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Labour heralds the changing of the guard

Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

It’s been a busy few months for Keir Starmer. Following the Hartlepool by-election disaster, the Labour leader opted to reshuffle his team and bring in a string of new signing. Out went old faces like Ben Nunn and in came, err, even older faces from the Blair years such as Sam White, Deborah Mattinson and Matthew Doyle.

Not content with shaking up his own team, the former Director of Public Prosecutions has opted to put opponents in the dock, with the National Executive Commitee voting last Tuesday to expel four left-wing groups ‘not compatible’ with the party’s values. The proscription of the groups — Resist, Socialist Appeal, Labour in Exile Network and Labour Against the Witchhunt — has been met with howls of protest from the Momentum machine, whose members must now be fearing for their future too.

But it’s not just activists and Starmer’s top team on the way out: backroom staff are being reshuffled too. Steerpike understands that Ben Folley, general secretary of the Parliamentary Labour party, is leaving his post after two years in the role. Folley was a grizzled veteran of the Corbyn years and a key link between the leader of the opposition’s team and his sulphurous backbenchers, having previously worked between 2017 and 2019 as the PLP Liaison Manager in the Leader’s Office.

The former CND campaigns officer has enjoyed a low media profile since taking up the secretaryship. But prior to his appointment, Folley had previously spoken disapprovingly of anti-Corbyn Labour MPs briefing journalists on what happens at PLP meetings. He wrote on Twitter in June 2017 that Chris Leslie, MP for Nottingham East, was ‘eager to stir more weekly rows at PLP for the lobby journalists’ — something of which Corbyn’s team could never be accused.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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