United Kingdom

Starmer forced to rethink leadership election rule changes

Labour Party UK updates

Keir Starmer is set to water down proposals to change Labour’s “one member one vote” system for electing leaders after running into internal opposition.

But the Labour leader is still seeking to raise the number of MP nominations required by leadership candidates in a move that is likely to be opposed by the leftwing of the party.

Starmer had vowed to bring back the electoral college in which unions, MPs and members each made up one-third of the vote to elect Labour leaders.

Allies had described this as an attempt to demonstrate to the country that he was serious about shifting Britain’s main opposition party back to the centre ground. The move echoes the strategy of former leader Tony Blair, who successfully changed Labour’s rules in the mid-1990 by abolishing Clause IV, the party’s historic commitment to public ownership.

But Starmer’s plan enraged leftwingers who said he should instead be focusing on bread and butter issues.

Union leaders told him at a meeting on Friday night that he should delay or cancel the plans, prompting the U-turn on the voting proposals on Saturday morning.

The leader is now trying to thrash out a more modest set of proposals which would be palatable to union leaders.

These include an increase in the nomination threshold to get on the leadership ballot from 10 per cent of Labour MPs to 25 per cent, which would make it harder for a future hard left candidate to seize control of the party. 

One party aide said Starmer would still be putting a package of party reforms to the National Executive Council that “better connect us with working people and reorient us toward the voters who can take us to power”.

“Keir said on Tuesday it wasn’t a take it or leave it deal,” the aide said. “That’s how we’ve approached it and we’re pleased with where we’ve ended up.

Ed Miliband, the former leader, scrapped the party’s electoral college system in favour of an entirely democratic approach called one member one vote. That led to the surprise election in 2015 of Jeremy Corbyn, a radical veteran of the hard left who led the party to its worst election result in 80 years in 2019.

Starmer’s reworked proposals could retain plans to make it harder for local party members to deselect sitting MPs.

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