Ed Miliband is to move to get rid of underperforming members of his Shadow Cabinet by asking the Labour MPs to revoke their historic power to elect the party's top team.
Mr Miliband will ask the party's conference in September to vote on reforms which would allow him to choose the Shadow Cabinet. Labour's MPs will also be given a vote on the issue.
Mr Miliband is thought to be unhappy with the performance of some of his senior spokesmen, who he feels have failed to adjust to the politics of opposition.
Among those criticised by some backbenchers for underperforming are Caroline Flint, shadow Local Government Secretary; John Healey, shadow Health Secretary; and Maria Eagle, shadow Transport Secretary.
Last night Labour sources insisted that the move was not about Mr Miliband trying to assert more control over his party, but about ending the "distracting cycle of Shadow Cabinet elections" which have to take place every two years when Labour is in opposition. When in power, Labour prime ministers have full powers of patronage.
They added that there would not be an "imminent" reshuffle if the measure was passed.
Mr Miliband will make a direct appeal to Labour MPs to support the move on Monday.
A senior Labour source said: "We don't need the distraction of internal elections whilst we have a job to do of holding the Government to account and preparing ourselves for the next election."
Some backbenchers have expressed reservations about what they see as Mr Miliband's lacklustre performance so far, and will not be keen to cede further powers to the leadership. But his advisers will hope that MPs and the wider party would not risk humiliating Mr Miliband by voting against the proposal.
Under Tony Blair, Shadow Cabinet elections were held every year – a process he complained tied his hands over whom he could appoint. It meant he was obliged to give cabinet posts to "old Labour" figures such as Gavin Strang and David Clark after his election victory in 1997, although both were sacked in a cabinet reshuffle the following year.
The rules were changed last September to hold the elections every other year. The 49 MPs who put themselves forward last year spent much of their time at the annual conference in Manchester lobbying for colleagues' support.
"Shadow Cabinet elections are a legacy of Labour's past in opposition and are out of line with modern politics and how we behave in government. Ed wants to sweep this away," said a source.Reuse content