I never think it is beneficial when people who are clearly identified with different factions within the Labour Party strongly endorse a candidate, particularly when such promotion is for the position of the general secretary of the Labour Party. The appointment of the general secretary is a matter solely for the national executive committee (NEC), which has the benefit of interviewing and assessing the shortlisted candidates.
In this case, however, I think it is important to highlight the integrity and strengths of new general secretary David Evans. It is it no secret that Stephen Cowan, current leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, and myself, former Hammersmith and Fulham leader and ex-MP, are from very different wings of the party. I have therefore decided to write this piece to add balance to his endorsement of David Evans as general secretary, although I do concur with much of what he has written.
What the party needs is a general secretary who is capable of acting fairly and with integrity in the interests of all party members. We need someone who can unite all of us who desperately hope for a Labour government in order to rectify and repair the damage done by the successive Tory governments in the communities we represent.
I have known David since 1989, when he was a Labour regional organiser. I had just been elected as the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham. David was a stalwart in supporting us through the terrible crisis I had inherited of the infamous ‘swap options saga‘. Hammersmith and Fulham Council was even on the front page of the Toronto Times, according to my brother-in-law who lives there! The media pressure was intense, and I shall always be grateful for the personal support David gave me.
His connection with Hammersmith and Fulham is not only through the party but also through the GMB. The very first meeting I held as council leader was not with the chief officers but with our trade union representatives. The chair of the trade union side was one Paul Kenny, who had started his working life as a park keeper in Hammersmith and Fulham. That meeting was locally historic, and I will share the details of it with anyone who wants to have a laugh. It cemented a long-term friendship and partnership between myself, Paul Kenny and other GMB and trade union representatives and members such as the legendary Ronnie Lawrence and Ted Cannon and also David.
He worked tirelessly with us in the 1990 and 1994 local election victories and in every by-election we had, and again in 1997 when I was elected as the MP for Hammersmith and Fulham. He is a great organiser and campaigner, but also someone able to work constructively with people who hold different opinions in order to achieve shared objectives. He continued to support my successor as council leader Andy Slaughter, now the MP for Hammersmith, after my retirement in 2005 due to a series of strokes.
I have always been on the left of the party, which my time as a public servant has demonstrated. I voted for Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn, and Rebecca Long-Bailey, but I am not a member of Momentum. I think Keir Starmer is the right person to lead our party at this time and we must all unite around him in the interests of working-class people and our nation.
I do hope that the NEC will now start to act in a united manner and stop this left/right posturing. It needs to put aside political disputes, work together with Keir and David, and take us out of the electoral wilderness for the benefit of the people who need socialism.