In a drastic U-turn, Sir Keir Starmer has abandoned plans to change the way in which future leaders of the Labour Party are elected. He revealed plans to scrap the one member, one vote system ahead of last week’s annual party conference, but was forced to drop these changes following backlash from the party’s left-wing during a ‘car crash’ meeting with union chiefs. Starmer wanted to revert to an electoral college for leadership elections, which would allow MPs to dominate by splitting the vote for leadership into thirds and dividing it up between the MPs, the constituency Labour parties and unions.
This move would have inevitably left many Labour Party members feeling isolated and unappreciated. It would have greatly diminished theirinfluence in future leadership elections, with each MP having a vote equivalent to a thousand members.
The electoral college system was originally abolished in 2014 by Ed Miliband. This was seen as a triumph for the hundreds of thousands of workers all over Britain that sustain the party and make up the wider labour movement. It is absurd that the current leader would want to revoke their power within the party leadership elections, given that egalitarianism has consistently been at the heart of the party’s manifesto.
Starmer’s aim was to widen the appeal of the Labour Party and reach sceptical voters outside of the conference, but the weekend was dominated by internal disagreements. His allies within the party are now trying to ‘save face’ and restore authority. His so-called ‘attack on democracy’ has not materialised this time, but he is still trying to diminish the power and influence of the left within the Labour Party.
It is evident that Keir Starmer is fearful of a grassroots, Corbynite- led revolt against his leadership of the Labour Party. He planned to win support for this change at the meeting on Friday, before taking the proposal to the National Executive Committee that evening for approval. However, Starmer severely overestimated the support he had and will now have to make do with the watered-down reforms approved by the NEC.
This diluted package includes scrapping registered supporters (where people can pay a one-off fee and then vote in the leadership election), which betters the position of committed Labour Party members because it prevents one-time voters skewing the results.
They have also agreed to introduce a rule where people will have to have been a party member for six months before they can vote for a leader. These are still significant changes and ones that will overall benefit party members.
Ordinarily, Sir Keir has a majority on the party’s NEC if he can retain support from moderate-led trade unions but, on this occasion, he has misjudged their stance on the matter. There is little support for a return to the electoral college within Labour ranks outside the Blairite right-wing, which is indicative of Starmer being somewhat out of touch with his own party.
Callum Bell, vice chair of left-wing caucus Momentum, summarised the situation very well: “This marks a new low in Starmer’s leadership. Clearly, all his pledges of unity and left-wing policy made during the leadership campaign were barefaced lies.”
Suffice to say that this was not a good move for him and that his attempt to make it impossible for another radical left-wing candidate, like Jeremy Corbyn, to win the leadership has failed.
Illustration: Anna Kuptsova via Palatinate Illustrations