Labour has named political consultant David Evans as its new general secretary, in a major internal victory for leader Keir Starmer.
Mr Evans, the first choice of Labour’s new leader out of six potential candidates, replaces left-winger Jennie Formby, who resigned earlier this month.
Sir Keir said Mr Evans, who served as assistant general secretary under Tony Blair until 2001, would bring “a wealth of experience” to the role.
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But the appointment is controversial with the left of the party and some trade unions because of the perception that Mr Evans is allied to the the party’s right wing.
During his previous time working for Labour he argued for the end of representative democracy in the party.
The general secretary was appointed by the party’s national executive committee, on which Sir Keir’s supporters have a slim majority when supported by trade union GMB.
The LabourList website reports that NEC members were split in their vote by 16 to 20 in favour of Mr Evans over left-backed candidate Byron Taylor.
In a statement upon his appointment, Mr Evans said: “It is an honour and a privilege to be appointed General Secretary of the Labour Party.
“We face a defining period in the history of our great party, with a global pandemic, an imminent recession and a mountain to climb to win the next election. Through the strength of our movement, I know we can rise to this challenge.
“I look forward to working with our party, trade unions and members to build a team that can win us the next general election and give us the opportunity to once again serve the British people in government.”
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Sir Keir said: “I want to congratulate David on his appointment as General Secretary. He brings a wealth of experience to this crucial role and a clear understanding of the scale of the task ahead of us.
“I look forward to working with David to build a team that can help us restore trust with the British people and build a team that can win the next election.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader said: “David will make a fantastic General Secretary of the Labour Party.
“Last year’s election result was devastating for our movement. It is now our duty to work as a team to unite our party, reconnect with the British people and offer the better future that our country deserves.”
One NEC source however told The Independent: “Keir urged NEC members to vote for David Evans. If Evans now takes us back to the toxic culture in HQ, purges of left-wing members and stitch-ups of parliamentary selections exposed in the leaked report, his appointment will be the worst mistake of Keir’s leadership.
“Keir and Angela both stood on election platforms promising to unite the party. Members won’t forgive them if they allow a hard-right General Secretary to wage factional warfare against the left. They are responsible for making sure Evans fulfils their election promise to bring our party together, not tear it apart.”
The general secretary is the Labour party’s most senior employee, leading its permanent staff.