Keir Starmer was fighting last night to restore authority over the Labor Party after a resounding defeat at the hands of the unions and the left sparked a storm of criticism about his performance as leader.
Ahead of a conference billed as the time when Starmer would present himself as the future prime minister to the British people, the Labor leader was forced to withdraw plans to limit the role of party members and increase that of parliamentarians in the selection of future party leaders. , after the unions united in opposition to block the movement.
When the humiliating withdrawal was announced, her deputy Angela Rayner’s allies made clear their fury at the way Starmer and his office had allowed what she considered to be an unnecessary dispute to dominate the first day of conference and overshadow an ensemble. important economic policies. he was announcing in his opening speech.
At a national executive committee meeting yesterday morning, Rayner proposed amendments to Starmer’s plans in a desperate attempt to find a way forward. “She disagreed with Starmer’s plans and was trying to find ways to prevent them from ruining the conference,” said an ally.
Rayner used a WeatherYesterday’s interview to say that she would be prepared to run for party leadership in the future: “If I felt that it was the right thing to do for the party and the right thing to do for the country, then I would step up and do it. “
Starmer loyalists were trying last night to talk about the leader’s success in forcing other reforms that would make it harder for far-left activists to deselect Labor MPs. “He has blocked the hard left. This is a great achievement, ”said one of the attendees.
But there was widespread consternation across all branches of the party at the way Labor had plunged into more divisive internal discussions just at the time when it hoped to point its weapons against the Tories and present its leader as a future occupant of the number. 10.
In a vociferous article today Observer, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell says he can no longer play the loyal senior statesman.
He says that Starmer “has left the platform on which he was elected Labor leader, has bypassed much of the broad team that elected him and turned to Blairite’s playbook and resurrected Peter Mandelson’s old Blair team. like his consigliere, combined with an appetite for purges of features that make the Kinnock era seem tame. The result is that we are witnessing something akin to a Blairite tribute band perform with the same old stunts and strategies that go on schedule, but with a lot more venom. “
Starmer and the shadow cabinet are still hopeful that they can rescue the conference with a series of major announcements on job security, green policies and education, among others, in the coming days. The Labor leader is also determined to increase the volume of criticism from the Conservatives over the truck and fuel shortages, as well as the looming cost of living crisis.
Starmer told the Observer he was demanding emergency visas for transportation drivers so supplies were ready and running quickly. “The work also requires canceling the universal credit cut and eliminating the national insurance tax hike. Both make the situation of the workers much worse.
“Finally, let’s end the short-term panic with a plan to address the labor shortage by boosting working conditions and British industry to buy, produce and sell more in this country, building a stronger future together.”
Ed Miliband will go ahead with ambitious Biden-style plans to invest in a greener industry, including the steel industry, under the “new green deal.” Miliband said this is no time to be cautious. “We have to go big in green because it is the only route to achieve economic and climate justice together, and it is the only way to tackle the greatest threat to humanity,” said the former party leader and shadow business minister. .
But anger over Starmer’s misjudgment of leadership rule changes has seriously damaged morale, even among shadow ministers who consider themselves scrupulously loyal. “This is a total disaster,” a front table member said last night.
Under Starmer’s original proposal to change the rules on the election of leaders, the one-member, one-vote system would have been replaced by a return to the electoral college made up of unions and affiliated organizations, parliamentarians and party members, each with a equal Quota. Even party moderates said the plan, designed to make it difficult for members of the left to elect a leader like Jeremy Corbyn, was hard to sell as it seemed to send a message that the party did not trust its members.
Delegates were due to vote last night on a revised package according to which candidates for leadership elections would have the support of 20% of MPs, up from 10% today.
Other critical points of the conference for the leader could include disputes over Labor’s position on trans rights and changes ordered by the Equality and Human Rights Commission after its investigation into anti-Semitism.
Starmer also faced criticism from his predecessor last night. Speaking at a Young Labor rally, Corbyn suggested that the left might organize against Starmer: “The electoral college plan may have been defeated by now, but we have seen the true colors of leadership.
“If we want the Labor Party to be a vehicle to win elections to confront the climate emergency and redistribute wealth and power from the few to the majority, then we have to unite and organize.
“There is another way forward, for the Labor Party and Britain, which is based on peace and justice, on the policies that most people really want, not on what the establishment and its media spokesmen insist. what they should want. If our leadership does not defend that path, our movement must and will. “