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Parachuted Labour general election candidate at heart of Owen Smith and Starmer leadership bids

04 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Alex Barros-Curtis was one of two directors of a company set up to run the ill-fated bid of the then Pontypridd MP Owen Smith to displace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Photo by the House of Commons

Martin Shipton

The Labour Party legal officer parachuted into Cardiff West was a director of companies set up to back the leadership campaigns of Owen Smith and Keir Starmer, it has emerged, placing him firmly on the right of the party.

Alex Barros-Curtis was an unknown figure in Wales until he was revealed as the candidate for the seat formerly held by Kevin Brennan, who announced that he was standing down hours after the deadline passed that meant local Labour members would not have a say in who succeeded him.

Nation.Cymru has been told that many local activists in the left-leaning constituency party feel so aggrieved at the imposition of Mr Barros-Curtis’ that they have said they will not help in his campaign.

Companies House searches revealed that he was one of two directors of Owen2016 Campaign Ltd, set up to run the ill-fated bid of the then Pontypridd MP Owen Smith to displace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Disastrous

Mr Smith’s campaign was widely seen as disastrous, with him managing to alienate many of the party’s supposedly moderate supporters.

Mr Corbyn was re-elected by a landslide, and Mr Smith subsequently decided to end his political career and now works as a pharmaceutical industry executive in Australia.

When Keir Starmer stood for the party leadership in 2020, Mr Barros-Curtis was the sole director of a company called Movement for Another Future Ltd, which was set up to support his campaign. The firm was registered at the same London address as petrol station group Rontec, whose parent company Rontec Holdings was revealed by the Paradise Papers leak to be based in the tax haven of Jersey.

Rontec was founded by Sir Gerald Ronson, a businessman and philanthropist who was jailed in the 1980s for his role in a share-dealing scandal, but who received a knighthood in the 2024 New Year’s Honours list for his services to charity and the Jewish community.

In his capacity as UK Labour’s executive director of legal affairs, Mr Barros-Curtis has been involved in pursuing a legal case against five former party staffers suspected of leaking a report concerned with the party’s handling of antisemitism complaints.

According to a report in the Guardian late last year, the costs of the case were already said to have soared to £1.4m.

The lawsuit concerns the 2020 leak of an 860-page document that claimed factional hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn contributed to the party’s ineffective handling of such complaints.

‘Unfair’

Proposing a trial date no earlier than February 28 2025, almost five years after the leak, the party has claimed it would be “unfair and inappropriate” to have to go to trial while it runs a general election campaign.

But the alleged leakers, who deny responsibility, have suggested Labour wants the delay to avoid “embarrassing or uncomfortable” publicity during the election period. In their skeleton argument for a hearing that took place in October 2023, they said Labour had already spent £1.397m on the case and was proposing to spend a further £868,000.

The report, leaked days after Sir Keir became leader, was compiled in connection with an investigation by the equalities watchdog into allegations of antisemitism within Labour.

It included details of staffers’ private conversations expressing antagonism towards Mr Corbyn and his allies and bemoaning Labour’s better than expected performance in the 2017 general election, as well as racist and sexist WhatsApp messages.

Legal action

Nine people who were identified in the report as having made complaints about antisemitism began legal action against Labour for failure to protect their data and invasion of privacy. Labour then brought a case against the five alleged leakers – Corbyn’s former chief of staff Karie Murphy, his former director of communications Seumas Milne, Georgie Robertson, Laura Murray and Harry Hayball.

Three independent investigations – one by the Information Commissioner’s Office and two commissioned by Labour – were unable to establish the source of the leak.

The nine claimants discontinued legal proceedings against Labour but the party is maintaining its action against the alleged leakers, while requesting a delayed timetable.

In written arguments, Anya Proops KC, acting for the party, said: “It would be unfair and inappropriate to contrive matters in this litigation so that in effect [Labour] was having to contend with preparing for/running a trial at the same time as it was running a general election campaign.”

Commenting on Mr Barros-Curtis’ involvement with the Owen Smith campaign, a Plaid Cymru source said: “As Nation Cymru reported recently, a Labour source recalled that people were embarrassed by all of Owen Smith’s gaffes during the leadership campaign.

“Disgruntled local Labour members can only hope that Mr Barros Curtis has parachuted himself into Cardiff West with a better plan of action than he had for a failed would-be Labour leader. Alternatively they can vote for local candidate Kiera Marshall who has been hard at work already.”

The Labour Party will not comment on the ongoing court case.


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Jayne Samuel-Walker
Jayne Samuel-Walker
1 day ago

I live in Cardiff West and I’m a life-long Labour voter, but I’ll be voting for Plaid Cymru rather than this Starmer stooge 😡

SteveKnox
SteveKnox
54 minutes ago

I have always voted for labour, I’m with plaid now.

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