Jeremy Corbyn to remove elections chief less than a fortnight before two crucial by-elections

Jon Trickett will be moved to a different role - ahead of by-elections in both Stoke and Copeland on February 23

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 10 February 2017 13:12
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Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn is poised to remove his elections co-ordinator, less then a fortnight before two crucial Westminster by-elections.

Jon Trickett will be shifted to a different role after criticism of his preparations for both this month’s polls and the general election to follow, sources said.

A Labour source insisted today that “any suggestion of Jon Trickett being sacked or demoted is wrong”.

Nevertheless, moving him will raise alarm among Labour MPs and supporters about the state of the party’s campaigning in both Stoke and Copeland, ahead of the by-elections on February 23.

Labour is reported to be trailing UKIP in private polling in Stoke-on-Trent Central, where the party's public split over Brexit could hand new UKIP leader Paul Nuttall the seat.

In Copeland, in Cumbria, Mr Corbyn’s lukewarm support for the nuclear industry could open the door for the Conservatives – in a constituency Labour has held for 80 years.

If so, it would be the first time the Government has won a seat off the official opposition since the Tories took Mitcham and Morden, in London, way back in 1982.

By-election defeat would plunge Mr Corbyn into a fresh leadership crisis, despite his overwhelming victory when he was challenged only last summer.

Meanwhile, a potential rebel has emerged with the resignation of Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis who refused to vote for Article 50 – a popular stance with Labour members.

Just two months ago, Mr Trickett unveiled a new election strategy widely seen as an attempt to “relaunch” Mr Corbyn as a left-wing populist figure, riding the anti-politics mood following Brexit.

As promised, the Labour leader has made many more television appearances, although an attempt to develop eye-catching policies ran into trouble when he made confusing announcements on immigration and high pay.

In December, Mr Trickett boasted: “We’re ramping up the organisation now. There’s a great deal of analytical work going on behind the scenes.

“We need to frame an argument about Britain, its past, present and future – but we will be doing that in a carefully modulated way.”

But it has been reported that members of Labour's ruling NEC were dismayed when Mr Trickett failed to turn up to deliver an expected briefing on by-elections and general election preparedness.

Some were later told he had been suddenly “taken ill”, but they were not given advance notice or an apology.

It is thought that Mr Trickett’s job running Labour’s elections strategy could be handed to Andrew Gwynne, the shadow cabinet minister without portfolio who is running the Copeland campaign.

However, a Labour source told The Independent: “Jon has not been sidelined. He will remain a key part of the core team.”

Yesterday, Mr Corbyn plugged Shadow Cabinet gaps for the roles of Treasury chief secretary (Peter Dowd), Environment (Sue Hayman), Wales (Christina Rees) and Business (Rebecca Long-Bailey).

And, today, he is expected to announce whether to discipline 14 junior frontbenchers who joined Wednesday’s rebellion again their leader by voting against triggering Article 50.

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