Kate Green was swiftly appointed over the weekend to replace sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey as Shadow Education Secretary. It was thought that Keir Starmer would choose former teacher Emma Hardy, already in the education team, Lucy Powell who has held the brief before, or perhaps someone recognisably on the Labour left to factionally rebalance the top team and boost party unity after a rocky few days. But instead he plumped for a Fabian member (already a significant number of these on the frontbench) and an MP who not only joined the mass resignation in 2016 but also chaired challenger Owen Smith’s leadership campaign.
The displeasure of Corbynites could be easily anticipated. But their representatives in the parliamentary party aren’t loudly protesting: there have been no resignations and the Socialist Campaign Group statement issued after the meeting with Starmer on Friday was restrained. The Labour leader made clear on BBC Radio 4 this morning that he didn’t place much importance on the views expressed via social media (and by implication ‘Labour Twitter’) anyway. And plumping for Green is in keeping with a notable theme of the Starmer era, also in line with head of policy Claire Ainsley’s priorities: a focus on child poverty. This was Green’s brief in the work and pensions team before the promotion, and she was once chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group.
It is the first day of new general secretary David Evans. Managing party unity while sticking to Starmer’s agenda is one of the key challenges facing him, as well as responding to antisemitism in a robust way and (as he has just outlined in an email to party staff) “improving diversity” within Labour. According to The Sunday Times, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is expected to send its report to the party today. As outlined in this recent LabourList piece, this is not supposed to mean that the report is published – it is a draft that first goes to Labour for review over at least 28 days. However, it could be leaked, of course. The culture of leaking in the party is another big problem for Evans to tackle.
We have a busy week ahead. Apart from the prospect of the EHRC draft report on antisemitism being put prematurely into the public domain, there is a national executive committee (NEC) meeting tomorrow. It will be interesting simply because it will be Evans’ first. But the ruling body is also set to decide how and when NEC elections due to take place this summer will go ahead. The leadership is expected to be successful in changing the voting system (a move opposed by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy; supported by Open Labour, Labour First and Progress; with Momentum not approving of the reform being “rushed through”) and not delaying them by much. And on Thursday, our next ‘in conversation’ event will be with Lisa Nandy, jointly organised by the Tribune group. Stay tuned. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.