POLITICS
08/01/2020 18:00 GMT | Updated 09/01/2020 13:44 GMT

Keir Starmer Hires Ex-Corbyn Aide Simon Fletcher In Bid To End Labour 'Factionalism'

Shadow Brexit secretary gives big job to former party campaigns chief and Ken Livingstone aide

Keir Starmer has underscored his pledge to end divisions within Labour by hiring a key former adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, Ed Miliband and Ken Livingstone.

Simon Fletcher, a former campaigns chief for Corbyn and aide to Livingstone, has been taken on as Starmer’s strategic campaign adviser, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Fletcher’s new role is a clear signal to the left of the party that the shadow Brexit secretary can be trusted to continue Labour’s radical policy agenda.

But with ‘centrist’ and ‘soft left’ MPs on board, it also sends the message that he can unite the different wings of the Labour movement, his supporters say.

Writing for HuffPost UK, Fletcher said that “Keir Starmer has the greatest capacity to deliver most effectively on the challenges Labour faces”.

The party veteran added: “On a personal level, I was struck over the Christmas break just how many friends of mine who consistently supported Jeremy Corbyn were also now supporting Keir Starmer for leader.

“He has set out a refusal to oversteer away from Labour’s radical policy framework, a commitment to seek to unify the party and an intention to be serious about holding Boris Johnson to account, in order to face the electoral challenge ahead.”

One source said that the appointment underlined Starmer’s “determination to end factionalism and unite the whole Labour movement”.

Fletcher was Corbyn’s original campaign manager in the 2015 leadership election and was chief of staff until Karie Murphy was installed in the Opposition leader’s office.

He served as director of campaigns and planning for Corbyn, but also worked for former leader Ed Miliband and was Ken Livingstone’s chief of staff during his time as London Mayor.

HuffPost UK
Simon Fletcher and Angela Rayner

In his blog, Fletcher urged an end to the divisive stances of some in the party and called for a politics that showed the public how they would be better off under a Starmer government.

“Labour can only win as an alliance of lower and middle income people: it can only win by building alliances that enable it to lead the majority.”

He also said Labour had to “Demonstrate that we understand the chasm that has opened up between the party and Jewish people in Britain”.

In what appeared to be a swipe at the 2019 strategy of targeting unwinnable seats and not defending heartlands, he added “we will need a serious, professional electoral apparatus that inspires and involves the membership and is clear about the voters and seats we have to target.”

HuffPost reported last year that John McDonnell, an admirer of Fletcher, was furious that he was blocked from running for the safe seat of Jarrow.

PA Wire/PA Images

As well as Fletcher, Starmer has taken on Kat Fletcher, another ally of Corbyn and Livingstone and former deputy director of the London region.

Former Darlington MP Jenny Chapman will chair the campaign, Kat Fletcher will be ‘director of field operations’, ex-Sadiq Khan aide Ellie Robinson becomes director of stakeholder management and Ben Nunn director of communications.

Morgan McSweeney - a former chief at the Local Government Association’s Labour group - will be campaign manager and Chris Ward deputy campaigns manager.

A spokesman for Starmer said: “This campaign will draw on the talent, energy and enthusiasm of activists from across the Labour movement.”

The boost to Starmer’s campaign came as he also secured the endorsement of Unison, Britain’s biggest union, and surged into first place on nominations from MPs.

Some 24 MPs have given their backing to his leadership bid, ahead of Rebecca Long Bailey on 7 nominations, Jess Phillips on 6, Lisa Nandy on 2, Emily Thornberry on one. Clive Lewis has yet to attract any nominations from fellow MPs.