, yet to rephrase: Labour is in desparate need of electioneering skills and has been for some time.

        It has been deluding itself about how its messages are received and a noisy Twitter feed does not a campaign make. It did not, repeat, did not win the argument.

        Don’t imagine that Evans is a patch on Cummings when it comes to messaging and data, yet Labour needs someone with half-a-clue.

        Now he may not have that half-a-clue, yet it is self-limiting to write him off merely because of a role in the Blair ministries. On compentencies yes, but associations: no.

        And while Fisher’s manifestoes appealed to an increased Labour membership, no party was ever elected to Government by talking to itself.

        You need that pesky UK electorate focus group for that.

        • The electorate has never been a focus group. They have shown regularly that they will vote en masse for any crock of shit that they are offered – remember that £350million a week on the side of a bus?

          Determining policy by focus group – which is what Evans is all about – is a route to vacuousnesss and an abandonment of principle.

          It’s amusing to see that Evans, now declared as the Leader’s pick, is being hailed as some kind of election guru because Labour managed to win Croydon council in 2014. After four years of Lib-Con austerity, against the increasingly discredited Mike Fisher, and with Gav and Mario blundering around because Croydon Tories had never encountered proper scrutiny from the media before. Hmmm.

          All we recall is Evans briefing Newman, and his company benefiting with six-figure council contracts afterwards… Cushty.

          You’re probably right about Labour nationally needing a better media game that it had under Seumas Milne. But if Evans is the answer, then you’re asking the wrong questions.

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