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6 November 2015

Corbyn policy head Andrew Fisher suspended from Labour over tweets

Party leader says he has "full confidence" in his aide ahead of NEC investigation. 

By George Eaton

After weeks of pressure from MPs, Andrew Fisher, Jeremy Corbyn’s head of policy, has been suspended from Labour. The dispute was triggered by Fisher’s past tweets, which allegedly showed that he supported a Class War candidate in Croydon South in 2015, rather than the party’s Emily Benn. “If you live in Croydon South, vote with dignity, vote @campaignbeard,” he wrote. Under Labour rules, it is an expellable offence for members to endorse non-party candidates.

Benn, the granddaughter of Tony, recently made a formal complaint to Labour general secretary Ian McNicol, writing: “I was the parliamentary candidate for Croydon South, having been democratically elected by the local party. Actively advocating voting against the official Labour candidate, in favour of another party, contradicts Labour Party rules.” The opposition’s National Executive Commmitee (NEC) will now carry out a report into Fisher and consider whether disciplinary action should be taken. 

Fisher’s tweets, sent from his now-deleted account, also showed that he celebrated the election defeat of Ed Balls (“Fitting that the architect of Labour’s miserable austerity-lite economic policies should lose”) and that he described the Labour frontbench as “the most abject collection of complete shite” in September last year. He has also been accused of supporting Green MP Caroline Lucas against Labour’s Nancy Platts (now Corbyn’s trade union liaison manager) in 2010. MPs, including the former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna and former shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, demanded at the weekly Parliamentary Labour Party meeting that action be taken.

Fisher last week apologised to McNicol, writing in reference to his Class War tweet: “I accept that the tweet has been misinterpreted and has caused embarrassment and understandable upset among party members, which I regret. I wish to completely and unreservedly apologise for this tweet.  I have now closed my social media accounts and assure you there will be no repetition of such activity in the future.” 

But Fisher’s apology was not enough to prevent his suspension. In a confidential email sent to NEC members this afternoon, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “Andrew Fisher has been suspended from the Labour Party. The NEC will now be asked to authorise a full report to be drawn up with recommendations for disciplinary action if appropriate.”

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In the same email, however, Jeremy Corbyn said: “I have full confidence in Andrew Fisher and his work. I respect the integrity of the General Secretary’s office and trust that this matter will be settled as quickly as possible.” Despite his suspension from the party, it appears that Fisher will continue to work in Corbyn’s office. 

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Update: NEC member Ken Livingstone has responded to Fisher’s suspension by calling for action to be taken against Corbyn critics Simon Danzcuk and Frank Field. He tweeted: “I hope Labour’s General Secretary will now move swiftly over Simon Danczuck and Frank Field. Not one rule for staff and another for MPs.”

Danczuk recently revealed details of a private meeting with Corbyn in the Mail on Sunday and has threatened to act as a “stalking horse” against the Labour leader if the party performs poorly in next May’s elections. Last month, Field told me that Labour MPs should run as independent candidates and trigger immediate by-elections if deselected by their local parties.