Is Keir Starmer’s power grab doomed already? Union barons ‘maul’ Labour leader’s shake-up of voting rules – and even his own deputy is against it
- Sir Keir Starmer hit by a backlash from major union bosses and Left-wing MPs
- Labour leader’s attempt to rewrite internal voting rules is proving unpopular
- His deputy Angela Rayner also opposes the return of the ‘electoral college’
- Proposal to scrap one-member-one-vote rules and give greater weight to MPs
Keir Starmer’s first proper conference as Labour leader this weekend risks being overshadowed by his unpopular attempt to rewrite internal rules.
The party will today try to show how it would improve the lives of millions of people, announcing ‘fair pay agreements’ to guarantee minimum wages and conditions for workers in key sectors, starting with social care.
But on the eve of the first in-person annual conference since before the pandemic, Sir Keir was still in talks with union barons over his bid to reduce the power of ordinary members to elect future leaders.
He was hoping they would back his plan, paving the way for it to be put to the party faithful in Brighton today.
Uneasy alliance: Keir Starmer’s first proper conference as Labour leader this weekend risks being overshadowed by his unpopular attempt to rewrite internal rules as his deputy Angela Rayner (pictured together) also opposes it
Sir Keir was hit by a backlash from major union bosses and Left-wing MPs on Wednesday. Insiders said his first attempt to secure agreement on his plan had been a ‘car crash’ and a ‘mauling’.
And he suffered another blow yesterday after it emerged that his ambitious deputy Angela Rayner also opposes the return of the ‘electoral college’.
This system would scrap the one-member-one-vote rules that led to a landslide win for Jeremy Corbyn, instead giving greater weight to MPs and unions.
According to The Guardian, Mrs Rayner has questioned the timing of the move as well as the principle behind it. Her private concerns emerged after Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: ‘I don’t think it should be our focus.’
Even if Sir Keir secures the backing of union leaders, rank-and-file members could still scupper his plans. Labour members of Britain’s biggest union Unison said it was ‘unthinkable’ that the leaders would change party rules to ‘disenfranchise’ members.
Sir Keir also faced dire warnings from his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn (pictured), who is still suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party over anti-Semitism
Sir Keir also faced dire warnings from his predecessor. Mr Corbyn, who is still suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party over anti-Semitism, said: ‘We meet at a time of great change and crisis, perhaps larger than any other time in my 50-plus years of party membership.
‘The signs are that the party leadership wants to try to shut down debate, sideline the members and trade unions with the end result that Labour props up rather than challenges our broken political and economic system.’
Mr Corbyn’s ally Diane Abbott also made an outspoken attack on Sir Keir. She wrote online: ‘When will it occur to Keir Starmer that the ludicrously undemocratic electoral college that he is trying to force through will not just make it easier to block Left-wing Labour leaders, it will make it easier for the Right to dump him when the time comes?’
Diane Abbott (pictured) also launched an outspoken attack saying the electoral college voting system ‘will make it easier for the Right to dump him when the time comes’
She also took aim at the Labour leader’s 35-page essay on his vision for the country, tweeting: ‘When Keir Starmer was campaigning for the Labour leadership he promised “common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water”, and a crackdown on corporate tax avoidance. Not a mention of these things in his new pamphlet.’
Sir Keir himself yesterday appealed to his party to ‘focus on the future, not the past’ and offer a ‘credible alternative’ to the Conservative Government, in the wake of the catastrophic general election defeat under Mr Corbyn.
He told London’s Evening Standard: ‘We need to show the country that we are a government in waiting with the hunger to win.’
The Labour leader will address the conference on Wednesday.
Other shadow frontbenchers will also have the opportunity to set out their priorities.