Starmer's proposed party rule changes are an anti-democratic outrage

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

Keir Starmer’s approval ratings are significantly worse than those of Boris Johnson. Less than a third of Labour’s own voters think he is doing a good job, and more than six in 10 of all voters do not think he seems like a prime minister in waiting. This is a man sinking fast, in desperate need of a life raft. His last real opportunity to offer a compelling vision to a hostile nation arrives at the party’s upcoming conference. So it may seem baffling that Starmer has instead decided to focus on bitter internal party wrangling by reverting to the old rules for electing his successor, which will grant MPs far more say over who becomes the next Labour leader than grassroots party or trade union members.

When he informed his shadow cabinet of the plan to replace the “one member, one vote” rules with an “electoral college” system dominated by MPs, Starmer justified it on the basis that Labour needed to look outwards to potential voters rather than to its members. “If members had been listening to that meeting, they’d have cancelled their direct debits right there and then because what’s the bloody point,” one Labour figure attending the meeting told me. According to multiple sources, the architects of the proposed rule change include Starmer’s former chief of staff, Morgan McSweeney, who ran Liz Kendall’s doomed leadership campaign in 2015; his former political secretary, Jenny Chapman; and political organising manager Matt Pound. They have privately justified the proposed change of rules as a way to prevent a Jeremy Corbyn-style successor.

Starmer’s pitch in the 2020 leadership election was to unify the party. As his former aide Simon Fletcher wrote recently, if the leader had proposed to “return to the MPs’ golden vote” during that election, he would have been “comprehensively defeated”. How much Starmer shares the ideological commitments of his factional operators is unclear. Many Labour MPs and aides are adamant that he is a technocratic lawyer with “no politics”, but there is also a broad consensus he is thin-skinned, as prone to rage over critical leftwing tweets as jibes from Boris Johnson. Some suggest this character trait has been ably exploited. Others think Starmer does not understand the magnitude of what he has agreed to, and that those pushing for this change have taken advantage of the leader’s naivety to introduce new rules that leave him vulnerable to a leadership challenge from the right.

In practice, Starmer is a blunt instrument of the party’s rightest-most edges. MPs on the party’s right remain bedevilled by the same problem that led to the rise of Corbynism in the first place. They have no compelling policies for modern Britain, a defect they failed to rectify during the years they spent in the political wilderness. Instead they are defined purely by their antagonism towards the left.

In the shadow cabinet only Andy McDonald, the shadow secretary of state for employment rights, spoke against the change of rules. He argued that conference was about “presenting a vision to the country and unifying the party behind it, and this will do the exact opposite”. McDonald has spent the summer hammering out an ambitious programme of policies on employment rights with the deputy leader Angela Rayner’s team, while Ed Miliband’s operation has been pushing the leadership to take a more radical stance on the Green New Deal. All this will now be buried under an avalanche of factional spite. This is why Starmer’s new head of strategy, the pollster Deborah Mattinson (herself no leftwinger), argued against the changes, believing they would make conference into a show of internal wrangling.

Traditionally, those on Labour’s right argued that divided parties did not win elections. They portrayed the left of the party as obsessed with gaining control and defined solely by what it opposed. This narrative now seems to define Starmer’s operation. Many of Starmer’s supporters were burned by the experience of the 2015 leadership election – in which Kendall, who was widely regarded as the Labour right’s candidate, suffered catastrophic defeat. Some likely believed that Starmer’s competent reputation, combined with promises of party unity and radical domestic policies, was their route back to power. Yet whether on migrants’ rights, raising taxes on the wealthy or maintaining a broad church within the party itself, his tenure has seen these commitments abandoned in practice. Instead of presenting a vision for the country, those pushing to change the leadership election rules seem to believe that defining the party against the left will reap electoral dividends, even though pressing the ultimate nuclear button – suspending the former leader in 2020 – did no such thing.

© Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA ‘Starmer’s aides are pushing this through because they fear a general election is imminent in which the leader will lose badly.’

Related: Labour should be approaching its party conference with hope, not despair | Polly Toynbee

Several senior Labour figures have been confused by Starmer’s acceptance of the proposals, highlighting the leader’s terrible personal ratings and the fact many Labour MPs have not moved against him purely because they fear the possibility that – under the existing electoral system for deciding the leader – he could be succeeded by someone to his left. The move to an electoral college would neutralise that concern. (Indeed, some Labour MPs and aides believe that figures around Starmer are prepared for the possibility he will be succeeded by a figure from the party’s right, such as the Blairite torchbearer Wes Streeting, who has been put forward for numerous broadcast interviews and newspaper profiles.)

Previous attempts to rewrite leadership rules have been consulted on for months, not bounced into existence days before the party conference. Those who are pushing this through are doing so because they fear a general election is imminent in which the leader will lose badly, and they need to control who succeeds him. Union leaders can stop this: while Unite has already expressed its opposition to the change of rules, the other two main unions – Unison and GMB – can rebut the farcical claim that giving MPs a whip hand in determining the next leader restores power to them.

