Starmer’s Month of the Long Knives

Keir Starmer wasn’t lying when he told Piers Morgan he’d been “listening” to Tony Blair’s leadership advice. Over the past few weeks, Sir Keir’s been pulling every lever within reach to fulfill the promise of a “total deconstruction and reconstruction” of the Labour Party. A “reconstruction” which, coincidentally, means appointing a load of Blairites…

Almost every organ of the party – from the Leader’s Office, to the frontbench, to the PLP, and to the National Executive Committee – has seen a wave of changes over the last few weeks. It hasn’t happened overnight, though now the purpose is quite clear: a doubling down on “New New Labour”.

In the Leader’s Office, Blairite Sam White was recently enlisted as Chief of Staff replacing Morgan McSweeney, joining new strategist Deborah Mattinson (Blair/Brown adviser), and interim director of communications Matthew Doyle (Blair adviser) replaces Ben Nunn. This, of course, follows Carolyn Harris’s resignation as Starmer’s parliamentary private secretary in May, along with Jenny Chapman’s unceremonious shafting as his director of politics a month later. Deconstruction and reconstruction, piece by piece.

Over in the PLP, Ben Folley (a relic of the Corbyn golden years) has announced today he’s leaving his role as General Secretary of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which follows Starmer’s ruthless purge of thousands of far-left loons at the National Executive Committee meeting last week. And of course, this is before you even get to the botched reshuffle of the frontbench…

UPDATE 28 July: Keir Starmer’s speechwriter and close aide Chris Ward has told colleagues he is quitting according to the Guardian. Which begs the question, who will be his new speechwriter? If he is recycling Blairites, he could bring back Phil Collins, the recently sacked Times columnist now with time on his hands. After all he did write some of the most memorable speeches for Tony Blair…

UPDATE 29 July: Tom Hughes, who worked on Starmer’s leadership campaign before joining the leader’s office as press officer and spokesperson, is leaving.

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Starmer’s New Blairite Spinner

Following the departure of both his chief and deputy head of comms – and Jenny Chapman’s shafting – Sir Keir has turned to Blairism to help get the Labour machine back on track. It was announced last night that the Labour leader had appointed ex-Blair spinner Matthew Doyle as his new interim director of communications. Matthew Doyle will be briefing against briefings made by Boris top spinner, Jack Doyle (no relation)…

Starmer’s Chief of Staff, Morgan McSweeney, has also been sidelined to a new role in elections and campaigning strategy. Guido hears full-time replacements will be announced shortly. Rumours of Rob Burley, former BBC politics editor, being offered one of the roles have been swirling for much of this week, though sources steered Guido away from the suggestion…

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Baroness Scotland’s Aide Matthew Doyle Caught Red-Handed

With the Baroness Scotland scandal back in the news, her former special adviser Matthew Doyle went out to bat for her on the World at One. He was grilled repeatedly about his massive taxpayer-funded contract, refusing to answer several times before claiming the figures reported are wrong:

BBC: “It’s been reported that you yourself were paid £15,000 per month.”

Doyle: “Yeah and you’ve seen these sorts of stories about the official residence… I think what’s important to recognise is the fact that the official residence is redecorated every time there’s a new Secretary-General. But look these things ultimately aren’t what matters.”

BBC: “And your salary?”

Doyle: “… Aren’t what matters in terms of the work of the Commonwealth. What matters is that the Commonwealth continues to deal with those big challenges that there are…”

BBC: “Indeed, but just on this question about your salary, which I notice you’re not answering.”

Doyle: “Well the figures aren’t correct but I really don’t think that that’s important.”

A straight denial that his salary was £15,000 per month. Below is Doyle’s Commonwealth contract, bearing his signature, showing his salary was two monthly instalments of £15,000 followed by a third if £18,000:

This contract bears Doyle’s signature. He just said on the radio that the figures in it are not correct. Remarkable behaviour…

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Revealed: Baroness Scotland’s Bumper Contracts for Aides

scotland

A Guido investigation can reveal for the first time the extraordinary fat contracts issued by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Baroness Scotland to her advisers. An internal probe was launched after senior officials complained that the taxpayer-funded salaries awarded to special advisers Matthew Doyle and Joe Phelan were excessive. Now a whistleblower has passed Doyle and Phelan’s contracts to Guido – they reveal that they were paid a staggering £15,000 each in April, £15,000 each in May and £18,000 each in June. These are vast monthly payments – more than the Prime Minister is paid per month – and the bill was picked up by the taxpayer.

Below are screengrabs taken from Doyle and Phelan’s contracts:

phelandoyle

Both Doyle and Phelan refused to speak on the record. They claim the payments relate to work done between January and September and therefore the money is not excessive. Yet the contracts explicitly state in black and white that these are monthly payments for work done between April and June. What’s more, Baroness Scotland was only appointed in April. Which raises three questions:

  • Why were Baroness Scotland’s advisers paid so much money over this three month period?
  • Why do these contracts state in black and white that the payments are for work done between April and June, if they in fact cover a period much longer?
  • Why was the Commonwealth paying for Baroness Scotland’s aides before she was appointed to her role?

These payments are the subject of an internal complaint within the Commonwealth Secretariat. They are the tip of the iceberg of a cache of leaked documents passed to Guido by a whistleblower. Stay tuned for more revelations about the extravagant world of Baroness Scotland’s Commonwealth office over the days ahead…

UPDATE: A Commonwealth Secretariat spokesman gets in touch to say Phelan was wrong to say the payments relate to work done since January:

“We wish to make it clear that both Joe Phelan and Matthew Doyle were paid by the Secretariat from April 2016 until their contracts expired earlier this month. They have now left the organisation. Your article implies that the Secretariat paid them from January 2016. As the contracts you have published show, this is simply wrong.”

Curiouser and curiouser…

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