POLITICS

More Pain For Jeremy Corbyn As Simon Fletcher Quits As Campaigns Chief

'A big loss.'

17/02/2017 16:55 GMT | Updated 17/02/2017 18:08 GMT
Yui Mok/PA Wire

One of Jeremy Corbyn’s top aides is quitting his post amid claims that he was sidelined by rival factions within the Labour leader’s inner circle.

Simon Fletcher, who was tasked with the party’s preparations for a snap general election, will now resign as his Director of Campaigns and Planning.

The 48-year-old left-winger masterminded Corbyn’s surprise 2015 leadership election landslide.

As Corbyn’s original chief of staff, he was a key figure in meetings with foreign leaders like Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

But he has slowly been left out of the leader’s top team in recent months. Fletcher was ousted from his more senior post last year and replaced by former Unite official Karie Murphy, a key ally of union boss Len McCluskey.

Simon Fletcher
Fletcher meets Barack Obama

In statements to HuffPost UK, both the Labour leader and Fletcher suggested that their parting had been amicable.

Corbyn said: “I’d like to thank Simon for his work, both for my office in parliament and as the campaign director of my 2015 leadership election campaign.

“Simon has played a vital role in shaping the new politics and building Labour’s campaign to rebuild and transform Britain.

“I’ve known Simon for many years, we will continue to work together on the cause of social justice in Britain and I wish him well in the future.”

Fletcher said: “Working for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign and in the leader of the opposition’s office in parliament has been a huge privilege.

“I have worked with Jeremy for well over two decades and I will continue to support him and his leadership of the Labour party and look forward to working together for many years to come,” he said. 

But his departure comes less than a week before two key by-elections, in Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland, on 23 February.

A former key aide to Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor of London, and to Ed Miliband when he was Labour leader, Fletcher had been effectively cut out of the major decisions, party sources told HuffPost UK.

Simon Fletcher
Simon Fletcher

His close colleague Neale Coleman, a former policy chief for Corbyn, also quit last year over fears that the leader was failing to reach out to the non-Labour voters needed to win a general election.

Fletcher’s departure was also hastened by the removal last week of his close ally Jon Trickett, as election co-ordinator, and claims that he felt Corbyn was not delivering on his promise of a ‘new politics’.

 

 
City Hall
Ken Livingstone and Simon Fletcher in 2007

Corbyn also suffered Shadow Cabinet resignations this month after MPs refused to follow his orders to vote in favour of the Government’s Brexit bill.

One Labour source speculated that Fletcher would take on a role in the upcoming ‘Metro’ mayoral elections this year in Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands.

The former senior staffer was widely respected amongst Labour MPs. One Labour insider told HuffPostUK Fletcher was “pretty much the only professional left in Corbyn’s team who knew what he was doing.”

“Hard to know if him jumping ship is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning, but either way he will be a big loss,” he said.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary tweeted his disappointment at Fletcher’s departure.

But another Labour source told HuffPost UK: “Having got Corbyn elected in the first place he has reaped what he sowed.

“It’s clear team Corbyn won’t listen to anyone with a track record of delivery now. The last person to have masterminded a vote winning campaign has left the building.”

“Simon made the hard left electable with Ken, clearly Corbyn was a bridge too far. Vaguely talented man realises very late in the day he’s only ever worked for congenital idiots.”

Another Labour insider said: “Don’t forget that Simon Fletcher was a member of a Socialist Action, a Trotskyist group. When they are considered too moderate, it sends a really powerful message to everyone else that this isn’t even a group that is willing to co-operate with other Trotskyist groups.”

Fletcher leaves communications chief Seamus Milne, policy adviser Andrew Fisher, political secretary Katy Clark and Karie Murphy as the remaining members of Corbyn’s inner circle.