Keir Starmer is battling to restore authority over the Labour party

Keir Starmer is battling to restore authority over the Labour party after a bruising defeat at the hands of unions and the left sparked a storm of criticism over his performance as leader. Ahead of a conference billed as the moment when Starmer would introduce himself as a future prime minister to the British people, the Labour leader on Saturday was forced to withdraw plans to limit the role of party members, and increase that of MPs, in selecting future party leaders, after the unions united in opposition to block the move. As the humiliating retreat was announced, allies of his deputy, Angela Rayner, made clear her fury at the way Starmer and his office had allowed what she regarded as an unnecessary row to dominate the first day of conference and overshadow a set of major economic policies she was announcing in her opening speech. At a meeting of the national executive committee on Saturday morning, Rayner proposed amendments to the Starmer plans in a desperate attempt to find a way forward.

“She did not agree with Starmer’s plans and was trying to find ways to stop them wrecking conference,” said an ally. “He says Starmer “has abandoned the platform on which he was elected Labour leader, sidelined much of the broad team that got him elected and has reached for the Blairite playbook and resuscitated Blair’s old crew, of Peter Mandelson as his consigliere, combined with an appetite for factional purges that makes the Kinnock era look tame. “Starmer and the shadow cabinet are still hopeful 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 Labour leader is also determined to turn up the volume of criticism of the Tories over lorry driver and fuel shortages as well as the looming cost-of-living crisis.

Starmer told the Observer he was demanding emergency visas for haulage drivers to get supplies up and running fast. “We have to go big on green because it is the only route to delivering 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 at Starmer’s misjudgment over the leadership rule changes has seriously dented morale, even among shadow ministers who see themselves as scrupulously loyal. Even party moderates said the plan – designed to make it more difficult for the leftwing membership to elect a leader such as Jeremy Corbyn – was a difficult sell as it appeared to send a message that the party did not trust its members.

Delegates were due on Saturday night to vote on a revised package under which candidates for leadership elections would have to have the support of 20% of MPs, up from the current 10%. Other conference flashpoints for the leader could include rows over Labour’s position on trans rights and changes mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission after its investigation into antisemitism. Starmer also faced criticism from his predecessor. “”There is another way forward, for the Labour party and Britain, that is based in peace and justice, in the policies the majority of people actually want, not what the establishment and its media mouthpieces insist they should want.

” If our leadership won’t champion that path, our movement must and will.”.

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