The Times first reported:
Staff in Labour’s Brewer’s Green headquarters are furious at the creation of Labour People, a private company offering political consultancy services that claims to have the backing of Iain McNicol, the party’s general secretary…
This has led staff at Labour HQ to claim that Mr McNicol does not trust them. They also fear that the consultancy, which they allege has been handed confidential briefings written for Labour MPs, will charge fees for services already provided in-house, depriving the party of revenue…
The letter [of complaint from party staff], copied to Mr Miliband’s office, details the extraordinary detective work by staff to find out what was going on.
Staff said they “found documents on printers in the building which set out that in a meeting with Mr Marcus, management (we assume you, but would be happy to be reassured to the contrary if such a reassurance can be truthfully provided) ‘discussed sensitivities around working with staffers at HQ’.
Party officials have accused McNicol of failing to consult them about the role of the consultancy, whose aims they believe overlap with their own job descriptions.
There’s a fun parallel of course with New Labour’s drive to outsource provision of public services to private contractors and the question about how independent those contractors sometimes really were… but overall I think that if anything the campaign set-up in all the main parties is too conventional in being based so heavily on staff employed by party HQ centrally.
More diversity, including more use of outside expertise, can be difficult to manage at times but also brings welcome extra perspective and knowledge – as the at times bumpy relationship between Lord Ashcroft and Tory HQ illustrates. (Back when I worked for the Lib Dems, I always used to be able to judge how the two were getting on by seeing how keen Tory officials were in meetings with the Electoral Commission to argue for regulations that would give party HQ more or less control over what its supporters got up to. Their enthusiasm for such rules increased when relations with Ashcroft were more strained and relaxed when they improved.)