David Evans has been named as Labour’s new general secretary, meaning Keir Starmer has secured his preferred candidate for the role, a major boost for Starmer’s leadership.
It attests to the relative durability of Starmer’s majority on the National Executive Committee (NEC), in that with a strong shortlist with several viable contenders, his first choice was still able to pass through the NEC relatively easily. Evans was a contentious choice, too; while working as assistant general secretary he wrote a memo suggesting the removal of much of what remains of the party’s internal democracy.
The appointment has delighted the party’s right, who feel they have got “one of their own”, in the words of one, in as general secretary. It has also eased concerns among many on the right of the party about Starmer’s overall intentions. But it has heightened concerns on the party’s left that Starmer’s mission to professionalise the party is a pretext to purge the left.
Is it? Ultimately there are two ways to read Starmer’s preferred choice of general secretary: the first is the fairly straightforward analysis that while his shadow cabinet is dominated by the party’s centre, the junior positions tilt to the right, and his preferred final destination is therefore somewhere to the right of Labour’s 2017 manifesto. The second is that what unites Starmer’s frontbench appointments and Evans is that they are the most qualified available candidates for the role.
Labour’s final destination under Starmer is still unclear. The one thing that is certain is that, for the moment, the Labour leader is master of all he surveys.