New Labour chief was a member of hard Left Militant Tendency in the 1980s, claims former colleague 

Labour Party annual conference: Jennie Formby, 58, addresses the crowds

Labour’s new general secretary was a member of the hard-Left Militant Tendency, a former colleague claimed last night.

Jennie Formby, 58, was part of the movement which infiltrated the party during the 1980s, according to an ex-party organiser.

The allegations will further ignite fears of a hard-Left takeover of Labour under leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Militant faction was kicked out of the party by then leader Neil Kinnock more than 30 years ago in a purge of Trotskyite radicals.

This paved the way for New Labour and the party’s election to government in 1997 for the first time in 18 years.

But the party has since moved to the Left under Mr Corbyn. Yesterday former Labour South East director Michael Creighton, 66, said Mrs Formby was a member of Militant in Southampton in the 1980s.

The Southampton Labour Party member said her membership was common knowledge in the branch.

Speaking from his home in the city, he said: ‘Militant never published a membership list, but it was common knowledge at the time among Labour Party members in Southampton that Jennie was a member.

‘Everyone was saying it, we had about 500 members in Labour Southampton. Everyone just knew because there were other Militant members and you knew who they were –there are things you just know.

‘She was Left-wing, so are lots of people, but not all of them are members of the Militant Tendency.

‘It did concern us when people were members of Militant, that’s why Labour kicked them out.’

He added about 20 per cent of party members in Southampton were in Militant but noted Mrs Formby survived the purge.

Mr Creighton said: ‘When there were half-a-dozen or so Militant members kicked out by the party nationally, it really drew a line under it and she remained a Labour Party member.’

Channel 4 News journalist Michael Crick, author of a book on Militant, first made the claim. Labour declined to comment on the allegation but did not deny that Mrs Formby was once part of the movement.

Jeremy Corbyn shares a joke with Jennie Formby who has now been appointed general secretary of the Labour Party 

Jeremy Corbyn shares a joke with Jennie Formby who has now been appointed general secretary of the Labour Party 

As she arrived at her detached home in Southampton yesterday, Mrs Formby declined to answer when asked if the claims were true. When questioned a third time, she laughed. Earlier this year, there was controversy over her appointment as general secretary with the backing of Mr Corbyn.

The former union organiser has a child with the Unite union boss Len McCluskey, one of Mr Corbyn’s strongest supporters.

Labour also has a new counsel on disciplinary matters – barrister Gordon Nardell QC.

In recent years, critics and moderate Labour MPs have lamented the rise of the Left in the party, warning that the Corbyn-backing group Momentum is a new version of Militant.

The Socialist Party, successor to Militant, endorsed Mr Corbyn for the Labour leadership.

Last night Labour MP John Spellar called for ‘transparency’, especially after Mrs Formby’s appointment as general secretary, and said she should address the allegation.

Yesterday shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said Mrs Formby was going to be an ‘outstanding general secretary’.