Kerr-tastrophe: Labour NEC chair under fire for heavy-handed conduct

Complaints are being filed in the wake of Saturday's showdown.

Labour party insiders claim that several complaints are being prepared about Andy Kerr, who chairs Labour’s governing body, in the wake of the fractious meeting of the party’s National Policy Forum in Leeds.

Kerr was heavily criticised for appearing to barge the NPF’s Vice-chair Katrina Murray aside as he strode on stage to prevent her calling a vote to elect a new NPF chair.

He then angrily told members there would be no vote in an outburst captured by at least one NPF member on a phone.

Kerr’s supporters claim he was merely upholding the will of the NEC officers, who met early on Saturday morning and voted to suspend the election.

But eyewitnesses in Leeds say left-wing NEC members privately conceded yesterday that Kerr had gone too far and should now keep a low profile until the controversy over his actions has died down.

“They know he crossed the line”, a party source said. “He physically pushed the chair, shouted at delegates and screamed at staff – it wasn’t his finest hour”.

Eye-witnesses saw other NEC officers openly berating staff, when Murray tried to move to a vote.

A number of complaints about Kerr are now expected to be tabled, although the reputational damage caused by his public outburst could that could ultimately prove more problematic for the former BT engineer and CWU official. Footage of his outburst has been viewed over 20,000 times.

Kerr is an experienced negotiator who is a stalwart of the union movement. His allies have dismissed suggestions he barged Murray out of the way as inaccurate and shadow cabinet members Angela Rayner and Emily Thornberry have rushed to his defence.

Murray also publicly stated after the incident that she was not intimidated and did not feel threatened.

The position of NPF chair is currently vacant but the NEC officers ruled that a replacement could not be voted for because members hadn’t been given seven days’ notice that an election would take place in Leeds.

Mike Creighton, a former Labour party director, last night described that “as an entirely made up version of [party] rules”.

In a related development, it has emerged that left-winger Kerr is nicknamed “Juan” by CWU colleagues, an apparent reference to Juan Almedia Bosque, a Cuban revolutionary who was a close ally of Che Guevara.

But other union sources claimed last night its true meaning can only be discerned by placing Kerr’s nickname before his surname and reading both out loud.

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