In a major blow to Labour, one of its most influential peers has left the parliamentary party to chair a new infrastructure commission spearheaded by chancellor George Osborne.
Osborne will use his speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester today to announce that Lord Andrew Adonis, a former minister under Prime Minister Tony Blair, has resigned the Labour whip and will now sit as a cross bench peer in the House of Lords.
Osborne will say that Lord Adonis -- who also served as Gordon Brown’s transport secretary and later chaired the New Labour pressure group Progress -- will lead the new, independent National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to work out “calmly and dispassionately what the country needs to build for its future and hold any government’s feet to the fire if it fails to deliver”.
Lord Adonis is expected to take up his post on the commission immediately, with his work being overseen by a board whose members will be appointed by the chancellor.
While Lord Adonis is not defecting or joining the ranks of the Conservatives, his move marks the first high-profile departure from the Labour establishment since the election of radical socialist Jeremy Corbyn as the party’s leader last month - and a significant coup for the Tories on the first full day of their annual conference.
Labour sought to downplay Lord Adonis’s move last night, with a spokesperson for the Labour Lords frontbench tweeting that it is “not unusual” for a party-affiliated peer to resign the whip “while doing sensitive work”.
A spokesperson for Corbyn, meanwhile, did not offer comment on Lord Adonis, but instead attacked the Tory proposals, saying: “We have heard it all before from Osborne and the Conservatives on infrastructure and their record is one of complete failure to deliver.”
The spokesperson added: “There is still nothing to indicate that the Tories understand the desperate need for serious long-term investment in infrastructure."