Key aide to Starmer quits after Labour suffers another by-election blow

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One of Sir Keir Starmer’s closest advisers is standing down after Labour suffered another dire result in a by-election.

Ben Nunn announced on Friday that he is quitting as the Labour leader’s director of communications, after the party trailed in fourth in the Chesham and Amersham election.

His exit will be another blow to Sir Keir after Labour won 622 votes in the by-election, securing just 1.6% of the vote and losing its deposit in the process.

Mr Nunn was said to be quitting to pursue other projects rather than as a direct response to the electoral performance, and he continued to back Sir Keir.

Chesham and Amersham by-election
New Liberal Democrat MP for Chesham and Amersham Sarah Green (Steve Parsons/PA)

In his departure email to staff, Mr Nunn wrote: “I remain as convinced today as I ever have been that he will be a great Prime Minister and make this a better, stronger, more prosperous country.

“The decision to step down has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to take.“

Having worked together since 2017, Mr Nunn was with Sir Keir when he was shadow Brexit secretary and helped his successful campaign in the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

Deputy communications director Paul Ovenden was also standing down, but his departure was understood to be because of family reasons and unconnected to political events.

The by-election on Thursday saw the Conservative stronghold in Buckinghamshire snatched by the Liberal Democrats.

New MP Sarah Green overturned a 16,000 majority to win Chesham and Amersham by 8,028 votes, which had belonged to the Tories since its creation in 1974.

Labour trailed the Green Party, which came in third.

Polling expert Sir John Curtice told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he made it the “worst Labour performance in any by-election”.

The defeat came little over a month after Labour lost Hartlepool to the Tories, with the Conservatives securing its first MP in the constituency’s history.

In Mr Nunn’s leaving message, he added: “I’ve worked in politics for about six years now and in that time I’ve worked through the junior doctors’ dispute, EU referendum campaign, a leadership contest, Brexit, a general election, another leadership contest and a global pandemic.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn and experience so much. Now is the chance for me to go forward and do something different.”