Former Corbyn adviser warns that if the opposition leader can’t improve the fortunes of Labour, ‘then he has to go’, as it emerges that Croydon-based firm has been doing consultancy work as the party is making dozens of staff redundant. By WALTER CRONXITE, political editor
Under the leadership of Keir Starmer, “Labour’s woes are deepening, rather than being solved”.
That’s the view of Andrew Fisher, the South Norwood writer and activist who was policy adviser to Jeremy Corbyn when he was Labour leader.
Fisher’s remarks come as the Labour Party nationally is axing 90 staff jobs as it rapidly runs out of funds, as members – tens of thousands of whom signed up at the peak of “Corbynmania” in 2016 and 2017 – are deserting the party and cancelling their membership direct debits.
The trades unions are withholding contributions, and the wealthy donors who funded Starmer’s leadership campaign 18 months ago have not come forward with any cash for the party under their choice of leader.
Yet while the Labour leadership hands out P45s with all the alacrity of a Tory tycoon, Inside Croydon has discovered that in the meantime a Croydon-based business has been working for the party, providing research and consultancy services.
That business, our loyal reader will have already guessed, is The Campaign Company, the consultancy founded by David Evans, who last year was hand-picked by Starmer to become the General Secretary of the Labour Party.
It is fair to say that Starmer and Evans, together with the likes of Croydon MPs Steve Reed OBE and Sarah Jones, are on a different wing of the party from Fisher. Indeed, Reed was one of the participants of the “chicken coup” which attempted to undermine and unseat Corbyn as leader.
But Fisher’s criticisms, made in his now regular columns for the i newspaper, will sting, and resonate with many in the Labour Party nationally and in Croydon, where the chaos and scandals around the mismanagement of the Labour-run council has exacerbated an already troubled situation for the party.
A meeting on Tuesday of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee agreed the job cuts and also to proscribe four fringe organisations, effectively expelling another thousand or so members.
Fisher wrote yesterday, “Labour’s problems did not start with Keir Starmer – the party has lost the last four general elections – but under his leadership Labour’s woes are deepening, rather than being solved.”
Starmer, Fisher says,”is running out of other people to blame”.
He writes, “Keir Starmer won the Labour leadership with a resounding mandate from members and affiliated trade unionists just over 15 months ago. He had the support of most of his colleagues in Parliament too, which in his early months enabled him to avoid any of the internal sniping that his two predecessors suffered.
“He had a majority on Labour’s NEC, could pick the shadow cabinet of his choice, and appointed his preferred candidate as party general secretary, David Evans.
“Starmer’s winning mandate was based on promises to deliver party unity, electability, professionalism, and a socialist policy platform. No fair-minded observer could say he has provided any of that. In fact, quite the opposite.
“Being leader of the opposition is a tough gig. Becoming so during a pandemic added complications to that arduous task. But rather than rise to the challenge, Starmer has shrunk.
“More concerningly, the party is shrinking: losing electoral support, losing members, losing funds, and losing dedicated staff…
“The party has to turn it around, and if Keir Starmer isn’t capable of doing so then he has to go.”
Perhaps it was after reading this that “Sir Keith”, as he is known disparagingly, decided to self-isolate for a while, apparently after one of his children tested positive for covid-19..
In the midst of such scathing criticism from a widely respected commentator from the left, Starmer’s judgement in appointing Evans is coming under increasing scrutiny.
Evans’ close connections with the discredited leadership of Croydon Labour – he shares a daughter with former council deputy leader Alison Butler – has already raised serious questions about the cosy contracts The Campaign Company was awarded by Tony Newman and his cabal once they won control of Croydon Town Hall in 2014.
Evans, himself a former Labour councillor in Croydon, headed Tony Blair’s successful General Election campaigns in 1997 and 2001. In the 20 years since, if the Labour Party’s plight since he took over as General Secretary last year is anything to go by, Evans appears to have lost his “magic” touch.
But the consultancy he formed in Croydon continues to trade, thanks in part to recent work for… the Labour Party.
There is no suggestion of any wrong-doing by Evans, TCC or the Labour Party here.
After taking on the job as Labour Party General Secretary, Evans stood down from his directorship of The Campaign Company. The controlling share-holding in TCC – motto: “Values First” – is now held by Aline Evans, David Evans’ wife. So everything is totally above-board.
Leftist website Skwawkbox reported recently that they had obtained a copy of a leaked report, which appears to have been compiled for the Labour Party by The Campaign Company.
It is not known whether the company which Labour General Secretary Evans founded conducted its work on the report for a fee, nor whether any form of competitive tender was conducted by the party hierarchy before any contract was awarded. Skwawkbox suggests, not unreasonably, that it would seem unlikely that a commercial consultancy would conduct such a report as a “freebie”.
In Croydon in the first couple of years after the 2014 local election victory, TCC was awarded various contracts by the Blairites who controlled the council worth more than £200,000.
The possibility that the Labour Party has now been hiring consultants from the General Secretary’s old firm, at around the same time as it is laying off 90 workers, though, is hardly likely to enamour Starmer and Evans to their increasingly impatient colleagues in the unions.
Read more: Evans appointment to Labour top job ‘could tear party apart’
Read more: Newman and Hall resign as councillors claiming a ‘witchhunt’
Read more: Questions asked over Town Hall Mayor’s business deal
Read more: Grassroots Labour Party members in calls to sack David Evans
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