Labour Party appoints new director of comms as Milne departs

The Labour Party has appointed Ben Nunn as its director of communications, replacing Seumas Milne, following the election of Keir Starmer as the leader of the party at the weekend.

Keir Starmer (L) has appointed Ben Nunn (R) as the Labour Party's new director of comms (Starmer pic credit: Getty Images)
Keir Starmer (L) has appointed Ben Nunn (R) as the Labour Party's new director of comms (Starmer pic credit: Getty Images)

Nunn, who had acted as Starmer’s personal spokesman during the three-month Labour leadership contest, was given the role of comms chief following the victory of his boss, with more than 50 per cent of the vote, on Saturday.

Following the outcome of the contest, Nunn tweeted “proud” from his personal Twitter account.

The December 2019 general election was Labour’s worst result in decades, losing nearly 60 seats and prompting the leadership contest.

According to media reports, Milne has told the party he will step down as director of comms, his contract having been tied to Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader.

Commenting on Nunn’s appointment, a former senior Labour staffer told PRWeek: “This is a really good appointment. Ben is hugely capable, easy to work with and straight with people – there’s a lot to be said in politics for being nice.”

Now read: Too nice for politics or just what it needs? Who is Labour’s new comms chief?

Career path

Nunn, who studied political science at Birmingham University, previously worked for specialist agency Incisive Health.

Sources at the agency told PRWeek they thought Nunn was a good appointment and that it would lead to a step-change in the quality of comms from the opposition.

Nunn started out as a policy and campaigns intern at children’s charity Barnado’s before working in the House of Commons as a parliamentary researcher for two years.

A three-year stint at MHP Communications followed, in several roles including health comms, during which time Nunn worked with the charity Catch22 on a campaign which looked at how the public health system was dealing with gangs and youth violence.

Nunn moved to Incisive Health as an account director, but left to join Labour’s health team under the then-Shadow Health Secretary, Heidi Alexander.

During this period, Nunn focused on Labour’s health comms as well as policy work.

He was later involved, reportedly as deputy director of comms, in Owen Smith’s failed bid to challenge Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party in 2016.

Nunn returned to Incisive Health in the more senior role of associate director until 2017, before joining Starmer’s team – when he was shadow secretary of state for exiting the European Union – as a political adviser.

Industry reaction

John McTernan, a former adviser to Tony Blair and now a senior consultant at BCW, said of Nunn’s appointment: “Ben is a cool head and well regarded. Keir stuck with him even after the controversy about his private-sector experience. He previously worked for Owen Smith, a reminder like the appointment of Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds that the 2016 challenge to Corbyn has had a lasting impact.”

Writing last week, Tom Hamilton, an associate director at WPI Strategy, warned that public affairs professionals ignore the outcome of the Labour leadership election at their peril.

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