Keir Starmer’s bid to reform Labour’s leadership election rules appeared “dead” on Saturday 25 September. His deputy confirmed Starmer’s electoral college proposal will not be put to the party’s autumn conference.
The proposal had divided the party and sparked talk of a “civil war” with the left in the build-up to its Brighton conference. In it, the Labour leader was understood to be pushing to scrap the system which was used to elect both him and Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
Watered down reforms
Trade unions failed to back the move during crunch talks this week. So now the opposition leader seems to have heavily watered down his reforms. They’re due to be discussed by the party’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), on Saturday 25 September.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner said it was her understanding that the electoral college idea wouldn’t be discussed at the NEC meeting. So delegates would not vote on it at the party conference this weekend.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether Starmer’s proposals were likely to be voted on at conference, Rayner added: “Some will, some won’t because that’s the natural rhythm of how conference works”.
Pressed on whether the reforms for how a future leader is elected will be voted on, she replied:
My understanding is that the electoral college is not coming to the NEC, so therefore that wouldn’t.
Under the original proposal, the one member, one vote (OMOV) system would have been replaced with a return to the electoral college. This would be made up of unions and affiliate organisations, MPs and party members.
Starmer was understood to favour the three parts of the electoral college having an equal share of the vote. This would have meant that votes from Labour’s 400,000 members would have the same weighting as the party’s 199 MPs.
Instead, the PA news agency said those plans have been diluted. Although party sources insisted there would still be “significant changes” put forward.
A Labour spokesperson 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.
PA news agency understands the leadership rule changes to be discussed by the NEC will include raising the amount of Labour MP support a candidate requires to get onto the leadership ballot from 10% to 25%, and abandoning registered supporter involvement. The suggested changes have received criticism:
Keir Starmer has been forced to abandon the electoral college, but now is trying to stitch up a future leadership election by raising the MPs’ nominations threshold to 25%.
That would probably only mean two candidates would make it and shut down the right of members to choose.
— Owen Jones 🌹 (@OwenJones84) September 25, 2021
Here's who would have made it to the ballot under a 25% nomination threshold:
— Stats for Lefties 🏳️⚧️ (@LeftieStats) September 25, 2021
Another Labour left source says "20% is by definition the white man status quo amendment".
— Sienna Rodgers (@siennamarla) September 25, 2021
Under the proposals, members will also need to have been signed up for six months to be allowed to vote in a future leadership contest.
It appears the electoral college is dead.
But we now hear Starmer is trying to table a proposal to increase the number of MP nominations a candidate needs to even get on the ballot.
He won't stop try to rig democracy, so we can't stop defending it.
— Momentum 🌹 (@PeoplesMomentum) September 25, 2021
“Keir Starmer’s attack on democracy”
Starmer also wants to make it more difficult to deselect MPs. He wants to raise the threshold for triggering a selection contest, with 50% of local branches in the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and affiliated union and socialist groups needing to back such a move.
Under the current rules, an MP selection race can be ignited if only one third of CLP branches or affiliated groups is in favour.
In a statement, left-wing campaign group Momentum vowed to fight against the fresh proposals.
Mish Rahman, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (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.
The reforms are unlikely to be the only controversial issue debated by delegates.
Other conference flashpoints for the leader could include rows over Labour’s position on trans rights, commitments on tackling climate change and changes mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission after its investigation into antisemitism.
Others have reacted to Starmer’s u-turn online:
Keir Starmer had a golden opportunity to bring down the most dishonest and morally corrupt prime minister in modern British history. Instead he wages war on his own party. What a dereliction of duty. And deeply stupid. My new column for Middle East Eye: https://t.co/M1GMC8IZgO
— Peter Oborne (@OborneTweets) September 25, 2021
Starmer reported by Sky News to be floundering on his planned change of Leadership election process at Labour Party conference, and on the brink of withdrawing it.
Meanwhile Corbyn off to a flying start at his packed meeting.
Feel-good Friday ✨
— John Edwards (@JohnEdwards33) September 24, 2021
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