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The race for Labour’s next general secretary: opening bets

Applications for Labour’s General Secretary closed today and an NEC officers panel will meet tomorrow to decide the long list of candidates whom they will interview on or before 11 July. The full NEC will make the final decision on 19 July after interviewing a short list. The leading runners remain as we predicted some weeks ago, led by the Blairite-favoured candidate, Chris Lennie. However, even if he wins, it looks like it might take some shenanigans to deliver the job.

Based on current estimates of support, Chris Lennie, current Deputy General Secretary who has twice acted up to the top job, is 5-4 favourite, having the support of the Right and, crucially, of Lucy Powell, head of the Leader’s office. GMB National Political Officer, Iain McNicol, is not far behind at 5-2 with the support of most trade union representatives and the Left.  Joe Irvin, former Head of Policy at the TGWU and Political Secretary to Gordon Brown at No 10, at 7-1 retains some support notably from Unite but looks unlikely to gain the support of other unions.

Former Assistant General Secretary and currently Director of Public Policy, KPMG, David Gardner who was not previously a known candidate, starts strongly at 7-1. Although, unlike other leading candidates, he has not canvassed support, he has a good reputation especially for his handling of the last boundary changes and could pick up support on both left and right. Michael Stephenson of the Coop Party and Lord Roy Kennedy remain rank outsiders at 25-1 and 100-1.

There is still time for shifts in support, especially with new entrants and depending on who is or is not long and short listed. And this is where the composition of the panel and the potential for skullduggery comes in.

The panel, consists of party chair, Norma Stephenson and vice-chair Michael Cashman MEP, Tom Watson MP representing the Leader and Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, Ellie Reeves, NEC CLP rep, Dudley Councillor Dave Sparks, and Cath Speight of Unite. Almost all of these are on the right of the party. So far, rumours reach us of two possible mis-deeds.

Firstly, it is very possible that McNicol will be kept off the short-list to boost Lennie’s chances. It is known that the Leader’s advisers do not want a General Secretary from a union background, and they are confident that Joe Irvin will not win and can therefore be allowed onto the short list as a token union candidate.

Secondly, it is being suggested that the balloting be conducted by first past the post (they lack no sense of irony) rather than the customary exhaustive ballot.

Party apparatchiks know no shame. According to their close friend, Dan Hodges, they had already confirmed Lennie’s impending appointment hours before applications even closed. We shall keep you informed.


Since writing this, two further blog posts have appeared at Labour List in response to the stitch up first revealed by Dan Hodges (including the threat not to shortlist Iain McNicol).

Johanna Baxter, Centrist CLP representative on Labour’s executive, calls for:

The appointment of our next General Secretary should be made by a fair, honest, equal and transparent process. I trust that our NEC Officers will draw up a shortlist for us that is representative of the breath of talent of those that have put themselves forward for this position.

Mark Ferguson, Editor of Labour List, asks several pertinent questions and concludes:

What is happening here is a classic clash between the old politics of stitch-ups and the new politics of transparency.

Readers might want to email members of the panel with their views:;;;;; No email address is known for Norma Stephenson.


  1. andy newman says:

    Was this announcement that Lennie is the new GS from the same Dan Hodges who announced David Miliband had won the leadership?

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Ho, ho, yes indeed. This time his announcement may prove self-defeating — but I don’t think he can take any credit for Ed’s victory.

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