Labour left accuses Starmer of 'grubby stitch-up' of party rules

Labour leftwingers accuse Keir Starmer of ‘dishonesty’ over ‘grubby stitch-up’ of rules for leadership elections – as new Unite union boss says she WON’T attend party conference because she is focusing on her ‘day job’

  • Sir Keir wants to scrap the current ‘one member, one vote’ system 
  • Would be replaced by version of the electoral college system previously used
  • Unions, MPs and party members would be  responsible for one third of the result
  • John McDonnell said Sir Keir leaving himself open to accusations of ‘dishonesty’
  • OMOV helped Jeremy Corbyn win and keep hold of leadership with left votes 

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Labour leader Keir Starmer of a ‘grubby stitch-up’ today as his plan to reform the way the party leader is chosen boiled over into factional infighting.

Mr McDonnell, a hardliner close to former leader Jeremy Corbyn, said his successor was leaving himself open to accusations of ‘dishonesty’ over changes that have provoked left-wing fury.

Sir Keir wants to scrap the current ‘one member, one vote’ system and replace it with a version of the electoral college system which was previously used by the party. 

The proposals would see a return to trade unions, MPs and party members being split into respective categories, with each being responsible for one third of the result.

But speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programe today, Mr McDonnell said the changes were a ‘huge mistake’.

‘Keir was only elected 18 months ago and he was elected by those people and he never mentioned any of these reforms in that election itself and I think he is opening himself up to charges of dishonesty,’ he said.

‘What he should be doing is have a proper consultation – he can’t just bounce this through.

‘Look at the contrast in the media. You have Boris Johnson strutting the world stage, doing deals with (Joe) Biden and other world leaders, what do we have the Labour leader in grubby stitch up deals…it’s unacceptable.’

The row has blown up just days ahead of the party’s annual conference in Brighton, with Sir Keir also handed another blow today when new Unite union boss said she would not be attending.

Sharon Graham, recently elected general secretary of the hard left-leaning union, said current industrial disputes will have to take priority. 

Sir Keir wants to scrap the current ‘one member, one vote’ system and replace it with a version of the electoral college system which was previously used by the party.

Mr McDonnell, a hardliner close to former leader Jeremy Corbyn, said his successor was leaving himself open to accusations of ‘dishonesty’ over changes that have provoked left-wing fury.

The row has blown up just days ahead of the party’s annual conference in Brighton, with Sir Keir also handed another blow today when new Unite union Sharon Graham said she would not be attending

The shake-up was immediately condemned by left-wing party activists who have accused Sir Keir of launching a ‘bureaucratic attack’ and vowed to fight the move. 

Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir’s predecessor as leader who currently sits as an independent MP, labelled the proposed changes ‘deeply undemocratic’. 

The ‘one member, one vote’ system was instrumental in Mr Corbyn winning the party leadership in 2015 and then winning the subsequent leadership challenge against him in 2016 as left-wing activists rallied behind him to keep him in power.  

Sir Keir briefed the shadow cabinet on his plans yesterday and will set them out to trade union leaders at a meeting this afternoon.

The Labour leader is understood to favour the three parts of the electoral college having an equal share of the vote.

Although the changes will be presented to unions as an attempt to bolster their position, Unite – Labour’s biggest donor – is opposed to the move.

Ms Graham has written to Labour MPs saying the proposal to ditch the OMOV system introduced in 2014 was ‘deeply disappointing’.

She confirmed last night she was not attending conference, which starts on Sunday and is Sir Keir’s first as leader. 

She said: “From day one of the general secretary election campaign I said I wanted the union to get back to what it says on the trade union tin, fighting for jobs, pay and conditions.

“That is what I am doing now. My members in dispute must be my first priority”.

Ms Graham stressed her decision was not a snub to Sir Keir, saying: ‘I am literally only four weeks into my leadership and my job has to be focused on defending workers.

‘I had a useful meeting with Keir earlier this week and told him it was unlikely I would be at conference.

‘I said I would be doing the day job to try to make sure workers don’t pay the price of the pandemic.

Unite has more more than 20 ongoing industrial disputes, involving firms including Tesco and Weetabix. 

The Unite delegation at Labour conference will be led by its executive council chairman, Tony Woodhouse and national political lead, Rob MacGregor. 

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