The Lord McNicol of West Kilbride
Official portrait of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride crop 2, 2021.jpg
Official portrait, 2021
General Secretary of the Labour Party
In office
19 July 2011 – 20 March 2018
Preceded byRay Collins
Succeeded byJennie Formby
Member of the House of Lords
Life peerage
9 July 2018
Personal details
Born (1969-08-17) 17 August 1969 (age 53)
Political partyLabour
SpouseShelley McNicol
Alma materAbertay University
Other offices

Iain Mackenzie McNicol, Baron McNicol of West Kilbride (born 17 August 1969) is a British politician, trade unionist and life peer who served as General Secretary of the Labour Party from 2011 to 2018.[1] He was National Political Officer of the GMB trade union from 2004 to 2011.[2]

Early life and education

The son of Iain and brother of Natasha and Calum, McNicol was raised in Thirdpart, West Kilbride and attended Ardrossan Academy.[3] He studied at Dundee Institute of Technology, where he began his involvement in political organising when being elected as president of the Student Union in 1991.[4]

Early political career

McNicol was elected National Campaigns and Membership Officer for Labour Students,[5] and then acted as a Labour Party organiser and agent in south and east England from 1994 to 1997.[5][6][7]

Following the 1997 United Kingdom general election at which Labour returned to office, McNicol served as a research, organisation, and political officer with the GMB Union, and in 1998 was appointed a regional organiser for its Southern Region.[8] In 2004, he was promoted to National Political Officer. He served in that capacity through to 2011, coordinating the political strategy of the union and representing its members’ interests in both the public and private sector.[8][9]

General Secretary

On 19 July 2011, Labour's National Executive Committee selected McNicol to become the party's next General Secretary under leader Ed Miliband.[2] He was seen as the 'change candidate' and chosen against the wishes of Miliband, who supported the alternative candidate Chris Lennie.[10]

McNicol's intention to stand down as General Secretary of the Labour Party was announced on 23 February 2018.[1] On 20 March 2018 he was succeeded by Jennie Formby.[11]

2016 Labour Party leadership election

In June and July 2016, the Financial Times reported the office of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn believed McNicol tried to prevent Corbyn from attending a key National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting and reported McNicol was alleged to be complicit in trying to exclude Corbyn from entering the second leadership election. It reported senior figures in the trade union movement were discussing replacement options for McNicol in his General Secretary role.[12][13]

A civil High Court legal challenge was brought by Labour donor and former parliamentary candidate Michael Foster to contest the decision to allow Corbyn to be a candidate without having to secure any nominations from Labour MPs. The case went to court on 26 July 2016. McNicol was the first defendant on behalf of the members of the Labour Party. Corbyn applied to the court, and was accepted, to be a second defendant with his own legal team as Corbyn was "particularly affected and particularly interested in the proper construction of the rules" and that McNicol was "being expected to vigorously defend a position which he regarded as incorrect prior to the NEC decision".[13][14] The High Court ruled that the NEC's decision that Corbyn should automatically be on the ballot was a correct interpretation of the Labour Party Rule Book.[15][16]

An additional court case was brought against McNicol in August 2016 regarding the NEC's decision to disallow party members who had joined after 12 January 2016 from voting in the leadership election. The claimants won their case in the High Court but the decision was overturned on appeal.[17]

Handling of antisemitism complaints and other controversies

In May 2019, Jon Lansman the founder of Momentum writing in the LabourList blog accused McNicol and his team of delaying action on handling antisemitism cases while he was General Secretary, and allowing a backlog of cases to build up which would damage the party and Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.[18]

In April 2020 a report commissioned by McNicol's successor Jennie Formby, for submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission's investigation into anti-semitism within the Labour Party, was leaked. The report stated that WhatsApp message group transcripts published in the report showed that McNicol and members of his office failed to deal with anti-semitism cases, worked against the objectives of the leadership of the Party, worked against Labour's objective of winning the 2017 general election, and made offensive comments about Labour members, staff, and politicians.[19][20]

On 1 May 2020, the members of an investigation panel appointed by the Labour Party to look into various aspects of the report were announced.[21] In early 2021 it was announced this report would be further delayed due to concerns with the ICO investigation.[22][needs update]

More leaked messages from Whatsapp groups involving McNicol were released in Al-Jazeera's 2022 documentary series "The Labour Files". These WhatsApp messages include Tracey Allen, a member of staff for McNicol making repeated jokes about executing political opponents such as Jeremy Corbyn and Baroness Shami Chakrabati with ice picks.[23][24]


