Senior Labour MP returns to backbenches saying he felt ‘sidelined’ during election campaign

PUBLISHED: 13:05 06 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:09 06 April 2020

(left to right) Emily Thornberry, Jeremy Corbyn, Andrew Gwynne and Keir Starmer kick off the Labour Party's General Election 2019 campaign. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

(left to right) Emily Thornberry, Jeremy Corbyn, Andrew Gwynne and Keir Starmer kick off the Labour Party's General Election 2019 campaign. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

A senior Labour MP has said he will return to the backbenches after feeling ‘almost completely sidelined’ during the general election campaign.

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Andrew Gwynne, in a letter to new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, said he was returning to the Labour backbenches and hopes to rediscover his “political drive” following his experiences in the 2019 election.

The MP explained he “thoroughly enjoyed” serving as shadow communities secretary but found his role as co-national campaign co-ordinator (NCC) “frankly tortuous”.

Gwynne and Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, who was also party chairman and a key ally of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, jointly held the co-ordinator post from June 2017.

Labour went on to suffer a resounding defeat at the 2019 general election in December, losing 59 seats.


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Gwynne, in his letter, told Sir Keir he had “made my day” after winning the leadership election and he offered his continued support.

He added: “My experiences on the frontbench have been a mixed bag.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my role as Labour’s communities and local government spokesperson.”

He praised the shadow team and advised Sir Keir to look at the “truly innovative and transformative” work taking place under Labour councils.

Gwynne went on: “The second part of my frontbench role - as co-national campaign co-ordinator - was frankly tortuous.

“Indeed my role as NCC was almost completely sidelined by the time of the 2019 general election.

“That cannot be allowed to ever happen again.

“Whoever you appoint to be NCC must be given your full authority to do the job, and do it properly - acting on the best advice and election support the party can obtain.

“At that chat in January, I said that I felt tired and bruised by my 2019 general election experiences.

“I had wanted to step down in the immediate aftermath but had been talked into carrying on during the ‘interregnum’.

“I know I’ll get my ‘political drive’ back sometime, and your win is the first step in that process.

“You have my assurances that I will give you my fullest support at all times from the backbenches, and in the very many difficult, but ultimately necessary, decisions you’ll have to take in order to rebuild the party back into a fighting force to win.”

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