The new general secretary of the Labour Party is Iain McNicol, currently national political officer of the GMB. Iain won the support of the centre-left members of the NEC and most trade union representatives which was sufficient to win by 17 votes to 14. Even though he was not the favoured candidate of those advising Ed Miliband, he is seen as being in the centre of the party and will be absolutely loyal to Labour’s leader. However, there is also no doubt that Iain’s victory is good news for those who want to see the party becoming, in the words of Ed Miliband, “a living, breathing party” in which members have a real voice. The unsuccessful candidate, Chris Lennie, who has been the party’s deputy general secretary since 2001, would in our view have been much less likely to make the necessary changes to make this happen.
In answer to questions from LabourList about whether party staff be the neutral civil service of the party, or should they be able to promote particular ideas, policies or individuals, Iain McNicol answered:
I won’t get distracted by factional fights and attempts to push delegates at conference one way or the other, or putting a favoured candidate in place in a selection. My focus will 100% on winning the next election and I expect everyone else will have that focus too.
After being appointed the official party press release quotes him as saying:
It is an honour and a privilege to be appointed as the Labour Party’s General Secretary. I am delighted to be taking on this role and looking forward to working with members, stakeholders and staff to take the party through its current policy and party reviews and on to success at the next general election. I would like to pay tribute to the excellent work Ray Collins has done over the past few years. The Labour Party is a fantastic organisation to work for and I am very proud to be taking on this position today.
Norma Stephenson, Chair of the NEC, who was not amongst his supporters, said:
Following a rigorous selection process the NEC has unanimously endorsed the decision to make Iain McNicol the new General Secretary of the Labour Party. I am delighted with his appointment. Iain McNicol brings a great deal of organisational, financial and leadership experience to the role and I know he will lead the party through this significant period with enthusiasm. I look forward to working with Iain McNicol during Labour’s future challenges, standing up for hard working families against this Tory-led Government, who are cutting too far and too fast – hitting families and costing jobs and making it harder to get the deficit down.”