Jess Phillips picks Wes Streeting as campaign chair

Sienna Rodgers
© Chris McAndrew/CC BY 3.0

Labour leadership candidate Jess Phillips has appointed Wes Streeting as parliamentary chair of her campaign, along with Melanie Onn as an ex-parliamentarian campaign chair.

Alicia Kennedy, who was until recently deputy leader Tom Watson’s chief of staff and once served as deputy general secretary of the party, will be Phillips’ campaign director.

Rachel Kinnock, daughter of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, is set to oversee visits and campaign events during the leadership campaign. She has previously worked for Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.

Ruth Smeeth will lead on stakeholder engagement. The vocal critic of Jeremy Corbyn, who particularly spoke out against Labour’s handling of antisemitism, lost her Stoke-on-Trent seat at the 2019 general election.

The other key appointments are as follows:

  • Caroline Badley who is heading up operations
  • Matt Goddin is heading up the field team, supported by Steph Lloyd and Labour Students chair Rania Ramli
  • Francis Grove-White, formerly of the Labour Party head office and the People’s Vote campaign, will be leading on political strategy
  • Blair McDougall, who was Chief Strategist at Better Together, and Will Straw, former executive director of the Stronger In campaign, will act as advisors, particularly on winning again in Scotland and championing a close relationship for Britain with Europe after Brexit

Unveiling her full campaign team, Phillips said: “We now have almost three months to speak to, argue and engage as a party of almost half a million members. I look forward to making my case to be a different sort of Labour leader – one who is honest, straight-talking and focuses on the shared challenges faced by communities across Britain, from Dunstable to Dundee, Canterbury to Cardiff.

“I will spend every day of the next 11 weeks travelling the length and breadth of the country talking to Labour members, answering their questions and having an honest debate about how we transform our party into a winning force again.”

New campaign chairs Onn and Streeting added: “We have represented different parts of the country and had different views on Brexit, but we both know Jess is the person to bring our party and our country together.

“We need a big personality who can take on Boris Johnson from day one, to put forward ideas that will really transform people’s lives, and someone who can reach the voters Labour needs to start winning again. Now is not the time to play it safe.”

They concluded: “Our campaign will be ambitious, bold and fearless in addressing the challenges and opportunities that face both our Party and our country in the years ahead.”

Phillips is thought unlikely to win the nomination of the one of the large Labour-affiliated unions, which means she will not be able to enter the second stage of the leadership contest process via the affiliate route.

Instead, the Corbynsceptic Birmingham MP will have to secure nominations from 5% of local parties across the country and beyond – a total of 33 CLPs. This requires a strong ground operation, which her campaign team will be expected to manage.

Rebecca Long-Bailey and Keir Starmer revealed the key figures in their campaign teams last week. Both featured people who worked on Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 and 2016 leadership campaigns, such as Jon Lansman for Long-Bailey and Simon Fletcher for Starmer.

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