On 21 June 2018, McNicol was created a life peer as Baron McNicol of West Kilbride, of West Kilbride in the County of Ayrshire.[25][26] On 4 September 2018, McNicol was appointed an Opposition Whip on the House of Lords frontbench.[27]

As a result of the disclosures in the April 2020 report, McNicol stepped down from this role while an investigation was carried out.[28]

Personal life

McNicol is married to Shelley and has a son, Hamish, and daughter, Scarlett.[3] He holds a black belt in karate.[7]


  1. ^ a b Stewart, Heather (23 February 2018). "Labour party general secretary stands down from position". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Iain McNicol named as new Labour general secretary". BBC. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Arise Lord McNicol of West Kilbride". Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  4. ^ Daniel Boffey (9 July 2016). "Labour leader and MPs set on collision course in a battle for party's soul". The Observer. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b Luke Akehurst (20 July 2011). "Labour 's new general secretary". Progress Online. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  6. ^ Iain McNicol (25 May 2012). "Changing to win". Progress Online. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  7. ^ a b Paul Waugh, Sam Macrory (27 September 2012). "Street Fighting Man". PoliticsHome. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b Dina Rickman (26 July 2011). "Labour's New General Secretary: His Dramatic Win And Why He Is The Insurgency Candidate". Huffington Post. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  9. ^ Will Straw (19 July 2011). "Iain McNicol is the right man for the job". New Statesman. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Labour's New General Secretary: His Dramatic Win and Why He is the Insurgency Candidate". 26 July 2011.
  11. ^ (20 March 2018). "Jennie Formby appointed Labour general secretary in huge boost for Jeremy Corbyn". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  12. ^ Jim Pickard (13 July 2016). "Labour's McNicol targeted over role in coup". Financial Times. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  13. ^ a b Ben Riley-Smith (25 July 2016). "Labour leadership contest: Legal documents reveal depth of split between Jeremy Corbyn and party 's general secretary". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  14. ^ Jessica Elgot (20 July 2016). "Jeremy Corbyn wins right to be defendant in leadership court case". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  15. ^ Walker, Peter; Syal, Rajeev; Mason, Rowena (28 July 2016). "Jeremy Corbyn fights off court challenge over Labour leadership ballot". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  16. ^ Mr Justice Foskett (28 July 2016). Between: MICHAEL FOSTER and IAIN McNICOL (1) (sued on behalf of all other members of the Labour Party except the Claimant and the Second Defendant) and THE RT HON JEREMY CORBYN MP (2) (PDF) (Report). Royal Courts of Justice id=[2016] EWHC 1966 (QB) Case HQ16X02502. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  17. ^ BBC - "Labour leadership: Members drop voting legal challenge" 14 August 2016
  18. ^ "Jeremy Corbyn pushed for action on antisemitism – but was held back by bureaucracy". Labourlist. 14 May 2019. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  19. ^ Rodgers, Sienna (13 April 2020). "Internal report lays bare poor handling of complaints by Labour". LabourList. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  20. ^ Rayner, Tom (13 April 2020). "Labour antisemitism investigation will not be sent to equality commission". Sky News. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  21. ^ "Labour names head of leaked report investigation". BBC News. 1 May 2020. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  22. ^ Rodgers, Sienna (11 February 2021). "Forde Inquiry report delayed indefinitely, chair tells Labour Party". LabourList. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  23. ^ "The Labour Files". Al Jazeera Investigative Unit. Retrieved 27 September 2022.
  24. ^ These messages are present in Episode 2 at 34:38 Episode 3 at 11:24
  25. ^ Schofield, Kevin (18 May 2018). "Former Labour general secretary Iain McNicol given peerage by Jeremy Corbyn". PoliticsHome. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  26. ^ "No. 62337". The London Gazette. 27 June 2018. p. 11404.
  27. ^ "Lord McNicol of West Kilbride - Parliamentary career". House of Lords. UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  28. ^ Heather Stewart; Peter Walker (15 April 2020). "Labour's Iain McNicol steps down from Lords role after report leak". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
Party political offices Preceded byRay Collins General Secretary of the Labour Party 2011–2018 Succeeded byJennie Formby Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom Preceded byThe Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown GentlemenBaron McNicol of West Kilbride Followed byThe Lord Haselhurst