Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has claimed Sir Keir Starmer’s bid to end the one-member-one vote election system won’t be voted on at party conference.
This is despite Labour apparently confirming the party leader would be putting his reforms for electing future leaders to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said it would be a ‘bit rushed’ for the Labour leader to bring his party reforms to the autumn conference.
Ms Rayner told the BBC’s Today Programme there would be no vote this weekend, but it was likely to be discussed.
Meanwhile, left-wing campaign group Momentum said proposals to bring back Labour’s electoral college are ‘dead’.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is said to be ‘pleased’ with the reforms he will be putting to the NEC, according to a spokesman.
It comes as it appeared Sir Keir had abandoned plans to shake up how future leaders are elected by moving back to an electoral college system.
A spokesman said: ‘Keir said on Tuesday it wasn’t a take it or leave it deal. That’s how we’ve approached it and we’re pleased with where we’ve ended up.’
It is understood there will be ‘significant changes’ to the leadership rules – including raising the threshold of MP nominations to 25 per cent for leadership elections and abandoning registered supporter involvement.
Sir Keir Starmer’s (pictured) reforms to the way party leaders are elected are not going to be voted on at the Labour party’s conference this weekend
Ms Rayner said: ‘Conference is a time when we discuss rules. These are things conference does every year.’
But at a meeting planned for today Ms Rayner said the proposed changes were not on the order paper. She added: ‘My understanding is the electoral college is not coming to the NEC. What you will hear is a hell of a lot about how we will fix this country.’
When pressed on whether she supported Sir Keir’s plan she added: ‘There isn’t a proposal coming forward so I can’t say whether I support it or not.’
Mr Wrack, a trade union leader who was part of a Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation (Tulo) meeting this week to discuss the proposals with Sir Keir, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme conference wasn’t the place for discussions around the election of party leader.
He said: ‘I think the first thing to say is what do people want out of Labour conference? We’ve got a jobs crisis coming up, a living standards crisis coming, energy crisis and so on.
‘If Labour is going to win power and take on the Tories, I think people need to see Labour standing up for working people and that’s what we want, and I’m sure that’s what Labour voters want to hear – not a debate around how we elect a leader or select Labour MPs, and obviously how that will engage people wondering who to vote for.
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner (pictured) told the BBC’s Today Programme there would be no vote this weekend, but it was likely to be discussed
‘The conference starts today, so it seems a bit rushed to try and bring major proposals about the constitution of the Labour Party in a morning.’
Mish Rahman, a member of Labour’s NEC and Momentum’s national co-ordinating group, said: ‘The central measure of Keir Starmer’s attack on democracy has comprehensively failed. The electoral college is dead.
‘Now to make sure all the other regressive rule changes concocted by the leadership share the same fate.
‘From trigger ballot changes to increases in the MP nomination threshold ahead, they all need to go in the bin. Starmer won’t stop trying to rig democracy, so we can’t stop defending it.’
Ms Rayner said she had been told proposals to bring back an electoral college are not on the agenda for the NEC meeting on Saturday.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: ‘We’ve got an NEC meeting later today.
‘I’m told that the electoral college is not on the order paper for the NEC – I haven’t seen it because I got up at 5am this morning to speak to all of you in the media.
‘But, you know what, that is not uncommon.’
Asked whether leader Sir Keir Starmer’s proposals were likely to be voted on at conference, Ms Rayner added: ‘Some will, some won’t because that’s the natural rhythm of how conference works.’
Mr Starmer’s first proper conference as Labour leader this weekend risks being overshadowed by his unpopular attempt to rewrite internal rules as his deputy Ms Rayner (pictured together) also opposes it
On whether the reforms for how a future leader is elected will be voted on, she said: ‘I’ve told you my understanding is that the electoral college is not coming to the NEC, so therefore that wouldn’t.’
Elsewhere at the conference, the party will 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.
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 after it emerged that his ambitious deputy Ms Rayner also opposed 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.