Labour sources had raised concerns over anti-democratic comments and conflicts of interest – but David Evans appointed anyway
Keir Starmer, with the support of right-wing members of Labour’s National Executive Committee, have appointed Starmer’s favourite for the role, Blairite David Evans, as Labour’s new general secretary.
“representative democracy should as far as possible be abolished in the Party”
Labour figures had raised serious concerns about Mr Evans’s track record – concerns his supporters, including Keir Starmer, did not allow to deflect them from his appointment. The following was sent to Evans by email on Saturday:
I have received information from sources within the Labour Party concerned at the possibility of your appointment as general secretary of the party, which I intend to quote in an article… Please examine the information below and provide comment:
Trade union issues/leaked report conflict of interest
David Evans was Labour’s Regional Director in the North West and then assistant General Secretary advising Margaret McDonagh, working on Tony Blair’s 2001 election campaign.
Margaret McDonagh was then appointed General Secretary of the Party. The BBC says “her name became synonymous with the creation of New Labour”.
While McDonagh was General Secretary, and while David Evans was her right-hand man, trade unions were sidelined and their views generally disregarded.
In addition, this closeness to Margaret Mcdonagh raises issues because her sister Siobhan Mcdonagh is very good friends with Greg Cook, who is named in the recently-leaked Labour report. How can a new general secretary with a personal connection to those accused by the report fairly oversee an investigation into those accusations?
‘Marginalising’ left-wing members and ‘abolishing’ democratic structures:
During this time, Evans wrote a report comparing constituency parties to Del Boy’s Trotters Independent Traders and advocating a “New Labour” solution to reform Labour at the local level that would isolate left-wing members and make local Labour parties more like Marks & Spencer.
His report said:
“We have a strong, positive branding at national level,” said the document. “But we are badly let down by a very poor high street presence. Indeed, the majority of local Labour parties are more like Trotters Independent Traders [from BBC TV’s Only Fools and Horses] than Marks & Spencer … We are a ramshackle confederation of market traders.“
The report, called ‘A New Labour Party’, argued for an overhaul of internal party structures to isolate left-wing members, described in the report as “Old Labour”. The report said “done correctly, it will empower modernising forces within the party and marginalise Old Labour.”
The report was seen by some grassroots members as an attack on democracy within the party as well as an attack on left-wing members.
The report stated that “representative democracy should as far as possible be abolished in the Party”. Evans proposed that General Committees in local Labour Parties be replaced with a ‘working Executive’. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy described (http://home.freeuk.net/clpd/1999bullart2.htm) this as “a smaller, less inclusive body”, which would reduce the number of people actively involved in the Party. The Campaign said there would be no chain of accountability as presently exists, whereby GC delegates regularly report back to their branches” and that “the Executive – insulated from pressure from party branches – would have a blank cheque to run the CLP”.
How can someone who called for the abolition of democracy in the party be considered as its general secretary?
CLPD described Evans’ proposal as “a bid to remove all intermediate structures in the Party so that we’re left with a passive, powerless membership and an all-powerful leadership” and said such reforms would only serve to “replicate at local level the current monopoly of power at the top of the Party, which has already led to the leadership getting out of touch and has produced electoral setbacks”.
Evans’ report provided examples of organisational arrangements adopted by various CLPs in which Blairites are dominant. This included Enfield Southgate, whose MP was Blairite Stephen Twigg. Evans’ plan has been implemented in Enfield Southgate and the traditional structure of the CLP completely dissolved. The GC had been abolished and the constituency party was run by a small Executive, which was elected once every twelve months and was not answerable or accountable to CLP members the rest of the year. Even branches had been wound up, except for selection meetings, and in their place were constituency-wide “issue groups”. This is the model which Evans’ report proposed imposing across the country. Stephen Twigg lost Enfield Southgate to the Conservatives in 2005, which undermines Evans’ argument in his report that these reforms to CLPs and the “abolition” of representative democracy would improve Labour’s electoral prospects. The seat was not regained by Labour until the 2017 general election.
Inquiry ordered into conflict of interest over Labour candidate selections
In 2002, the Times reported that General Secretary David Triesman ordered an inquiry into Aline Delawa’s undeclared conflict of interest in handling internal party selections while she was the secretary of David Evans’ company, which was campaigning for candidates in those internal party selections.
Aline Delawa, David Evans’ wife and Head of Labour’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Unit, oversaw the rules governing the selection of Labour candidates while she was Secretary of The Campaign Company, set up by David Evans.
A year after David Evans’ role as Assistant General Secretary ended, the new General Secretary David Triesman announced that there would be an inquiry into the conflict of interest.
According to The Times [Triesman] said he was “surprised” at the disclosure and ordered an inquiry into the affair and he also admitted that if Delawa worked in a government department instead of the Labour party, it would not be allowed as it might be seen to be a conflict of interest.
Triesman said he would never have put Aline Delawa in a position where she might have been compromised, such as handling a dispute over ballot papers or a very close result.
The Campaign Company’s website boasts that it can help “elected representatives, candidates, organisations and issue-based groups who now need a more professional approach to successfully campaign to get their message across”. When asked why his wife had been made company secretary when he founded the company, David Evans said “I can’t remember.”
Croydon Council conflict of interest
Deputy Leader of Croydon Council Alison Butler has close family ties to David Evans and has been involved in decisions to award contracts to his firm, The Campaign Company, without declaring a conflict of interest.
Inside Croydon has reported that contracts worth almost £200,000 were awarded in the space of four years to The Campaign Company.
David Evans is the father of Alison Butler’s daughter from a relationship in the 1990s and Alison Butler’s son from another relationship is also employed by The Campaign Company.
Ms Butler was criticised for failing to declare this conflict of interest and the quality of the work conducted by The Campaign Company has been called into question.
The Campaign Company also conducted a review of Derbyshire County Council which reportedly led to the in-house press officers being made redundant and replaced with Julian Ellerby, who did not have previous experience in local government, running Derbyshire Council’s communications from Brixton Town Hall. Julian Ellerby was Labour’s Director of London Region while David Evans was Labour’s Assistant General Secretary and the two were former colleagues.
I intend to highlight these issues in an article this weekend, but would prefer to include your comment on them when published. I will therefore delay publication for 24 hours from now to allow you time to comment – please provide your response no later than 4.15pm tomorrow, Sunday 24 May if you wish to go on the record.
He did not respond. Aline Delawa was also contacted but did not reply.
In normal circumstances, Evans’s appointment would need to be approved by a vote at Labour’s annual conference. The cancellation of this year’s conference will mean members will be denied a say on Starmer’s choice until at least autumn 2021, unless a special conference is called once large gatherings are permitted, or the party’s rules are bypassed to confirm the appointment without a conference vote.
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