The Labour leader has set out plans to end the one member, one vote system which elected Jeremy Corbyn and replace it with a return to an electoral college which would give MPs and unions a greater say.
He presented his proposals to Labour’s affiliated unions on Wednesday but sources said they were opposed to putting the measures to the party’s conference which starts on Saturday.
Unions are understood to want more time to consult their members and Sir Keir said he would come back to them in the next few days.
The Labour leader had favoured a system where MPs, unions and ordinary members would each have a third of the vote in any leadership election.
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Following the meeting a joint statement from Labour and Mick Whelan, chairman of the trade union and Labour Party liaison organisation (Tulo) said: “Keir Starmer and Labour’s affiliated trade union leaders had a positive meeting this afternoon to discuss the rule changes that the Labour leader would like to bring to conference in Brighton.
“There was broad consensus on the need to refocus the Labour party on the country and concerns of working people.
“Discussions will continue.”
The move to reduce the weight of members’ votes sparked fury on the Labour left, with warnings of a new “civil war” from the Momentum campaign group.
Despite attempts to present it as increasing the unions’ voice, Sir Keir has faced resistance from senior figures including Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.
A Labour spokesman said the planned reforms were about turning the party’s focus “outwards”.
Asked how the proposals could help win a general election, the spokesman said: “What it is about is changing the culture within the party so we are in a situation where we are making sure that, whether it is on the policy measures we have, whether it is on trigger ballots for MPs or on how we elect our leader, that we are in a situation where the focus ensures we are facing outwards rather than inwards.”
The spokesman denied it would “overshadow” events at the party’s conference in Brighton.Internet Explorer Channel Network