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Labour Leaders Drop Party Rule Changes After ‘Car Crash’ Meeting With Trade Unions

© REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAYBritain's Labour Party holds annual conference, in Brighton
Britain's Labour Party holds annual conference, in Brighton - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.09.2021
Trouble has been brewing for weeks in the run-up to the Labour Party's annual conference, with unions opposing rule changes pushed by the leadership and the left wing up in arms about the purge of several factions.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has got his party conference off to a rocky start in Brighton after he was forced to drop some of his planned rule changes.
The first face-to-face Labour conference since Starmer took the helm in April 2020 kicked of in the Sussex coastal city on Saturday morning — hours after a "car crash" meeting between the leadership and affiliated trade unions.
Friday night's Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation (TULO) pre-conference meeting was marked by angry exchanges, Labour List editor Sienna Rodgers reported.
GMB general secretary Gary Smith, whose union has members in the fossil fuels industry, asked Starmer if he felt "embarrassed" by the party's green energy policy, one source said. Smith said it was also "embarrassing" to hear Stramer pledging a £10-per-hour minimum wage if Labour wins the next election, when GMB is demanding £15 for care workers.
The assembled union general-secretaries also reportedly blocked Starmer's move to end the one member, one vote system for electing party leaders introduced under former leader Ed Miliband in the 2010s. The leader wanted to go back to the electoral college system where the membership, unions and the party's MPs — currently numbering 199 — each get a third of the say.
"The electoral college is dead," said Mish Rahman, a member of the party National Executive Committee from the left-wing faction Momentum. "The central measure of Keir Starmer’s attack on democracy has comprehensively failed."
A compromise has reportedly been reached where the electoral college will be dropped, but the proportion of MPs whose backing a candidate needs to get on the leadership ballot will rise from 10 per cent to 20 — short of Starmer's goal of 25 per cent.
Britain’s Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer arrives at the Houses of Parliament - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.09.2021
Weak, Boring and Out-of-Touch: Labour Leader Panned by Voters on Eve of Conference
Former leader Jeremy Corbyn — who Starmer suspended from the party and the Parliamentary whip last year — got onto the ballot in 2015 with the nominations of 36 fellow MPs, some 16 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party at the time, but won almost 60 per cent of the vote from ordinary members.
The unions have also won a return to the "Warwick" process where a National Policy Forum meeting between them and the leadership is held before general elections to agree on the party's manifesto.
But Starmer won on the issue of raising the 'trigger ballot' threshold for constituency branches to deselect sitting MPs as election candidates to 50 per cent, up from the one-third level it was lowered to under Corbyn's leadership.
The US-style system of allowing non-members to pay and register as 'supporters' with the right to vote only in leadership elections will be dropped, and new members will have to pay their dues for six months before they can vote.
The limit on the number of motions allowed for debate at conference will also be reduced from 20 to 12 — although the leadership wanted to drop it to eight.

New Dawn?

Starmer was effusive as he arrived at the Brighton Centre on the seafront, buoyed up by seeing two petrol stations closed and another with long queues on the way there.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner tried to downplay the reported divisions and brush off Sky News correspondent Joe Pike's suggestion that her boss had been left looking "weak" by the row the night before.
Starmer still faces a tough time on other issues at conference, with left-wingers pushing for Corbyn's reinstatement — although they failed to block the approval of acting party general secretary David Evans on Saturday afternoon.
The ongoing battle between feminist and transsexual groups is also set to rear its head again after MP Rosie Duffield pulled out of attending after receiving death threats for her insistence that only biological adult female human beings can be called women.
And a special congress of food workers' union BFAWU will vote on whether to disaffiliate from the Labour over the potential expulsion of its president Ian Hodson from the party over his association with the recently-banned Labour Against the Witch-Hunt faction.
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