Ex-civil service chief Bob Kerslake drafted in for major Labour review as Starmer eyes internal shake-up

Review will look at how the party can become "a more agile, cohesive and purposeful organisation"
Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

By Kate Forrester

30 Jul 2020

Sir Keir Starmer has drafted in former civil service chief Bob Kerslake to carry out a major review of the way the Labour Party is run.

The ex-Whitehall boss and crossbench peer is tasked with making sure Labour is in its best possible shape to "fight and win the next general election in 2024".

In a letter to all party staff announcing the audit, general secretary David Evans said Lord Kerslake would be carrying out the work on a voluntary basis, with a "small team of people with organisational development expertise to assist".

"This review is about the way we are organised and the processes we have in place to be as effective as we can be as an organisation," Evans said.

"It is not focused on staffing levels – rather how to ensure we are aligned around our core purpose of winning elections."

He added: "I would like us to focus on ideas that can help us become a more agile, cohesive and purposeful organisation. As such, this review will cover all areas of the organisation as we all contribute to electoral success. We have a big set of elections in May 2021 and we need to be ready to face this challenge quickly."

Evans said "any related issues that may arise from staff surveys, the [Equality and Human Rights Commission report on antisemitism allegations] or other reviews" would also be looked at as part of the overhaul and that staff would be asked to contribute to the process.

One insider told CSW's sister title PoliticsHome: "It's hardly a secret that we need to update some of the ways we work if we want to win the next election.

"Loads of people who have been here in recent years have ideas on what we should be doing differently and hopefully they will be listened to."

Lord Kerslake was criticised in 2018 after taking on an advisory role to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with opponents arguing he should give up his crossbench status in the House of Lords.

He has since led calls for a public inquiry into the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis. 

Evans's letter goes on: "Such perspectives are invaluable in an exercise like this. Bob carried out a review of the Leader of the Opposition’s Office last year so he has some very recent experience of the Party."

A detailed post-mortem of Labour's 2019 election defeat, carried out by activist organisation Labour Together and led by ex-leader Ed Miliband, warned the party has “a mountain to climb” to get back into power within the next five years.

"There’s no quick fix. The changes we need must come from below as well as above," the group said.

"Our review cannot just become a static document that is forgotten. All of our movement must be engaged in a discussion around how we implement our recommendations and keep our findings up to date."

Kate Forrester is senior reporter for CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where this article first appeared.

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