Blow for Jeremy Corbyn as top aide quits leader's team
Jeremy Corbyn's leadership suffered a major blow today after one of his closest aides quit.
Simon Fletcher, who was Mr Corbyn's Director of Campaigns and Planning and ran his 2015 leadership campaign, is thought to have become disillusioned by the party's direction.
The 48-year-old - whose job included planning Labour's campaign for the next general election - rose to prominence as chief of staff to Ken Livingstone when the left-winger was Mayor of London.
Mr Corbyn said: “I’d like to thank Simon for his work both for my office in parliament and as the campaign director of my 2015 leadership election campaign.
"Simon has played a vital role in shaping the new politics and building Labour’s campaign to rebuild and transform Britain.
"I’ve know Simon for many years, we will continue to work together on the cause of social justice in Britain and I wish him well in the future.”
Mr Fletcher said: “Working for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign and in the leader of the opposition’s office in parliament has been a huge privilege.
"I have worked with Jeremy for well over two decades and I will continue to support him and his leadership of the Labour party and look forward to working together for many years to come.”
A Labour MP told PoliticsHome the resignation was a victory for Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and his left-wing allies.
"The McDonnell takeover is almost complete, he's seen off his old enemy Ken Livingstone and the influence of his allies - first Neal Coleman, then Anneliese Midgeley and now Simon Fletcher. The hardliners are now fully in control and the people who ran Jeremy's 2015 leadership campaign have all gone or have no influence.
"The only one left in position is Jeremy himself, and McDonnell is coming for him too."
Another insider said Mr Fletcher's departure cemented the position of Karie Murphy, the director of Mr Corbyn's office and a close friend of Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.
Another Labour insider told PoliticsHome: "Simon is a very talented guy who is admired right across the party, but he was neutered by the chaos going on around him."
The announcement increases the pressure on Mr Corbyn ahead of a key week for Labour, with two hotly contested by-elections next Thursday.
Labour face a battle with Ukip to retain Stoke-on-Trent Central, and they are also fighting the Tories to hold on to the Cumbrian seat of Copeland.
It follows weeks of difficulties over Labour's stance on Europe, with several frontbenchers resigning after refusing to follow Mr Corbyn's instruction to vote in favour of the Government's Brexit bill.
Mr Fletcher's resignation comes just a week after Jon Trickett was dumped as Labour's general election co-ordinator, and replaced by Andrew Gwynne and Ian Lavery.
Sources close to Mr Corbyn's office told PoliticsHome Mr Fletcher had left to pursue other projects.