POLITICS
22/09/2019 09:29 BST | Updated 22/09/2019 10:01 BST

Key Labour Policy Chief Quits In Fresh Blow For Corbyn

Andrew Fisher quits and says Labour won't win election as party meltdown overshadows policy announcements for second day at Brighton conference.

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Jeremy Corbyn on Brighton seafront during the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton.

One of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest aides has resigned and warned Labour will not win a general election as headlines over the party’s meltdown dominate a second day of the party’s conference. 

Andrew Fisher, head of policy and the author of the party’s last manifesto, revealed his plan to walk out at the end of the year last Saturday, according to a report in the Sunday Times. 

A memo from Fisher to Corbyn denounced the team for their “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency” in a memo seen by the paper.

Key policy announcements on public services - such as abolishing Ofsted,  restoring legal aid and making NHS prescriptions free - at the Labour conference in Brighton now look set to be overshadowed for a second day. 

One Labour source close to trade union leaders told HuffPost UK: “Fisher is a safe pair of hands, widely trusted (unlike almost anyone else there) and an absolute true believer. This is end of days stuff.”

Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Corbyn however stressed Fisher would be with the party until the end of the year and said of the memo: “I think he said that because he was extremely distressed at that point with whatever was being discussed at that point.” 

Fisher also said he was sick of the “blizzard of lies and excuses”, and claimed a “class war” had gripped the upper echelons of the party.

Andrew Fisher wrote the party's 2017 manifesto

His resignation will be a significant blow to 70-year-old Corbyn, who, it is claimed, may also stand down because he feels under “incredible pressure”.

A Labour source said: “We don’t comment on staffing matters.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, meanwhile, will be hoping to get coverage for the party’s new policy to make prescriptions free in England.

They are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In England the NHS charges £9 per item, and earned just over £575m from fees in 2017/18 - which the government has said is a valuable source of income.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner will reveal to delegates that Labour would scrap the schools inspectorate Ofsted and replace the body with local authority “health checks”. 

Labour says the inspectorate “measures deprivation” rather than standards and is need of a complete overhaul. 

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon will also announce that Labour will scrap custodial sentences of less than six months, apart from in cases of violent or sexual offences. 

Research shows that short sentences are a cost burden on the system and do little to reduce reoffending, Labour says. 

The party will also reverse all the Conservative cuts to legal aid-funded Early Legal Help within the first 100 days of a Jeremy Corbyn government, Burgon will say.

The fresh row over Fisher’s exit comes, however, after an extraordinary attempt by Momentum founder Jon Lansman to delete Tom Watson’s role as deputy leader. 

Lansman tabled the motion to the party’s ruling National Executive Committee on Friday night. 

Corbyn stepped in to stop the motion being tabled again on Saturday but Watson’s role will now be subject to a review. The row has dramatically reignited Labour’s factional war between the left and the moderates just weeks ahead of a snap general election. 

In a separate development, MP Mike Hill has been suspended from the Labour Party amid claims of sex harassment. 

Hill holds Hartlepool, which is a key target for the Conservative Party.