04/05/2020 12:09 BST | Updated 04/05/2020 23:41 BST

Jennie Formby Stands Down As Labour Party General Secretary

Jeremy Corbyn ally announces now is the "right time" to leave job running the party machine.


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Jennie Formby has stood down as general secretary of the Labour Party, she announced in a statement today. 

It comes after Keir Starmer was elected leader and in the wake of a report on anti-Semitism, which she commissioned, was leaked

She said: “When I applied for the role of general secretary in 2018 it was because I wanted to support Jeremy Corbyn, who inspired so many people to get involved in politics with his message of hope, equality and peace. 

“It has been a huge privilege to be general secretary of the largest political party in Europe for the last two years, but now we have a new leadership team it is the right time to step down.

Formby added: “I would like to thank Jeremy, our members and my staff colleagues who have given me so much support during what has been a very challenging period, in particular when I was suffering from ill health.” 

In an email to party staff, seen by HuffPost UK, Formby said she wanted to extend “a special thanks” to them.

“Your solidarity, your expertise and your commitment to our cause is a source of inspiration and hope for the future,” she said.

“A new general secretary will be in place very soon, and I wish them well in taking on the position.”

Starmer thanked Formby for the “personal and professional efforts she has made in advancing the cause she has fought all her life for”.

“Jennie has led our party’s organisation with commitment and energy through a period of political upheaval, including a snap general election last year. I wish her the very best for the future,” he added.

As Formby stood down with immediate effect, the race to find her successor will now gather pace, with the ruling National Executive Committee’s most senior officers convening soon to set a timetable.

Among the early names expected to be in the frame are Unite’s political director Anneliese Midgley and former Scottish Labour general secretary Brian Roy.

Trade unions which have strongly endorsed Starmer, such as Unison, may also expect to produce potential candidates.  The GMB’s Lisa Johnson had been seen by some as a possible contender.

Unison official and NEC member Johanna Baxter is another whose name has been floated for the top job.

However, some NEC figures believe that there could be calls for a figure outside the affiliated trade unions, possibly from overseas, to step in to provide a new approach.

One outside name suggested by some in the party last week was Lord Kerslake, the former civil service chief who had acted as an adviser to John McDonnell. However, HuffPost understands the peer is not expected to put himself forward.

Formby’s swift departure raises questions about how long other senior members of the Corbyn era will wish to remain in post.

His former chief of staff Karie Murphy, and his former communications and strategy chief Seumas Milne, are still in post nearly four months after the disastrous general election in December 2019.

A spokesperson for Momentum said that she had became general secretary “at an incredibly difficult time” because of hostility among some staff to Corbyn’s leadership. 

“Struggling against this while undergoing chemotherapy must have taken a herculean effort. We thank her for everything and wish her well for the future,” the spokesperson said.