Major climbdown comes as Labour’s annual conference kicks off
It comes after the Labour leader endured a “car crash” meeting with union chiefs on Friday afternoon during which he failed to drum up support for the reintroduction of the electoral college system.
The opposition leader had wanted to rewrite the regulations for his party’s internal elections – a measure critics said was an attempt to “gerrymander” future leadership elections to the disadvantage of the left.
A senior source told The Independent, however, that the proposal to return to the electoral college system — giving MPs a greater say in leadership contests — had been dropped, but insisted Sir Keir will come forward with different changes to party conference.
It was not immediately clear what alternative changes to Labour’s rulebook Sir Keir would seek, but reports suggested there could be an attempt to increase the number of MPs’ nominations threshold a potential leadership candidate must reach before entering the contest.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) — Labour’s governing body — is set to meet again on Saturday morning.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader who was reported to have voiced opposition to the changes put forward by Sir Keir, said: “My understanding is the electoral college is not coming to the NEC so therefore that wouldn’t be [voted on]”.
Asked whether the proposed changes were on or off, the deputy leader added: “Conference is a time where we discuss things like rules… these are things that conference does every year, year upon year.”
Mish Rahman, a member of Labour’s NEC and who sits on Momentum’s national coordinating group, said: “The central measure of Keir Starmer’s attack on democracy has comprehensively failed.”
“The electoral college is dead. Now to make sure all the other regressive rule changes concocted by the leadership share the same fate. From trigger ballot changes to increases in the MP nomination threshold ahead, they all need to go in the bin.
“Starmer won’t stop trying to rig democracy, so we can’t stop defending it.”
Before Friday’s meeting, Unison, the country’s biggest union, appeared to set itself against the plan after a majority of members on its Labour Link committee, which governs its relationship with the party, released a statement saying they opposed the change.
Sir Keir ordinarily has a majority on the party’s NEC as long as he has support from moderate-led trade unions, but he failed to win their support for the proposals on this occasion.