And here is the tragedy. As one MP who formerly supported Starmer said, the sole aim of those around the leader is to “bury the left forever”. In place of a vision for the country is a vacuum filled by the Labour right’s determination to crush the left. The party’s forthcoming conference is set to be a showcase of internal division instead of an opportunity to set out a vision for the nation. For those on the Labour right who believe the leader is already a dead man walking, this is their comfort zone. For Tories planning a snap post-pandemic election, opportunity awaits.

  • Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Jed Wallace reveals whether he meant his extraordinary Millwall goal v Sheffield United

© Provided by Football League World Championship – Millwall v Birmingham City In one of the more impressive results of the midweek Championship action, Millwall consigned a loss to Luton ... Read more »

Two people seriously injured following explosion at house

© Joe Giddens (PA) Two people have been seriously injured following an “explosion” at a terraced house in Hampshire. Fire crews, paramedics and police rushed to the property in Nelson ... Read more »

After Brexit, Polexit? Cartoonist depicts possible result of EU-Poland legal row

© Bado, Cartooning for peace As tensions mount between Brussels and Warsaw over a ruling that parts of European treaties are incompatible with the Polish constitution, the Quebec cartoonist Bado ... Read more »

Senator Josée Forest-Niesing in Sudbury, Ont., hospital for COVID-19

© Sophie Houle-Drapheau/Radio-Canada Ontario Senator Josée Forest-Niesing, from Sudbury, is in hospital for COVID-19. Senator Josée Forest-Niesing of Sudbury is in hospital in the northern Ontario city for COVID-19. Forest-Niesing, 56, ... Read more »

ASUS TUF 24.5 gaming monitor down to just $230, but you'll have to act fast

The ASUS TUf 24.5 gaming monitor is even more affordable for a limited time. Black Friday isn’t for another month, but Best Buy already has some of the best deals ... Read more »

Pakistan to ease Afghan border controls after talks with Taliban

© – Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, second right, welcomes Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at Kabul airport on October 21, 2021. AFP Pakistan is determined to ... Read more »

Afghan women ask UN not to give Taliban a seat at world body

© Provided by Khaleej Times Afghan women ask UN not to give Taliban a seat at world body A group of Afghan women urged the United Nations to block the ... Read more »

‘The tiger is back,' TMJ isytihar sembuh Covid-19

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Dalam hantaran di InstaStory, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim mengumumkan kembali sembuh selepas dijangkiti Covid-19. (Gambar Instagram) PETALING JAYA: “The tiger is back”, kata Tunku ... Read more »

Apple Car hits another roadblock in battery supply deals, report says

Another bump in the road has appeared on the long journey we’ve call the Apple Car. According to a Friday report from Reuters, talks have stalled between the tech giant and ... Read more »

X44 heads Island X-Prix practice amid further mechanical concerns

© Charly Lopez / Motorsport Images Sebastien Loeb, X44 Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb and Dakar Rally exponent Cristina Gutierrez combined to set a total time of 11m53.421s, which ... Read more »

Nigerian official says new leader of ISIL-linked group killed

© Provided by Al Jazeera Malam Bako recently succeeded Abu Musab al-Barnawi as leader of the Islamic State in West Africa Province [File: Audu Marte/AFP] Nigerian security forces have killed ... Read more »

Alec Baldwin fired prop gun that killed crew member on movie set - authorities

By Adria Malcolm and Alexandra Ulmer © Reuters/ADRIA MALCOLM Alec Baldwin fires prop gun on movie set, killing cinematographer SANTA FE, N.M. (Reuters) – Hollywood star Alec Baldwin fatally shot ... Read more »

Yosemite Lodges That Are Perfect for Families and Groups

© Courtesy of Rush Creek Lodge Yosemite Lodges That Are Perfect for Families and Groups Courtesy of Rush Creek Lodge The kids may never want to leave the pool at ... Read more »

Ohio corrects Wright Brothers error on new license plates

Ohio has had to correct its new license plate design, which inaccurately depicts the Wright brothers’ historic plane. © Getty Images Ohio corrects Wright Brothers error on new license plates ... Read more »

A David Bowie-themed Immersive Pop-up Is Coming to NYC and London Next Week

Five years after his death, David Bowie’s legacy is as alive as ever. Ahead of what would have been the rock star’s 75th birthday, a themed pop-up experience will open ... Read more »

Firing Dr. Fauci Now May Help Joe Biden Manage the Next COVID Wave, and His Poll Numbers

Joe Biden built his presidential campaign around his assertion that he would “shut down the virus, not the economy.” Accordingly, his approval rating has slumped and risen along with U.S. ... Read more »

China Outraged at Biden's Military Pledge for Taiwan – Despite White House Walkback

China expressed outrage Friday at comments by President Joe Biden, blasting his assertions that the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the case of a Chinese invasion, despite swift White House ... Read more »

On Location: How 'Dune' Used Abu Dhabi's Desert and Jordan's Wadi Rum to Create Arrakis

© Everett All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Moviegoers ... Read more »

Boris Johnson refused to pay to keep a £1,000 bike gifted to him from Biden, but is reportedly using it anyway

© Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Boris Johnson riding a bicycle. Not the one Joe Biden gave him. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Boris Johnson received a bicycle, helmet, and sunglasses from Joe Biden ... Read more »

Advocates say Latinas who make less than their white colleagues are 'screaming into the void' on Equal Pay Day

© Thomas Barwick/Getty Images Thomas Barwick/Getty Images Latinas recounted the moment they found out they were making less than their white male colleagues. Misconceptions contribute to pay disparities, including racist ... Read more »

One of America's Best Ski Resorts Just Announced It's Opening Two Weeks Early — Thanks to a Massive Snowstorm

The winter gods are smiling on skiers and riders for the 2021/2022 season. © Provided by Travel + Leisure Courtesy of Sammy Deleo On Thursday, Mammoth Mountain in California announced ... Read more »

Top 9 Southwest international destinations for families

© Provided by The Points Guy MSN has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. MSN and The Points Guy may receive a commission from ... Read more »

Box Office: ‘Dune' Delivers $5.1M in Thursday Evening Previews

‘Dune’ Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s much-anticipated sci-fi epic Dune delivered $5.1 million in Thursday evening previews from thousands of theaters across North America. Of that total, Imax theaters amounted to 30 ... Read more »

Boris Johnson used his £2.6 million press briefing room to watch new James Bond film

The Prime Minister used his £2.6 million newly refurbished press briefing room to watch the new James Bond film with Downing Street staff. © Getty Images British PM Holds Press ... Read more »

France gives low-paid €100 handout to curb rising discontent

France has announced a €100 (£85) handout for people on low to middle incomes and promised to freeze petrol prices to try to contain growing anger over record fuel prices ... Read more »

Enjoy yourselves and be safe, Tanaiste tells public as night clubs reopen

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has told people to enjoy themselves this weekend as night clubs reopened, but urged them to remain cautious. © Brian Lawless Ian Redmond, owner of Tramline on ... Read more »

Anger as ministers block ‘fire and rehire' bill in Commons

Ministers have scuppered a Commons bill that would have stopped the practice of companies firing staff and then rehiring them on worse pay and conditions, saying that while they opposed ... Read more »

Health chiefs bump up threat of more transmissible Delta off-shoot

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Health chiefs today bumped up the threat from the even more transmissible Delta off-shoot amid fears it may have already infected 150,000 Britons. ... Read more »

Lebanese president sends electoral law amendments back to parliament

(Reuters) – Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Friday sent a law amending legislative election rules back to parliament for reconsideration, the presidency said in a statement. © Reuters/DALATI NOHRA Lebanon’s ... Read more »

Germany sees refugee influx via Poland and Belarus

In Germany’s recent election campaign, immigration was not a big topic. But with more and more refugees are attempting to cross the German-Polish border the issue may become much more ... Read more »

The new Instagram features you will soon be using

© Courtesy of Instagram Instagram is launching new features. Instagram is giving its users some new goodies to play with. The social network has just unveiled five new tools that ... Read more »

Industri tenusu berpotensi dikembangkan

© Provided by Sinar Harian SHAH ALAM – Industri tenusu berpotensi untuk dikembangkan bagi menjamin bekalan makanan dalam negara dan mengurangkan kebergantungan kepada produk import. Kementerian Pertanian dan Industri Makanan ... Read more »

It's not just Covid: Amazon's top doctor on why air quality is the biggest workplace health challenge of this century

Amazon chief health officer Vin Gupta says the biggest health challenge for public and work spaces this century will be ventilation and air quality. This is not because of Covid ... Read more »

Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones tests positive for Covid day after Robin Hood charity event featuring Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney

Longtime investor Paul Tudor Jones tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a dinner benefiting the Robin Hood Foundation. He said he was feeling fine and was following protocols. The event, ... Read more »

UK's Queen Elizabeth rests at Windsor Castle after hospital stay as PM sends best wishes

© Alastair Grant Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II at a reception for the Global Investment Summit in Windsor Castle, which took place the day before she was admitted to hospital. AP ... Read more »

Rangers captain James Tavernier opens up on racist abuse to Livingston's Marvin Bartley

James Tavernier and Marvin Bartley have shared experiences of abuse and explained how much the support of Scottish fans has meant to them in the fight against racism. In a ... Read more »

What Antoni Sarcevic said on his Bolton Wanderers future just weeks before Stockport County move

Antoni Sarcevic had not opened fresh contract talks at Bolton Wanderers but said his time at the club had been the best of his career just weeks before he moved ... Read more »

The most valuable Mustangs from every generation

Interested in the Mustang’s longtime rival? Check out the most valuable Chevrolet Camaros, here. © Provided by Hagerty Of the more than 10 million Mustangs Ford has produced in the last ... Read more »

Garden added to Fiat's Lingotto building rooftop test track

Italian architect Benedetto Camerana and landscape designer Torino Stratosferica have created a rooftop garden called La Pista 500 with over 40,000 plants around an electric vehicle test track on the roof of the Fiat’s ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic