The appointment of David Evans as Labour’s new general secretary is another solid win for Keir Starmer. The leader had allowed it to be known that he had a clear preference among the candidates applying for the role, despite the relevant selectorate being the very finely balanced national executive committee (NEC). It was a close call: 20 votes to 16, which means the two GMB two representatives on the ruling body were key to Starmer’s success.
The Labour left is furious, though only has itself to blame. One Corbynite local party rep tweeted that the appointment means the leadership team has “shown their pledge to end factionalism to be a sham”. Another warned them against allowing “a hard-right general secretary to wage factional warfare against the left”. But this outcome could have been avoided, for example by putting forward a united left slate in the recent NEC by-elections. The hope for the party’s left is that the upcoming Momentum elections will sort out some of these problems.
Those close to Evans do not recognise this characterisation of the former assistant general secretary as a man driven by factionalism, of course. Friends such as council leader Stephen Cowan say he is a “quietly spoken, thoughtful and decent person”. He has been described by supporters in the same way that Starmer was pitched in the leadership election: polite, professional and, most importantly, with a straightforward focus on turning the Labour Party into an election-winning machine. The new leader has managed to get his own people in key positions – with a team truly united in support of his vision for the party and pulling in the same direction, Starmer must deliver the goods.
Another boost for the leadership: things are not going well for the government. The coronavirus press conferences have become ridiculous. Several new polls suggest that the Dominic Cummings story is having real cut-through, and the story is continually developing – mainly because the excuses of ministers keep changing, while other Tory MPs just aren’t having it. Over 40 so far have gone public with their dissatisfaction. This is not something Labour is celebrating, however, because it could have real consequences for the implementation of a mass testing and contact tracing programme in the UK. Boris Johnson is set to be grilled by the liaison committee this afternoon, which LabourList will be watching closely. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.