Jeremy Corbyn’s head of policy has quit on the eve of Labour’s annual conference, delivering a withering private broadside against the “lack of professionalism” in the leadership of Britain’s main opposition party.
The resignation of Andrew Fisher, who has long been considered one of the most loyal and discreet aides to Mr Corbyn, comes as a bombshell at a time when Labour is already flailing in the opinion polls.
Mr Fisher, a former policy officer at the PCS union, pulled together the Labour manifesto in the 2017 election which was widely credited with gaining the party seats.
His abrupt departure will raise speculation about morale at the heart of the Labour leadership amid growing questions about the future of the 70-year old leader.
The Sunday Times revealed that Mr Fisher gave a withering parting shot against Mr Corbyn’s inner circle in a private memo.
He attacked the “blizzard of lies and excuses” in the leader’s team as well as its “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency”, concluding: “I no longer have faith we will succeed.”
In a statement, Mr Fisher said: “The long hours, stresses and strains that inevitably come from working in this high pressure environment mean I haven’t managed to balance my commitments to my wife and young son. So after four years, I’m now choosing to prioritise them.”
He said he would stay on for any autumn election, but would leave by the end of the year.
Labour did not deny the story, saying only that it never commented on staffing matters.
His departure will emphasise the sense of civil war gripping the Labour party when Britain could be only weeks away from a general election.
On Friday allies of Mr Corbyn sought unsuccessfully to axe the post of deputy leader in order to defenestrate the incumbent, Tom Watson — a moderate Labour MP — during a Friday meeting of the party’s national executive committee (NEC).
Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn was accused by Remain campaigners of trying to crush dissent by seeking to prevent any substantial Brexit debate during the party’s annual conference in Brighton.
The NEC put forward a statement on Saturday morning arguing that Labour should maintain its nuanced position of backing a referendum on any Brexit deal but not committing yet to either Remain or Leave.
The NEC motion also called for a one-day conference to settle Labour’s Brexit policy. The meeting would not take place until after the next general election.
Some 90 CLP motions are set to be discussed at a compositing meeting on Sunday night, with the vast majority arguing for a more pro-Remain position.
The manoeuvre was criticised as anti-democratic because the statement, if passed by the NEC and conference, would be likely to overshadow all motions put forward by constituency Labour parties.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a pro-Corbyn MP, accused the leadership of attempting a “procedural stitch-up” to silence the party’s grassroots.
“We are being hammered on the doorstep because our Brexit position is a fudge,” he said. “In every seat in the country, Leave and Remain, we are losing votes because our voters are turning to Remain parties. This conference is our one chance before an election to get out of the fudge.”
Another Europe is Possible, a leftwing campaign group, said the attempt to “stitch up” the Brexit debate was a “slap in the face to members”.
A Labour spokesman said campaigners were wrong to suggest the motion would “delete” grass roots motions.
Nevertheless, the row is damaging to Mr Corbyn because he campaigned to become leader in 2015 on the basis that he would properly represent grassroots opinion for the first time in decades. Instead, his determination to sit on the fence on the biggest issue of the day is at odds with the overwhelmingly anti-Brexit views of the Labour membership.
The NEC debated Brexit on Saturday and is set to discuss it again on Sunday. If passed, it would then go to a vote on the conference floor, probably on Monday, at which point, if backed by delegates, it would delete all other Brexit-related motions.
AEIP said that thousands of hours of members’ time had gone into putting forward CLP motions through Labour’s democratic process.
Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister, said the move was “just plain wrong” and impossible to defend.
“We, the left, took over the leadership of this party promising internal democracy, promising a new kind of politics,” he said.
“And yet here we are, with a leadership apparently determined to shut down democratic debate on the crucial issue of the day, probably relying on union bloc votes to outvote the members.”