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Labour conference 2021: Sir Keir Starmer’s watered-down rule changes to be put to delegates after bruising party row

Written by on 26 September 2021

Sir Keir Starmer’s watered-down proposals for changing Labour’s rulebook will be put to the party’s conference in Brighton following a bruising internal row.

The Labour leader has been forced into retreat, amid opposition from trade unions and the party’s left wing, in his bid to alter the rules on how his future successors are elected.

Sir Keir abandoned an effort to scrap the “one member, one vote” system that saw Jeremy Corbyn twice elected to the Labour leadership.

But he has managed to put a revised shake-up of Labour’s rules to a vote at the Brighton conference, with a vote expected on Sunday.

Critics have accused Sir Keir of an attempt to shut out Labour’s membership and its left wing from future leadership elections, with allies of Mr Corbyn urging conference attendees to reject even the leader’s watered-down plans.

But Sir Keir said, if approved, his plans would put Labour “in a better position to win the next general election”.

The row threatens to continue to overshadow the beginning of Labour’s gathering in Brighton.

Sir Keir’s first in-person conference as party leader has been billed as hugely important to his hopes of shaking off critics and offering evidence that he can lead them to victory at the next general election.

A focus has also once again been thrust on Sir Keir’s relationship with his deputy, Angela Rayner, after she used an eve of conference newspaper interview to confirm she would be willing to stand as a leadership candidate in the future.

But there were signs that Sir Keir should be confident of asserting his authority at the Brighton conference by having his rules shake-up approved on Sunday.

Labour’s general secretary David Evans challenged his critics by calling a vote on his own position on Saturday, which he subsequently won by 59.05% to 40.95% to suggest Sir Keir and his allies maintain the majority support of delegates in Brighton.

This was despite Mr Evans facing heckles of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn!” as he asked members why they joined the party in his conference address.

Away from the internal party tensions at Brighton, Sir Keir and Labour shadow ministers will seek to use Sunday to focus on education and climate policies.

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In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, Sir Keir reiterated Labour’s pledge – which was also made in the party’s 2019 election manifesto – to end the charitable tax status of private schools in England.

It is calculated this could raise as much as £1.7bn in extra VAT and business rates revenues, which Labour would intend to use to boost funding for state school pupils.

“Labour wants every parent to be able to send their child to a great state school,” Sir Keir said.

“But improving them to benefit everyone costs money. That’s why we can’t justify continued charitable status for private schools.”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture date: Saturday September 25, 2021. Image: Sir Keir’s deputy, Angela Rayner, has confirmed her willingness to stand in a future leadership election

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband will use a conference speech on Sunday to announce that Labour would invest up to £3bn over the coming decade to make the steel industry greener.

Calling on Labour to become the “party of climate and economic justice”, Mr Miliband is expected to say: “As we respond to the climate crisis with all the transformation that entails, we have a fateful choice to make: We can try and put a green coat of paint on an unfair, unequal, unjust Britain.

“Or we can make a different choice. For a green Britain where there is an irreversible shift of income, power and wealth to working people.”

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