Paul Ovenden plays minor role in conversations described in leaked Labour report under supposedly ‘independent’ investigation by Labour peers – and quit as staffer in 2017 when Labour did far better than expected
Keir Starmer has appointed former Labour HQ staffer Paul Ovenden as his director of communications.
Mr Ovenden, who has written critically of Labour for the conservative Spectator magazine and Rupert Murdoch’s Times, quit his party role in 2017 – by his own admission – because he didn’t want to be there after Labour did far better than centrists and the media had predicted in the general election.
And in the same article, he complains that ‘experienced and skilled people’ were ‘chased’ from their HQ jobs:
Rather than bringing together different parts of the party in order to build on the 2017 result, highly experienced and skilled people were chased out of Southside. I knew that I couldn’t hang around for the victory lap, and quietly resigned the job I loved. The seeds of Labour’s recent defeat were not sown on Thursday night. Rather, the way Labour reacted to 2017 both publicly and in private incubated it.
Many right-wing party HQ staff quit the party in disgust when their boss and cover Iain McNicol was replaced by Jennie Formby in 2018 – but the leaked Labour report shows just how some of those ‘experienced and skilled’ staff, including McNicol, were behaving in 2017.
And Paul Ovenden also makes an appearance in that report, albeit a minor one, in a conversation about a colleague who dared to make positive comments about then-party leader Jeremy Corbyn on social media – and the prospect of sacking her:
Sarah Brown 13:59: so did you just hear KS
Sarah Brown 13:59: saying a corbyn leadership will make it easier to recruit a new digital team
John Stolliday 13:59: No? Really???
Paul Ovenden 13:59: brilliant
John Stolliday 14:00: she must love corbyn
She is a green after all
Paul Ovenden 14:00: she does – I saw her on Facebook mounting a passionate defence of him.
John Stolliday 14:00: Find me screenshots & I’ll have her sacked for breaching staff code of conduct
Mr Ovenden is not the person in that conversation who threatens or jokes about sacking a staff member because being supportive of Corbyn ‘breach[es the] staff code of conduct’. However, he clearly thinks highly of them and appointing any actor in the leaked report’s WhatsApp conversations to a senior role before it is completed will worry many Labour members who already feel that the investigation into the content of the leaked report is merely going through the motions prior to a whitewash.
Especially one who admits he quit after Corbyn’s Labour defied expectations in the 2017 general election and described the main actors in the events of the leaked report in glowing terms – and has written for right-wing publications.
And even more especially when one of the most prominent characters in that report is said to still be Starmer’s favourite for the general secretary role.
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