Jeremy Corbyn leadership taken over by former Ken Livingstone aides

Ken Livingstone signing up to Team Corbyn
Ken Livingstone signing up to Team Corbyn
Adam Bienkov By

Jeremy Corbyn's appointment of Ken Livingstone's former aide Neale Coleman as his new 'head of policy and rebuttal' was widely reported yesterday.

However, Corbyn made another key appointment which has been missed. He also hired Ken Livingstone's former head of events Anneliese Midgley, as his new deputy chief of staff.

Midgley's appointment is significant because it means that alongside Livingstone's former chief of staff Simon Fletcher (who now becomes Corbyn's chief of staff) and John McDonnell (who worked for Ken at the GLC) four members of the Labour leader's inner circle are former senior Ken aides.

With Livingstone himself also making regular television appearances in support of Corbyn, the apparent Ken-takeover of the Labour leadership now seems all but complete.


Midgley was a close aide of Livingstone, working on his unsuccessful 2012 re-election campaign, as well as Corbyn's far more successful selection campaign.

Closely involved in left-wing politics, Midgley moves to Corbyn after a stint as head of political strategy at Unite union. She was also partly responsible for Corbyn's controversial 'women-only' train carriages proposal.

The Ken-takeover is significant given Corbyn's highly difficult start to his time as Labour leader.

Even Corbyn's biggest supporters would admit his first week has been chaotic. His Shadow Cabinet was announced in such a way as to turn a positive story about more than half the members being women, into a negative one about all the 'top jobs' being held by men.

The confusion over Corbyn's anthem-silence, his policies on the EU and Nato, and his initial refusal to do television interviews, all added up to a sense of growing chaos. One figure close to Corbyn told me this week that they were in "despair" about how he had handled his first week.

But after a difficult few days, the appointment of three senior Ken aides should start to settle nerves.

Coleman is a particularly safe pair of hands, having worked both for Ken and subsequently for Boris as the man in charge of delivering the London Olympic legacy. Fletcher is also a widely-respected strategist, who masterminded Corbyn's spectacular landslide victory earlier this month.

And unlike Corbyn and McDonnell, Team Ken have practical experience of actually running things. They are also far more pragmatic. Despite being labeled as anti-business, Livingstone and his team worked closely with the City while he was mayor.

Evidence of a shift of direction from Team Corbyn came in last night's BBC Question Time, where a normally bumptious McDonnell was notably apologetic about his past comments about the IRA, while damping down fears about Labour's foreign and taxation policies.

Conservative attacks on Labour as being 'dangerous' and 'extreme' appear to have cut through both to the public and Team Corbyn. McDonnell last night took a much more emollient approach to any he showed during the selection campaign.

In the coming days Corbyn is set to announce a new head of media. This will be a key appointment, given the widespread hostility to the new Labour leader among almost all major newspapers, not to mention the widespread hostility to the media among both Corbyn and his supporters.

Whatever happens, the next few months are unlikely to be plain-sailing for Corbyn. But after a rocky start there are signs that the ship may at least start to settle.

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