Lisa Nandy gets key post as Owen Smith team takes shape
With his new top team, the Labour leadership hopeful has made it a bit trickier for opponents to attach the dreaded 'Blairite' label.
Branding Owen Smith as a ‘Blairite’ was always going to be a stretch for Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. But the task may just have got a bit harder.
The Pontypridd MP has spent recent days building his campaign team for the Labour leadership battle.
He has now announced that the co-chairs will be two "new generation" Labour MPs who "loyally" served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet from the outset.
Until month, Lisa Nandy was shadow energy secretary under Corbyn. She now will line up against her old boss. But if anyone thinks that Nandy is a Blairite, they could do with a swift re-education.
Firmly on the soft left of the party, Nandy is a former charity worker with a northern accent and a history of trade union activism. She has been branded 'the acceptable face of the left' by Sky News' Sophy Ridge and was urged to stand for the party leadership last year by left wing hack Owen Jones.
The other co-chair is Heidi Alexander, the former shadow health secretary who entered the Commons as MP for Lewisham East in 2015.
Smith has also appointed Jo Stevens MP as trade union adviser, responsible for liaison with trade unions and policy development.
In a further move to shore up his non-Blairite credentials, Smith has made Neale Coleman his chief policy adviser. The appointment is a coup as Coleman is known as an erudite and talented operator who worked for Ken Livingstone in City Hall – and was recently employed by Corbyn’s team as ‘director of policy and rebuttal’.
The final member of Smith’s new top team is lobbyist John Lehal, who has been named as chief of operations. Lehal managed Andy Burnham’s leadership campaign last year, but his appointment is already being seized upon by Corbynistas for the fact that his public affairs firm, Insight Consulting Group, has a number of health clients.
A spokesman for Smith pointed out that Lehal would have no involvement in policy development.
Smith stressed that his co-chairs were of the “new generation” of Labour MPs and also expressed his delight at snaring Coleman.
He said: "I'm proud to have assembled a strong, radical senior team to help me flesh out a vision for Labour's future. I served loyally in the shadow cabinet alongside Kate, Heidi and Lisa, and witnessed first hand that they are some of the finest members of the new generation of leaders in the Labour Party.
"I'm also delighted that Neale Coleman has agreed to come on board as my chief policy adviser. He has a wealth of expertise, including working across major projects in City Hall, where he helped deliver the 2012 Olympics."
Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/Press Association Images