One of Jeremy Corbyn’s most influential advisers has resigned in a sign of the internal changes facing the Labour party ahead of the conclusion of its leadership contest in April.
Andrew Murray, who has advised the Labour leader on a part-time basis since February 2018, stepped down on Tuesday. Alongside his role with the party, he is also chief of staff at the Unite trade union. He will return full-time to that role.
As one of the “four Ms” advising the leader — along with union leader Len McCluskey, communications director Seumas Milne and chief of staff Karie Murphy — Mr Murray has exerted significant influence over the party. He was praised by one colleague as “an experienced leader who brought skills to an often inexperienced team”.
Another party insider said his HR experience and judgment benefited Mr Corbyn’s often chaotic inner circle. But he remained a controversial figure among MPs: Mr Murray was a longtime member of the Communist party — including penning a historical analysis — until Mr Corbyn became leader in 2015.
The 61-year-old is the scion of a Scottish aristocratic dynasty, the son of Peter Drummond-Murray of Mastrick, a stockbroker. Mr Murray previously worked with Mr Corbyn in his role as chair of the Stop the War coalition. He has suffered ill health in the past year.
His ideology chimed with others close to the Labour leadership. In 2012, Mr Murray was one of several co-authors, including Mr Milne, of “Building An Economy For The People”, a booklet advocating EU withdrawal. The paper criticised New Labour’s “faith” in the bloc, and suggested that the EU was moving away from its “social model” under the strain of enlargement and was driven by a “neoliberal” agenda.
He is the second official to resign from Mr Corbyn’s inner circle. Last autumn Andrew Fisher, the head of policy, announced his departure and correctly predicted the party could not win a general election. Although he stayed on during the campaign, Mr Fisher attacked the “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency” in the leadership in a leaked memo.
It is unknown whether Mr Milne, previously a columnist at The Guardian, will continue working for the party after the new leader is elected on April 4. Ms Murphy reportedly has been nominated for a peerage by Mr Corbyn, although concerns have been raised over her suitability pending the finalisation of a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into anti-Semitism in the party.
One Labour grandee predicted that, whoever succeeded Mr Corbyn, they would seek to bring in a fresh team and remove all of his advisers. “Whether it’s Keir [Starmer], Lisa [Nandy] or Rebecca [Long-Bailey], they will want a clean break with the Corbyn era. That will begin with a clear-out of all the advisers who led the party to defeat and haven’t had the decency to resign already.”