Home Featured Infighting at the top of UK’s Labour Party as it eyes the next election
Infighting at the top of UK’s Labour Party as it eyes the next election

Infighting at the top of UK’s Labour Party as it eyes the next election

by host

LONDON — Senior figures around U.K. Labour leader Keir Starmer are unhappy with their general secretary’s performance and believe he should be replaced.

David Evans, who is the party’s most senior official, has been accused by some members of Starmer’s team of being too slow to implement operational changes and raise funds from private donors, according to four current and former officials.

Evans has also been criticized in some quarters over the way he has handled Labour’s staff cuts, which reduced the size of the party’s workforce by around a quarter.

He was appointed general secretary in May 2020, two months after Starmer was elected leader, and was billed as someone who could shake things up in a role that is normally filled by senior trade union officials.

Since then he has been praised for his handling of Labour’s backlog of anti-Semitism complaints and legal challenges that were accrued during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

However, his internal critics believe he is ill-suited to aspects of the job that have become increasingly important, including wooing private donors, managing relations with unions and preparing the party for a general election.

“[The leader of the opposition’s team] really has got its act together in the last eight or nine months. Now they’re looking at the party machine and they’re realizing there is a massive problem,” one Labour adviser said.

Another adviser and two former Labour officials said that certain members in Starmer’s team were unhappy with Evans, although some stressed the feeling was not universal.

“He messes up on nearly every engagement going, whether it’s all-staff calls, PLP engagements or shadow Cabinet meetings,” a former party official said.

Another former senior Labour official said Evans had succeeded in implementing key internal reforms but had struggled to build relationships during the pandemic.

“Some of the historic problem really needed to be dealt with and to be fair to David and others, they actually did make sure that the vast majority of changes went through,” they said. “What they need to be doing now is building an organization for the next set of elections. That should be the raison d’être for the general secretary – the finances, the organization, building the team and managing the wider politics.”

Raising funds is a major priority for Labour after nearly two years in which efforts to attract private donors failed to bear much fruit. The party is cash-strapped as a result of hefty legal bills, the cost of fighting several general elections in quick succession and a reduction in the amount of constitutionally allocated money it receives after having lost dozens of MPs. The party said last year it was cutting staff as a result of its financial woes.

Evans was ratified as general secretary at Labour’s party conference in September after surviving an attempt by some on the left of the party to oust him.

Before taking up the role he ran a political consultancy called the Campaign Company and was an assistant general secretary of the party under Tony Blair. He is an ally of Starmer’s campaign director Morgan McSweeney.

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