Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has said a report that her supporters are preparing a leadership challenge to Sir Keir Starmer if he loses the Batley & Spen by-election is “news to me.”
MPs have been canvassing support among parliamentary colleagues and trade unions, The Times reported.
She would need the support of 40 MPs — 20 per cent of the parliamentary party — to mount a challenge.
Left-wing MPs have been approached about a possible challenge if Labour’s performance at Thursday’s by-election is poor, the newspaper said.
Rayner herself tweeted on Wednesday night: “The ‘story’ on the front page of @thetimes tomorrow is news to me.”
Sir Keir has already said he will not resign if Labour loses the former seat of Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016.
The Labour leader’s spokesman insisted on Wednesday that he is on a “four-year path” to lead the party back into power and would not be standing down if he oversaw another electoral defeat.
The West Yorkshire constituency has voted Labour since 1997, but there are real concerns within the party that it could be seized by Boris Johnson’s Conservatives on Thursday.
New polling has suggested that as many as four in 10 Labour members would want Sir Keir to stand down and make way for new leadership in the wake of a loss there, with seven in 10 preferring Andy Burnham — despite the Greater Manchester mayor no longer being an MP.
The Batley and Spen by-election was triggered after Tracy Brabin, who won the seat for Labour in 2019 with a 3,525 majority over the Conservatives, was elected as the mayor of West Yorkshire in May.
Labour lost Hartlepool in its traditional heartlands to the Conservatives last month and it also polled poorly in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.
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