Keir Starmer should ‘seek another mandate’ from membership if he fails to honour leadership pledges

Party’s left bloc accuse Labour leadership of being ‘missing in action’ and ‘waging war on left’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 28 September 2021 23:29
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<p>Jeremy Corbyn addresses an audience at a fringe event for political festival The World Transformed on the fourth day of the Labour conference </p>

Jeremy Corbyn addresses an audience at a fringe event for political festival The World Transformed on the fourth day of the Labour conference

Sir Keir Starmer should go back to the Labour membership and seek a new “mandate” if he fails to honour pledges made during the leadership contest, a former shadow cabinet minister has said.

The message from Andy McDonald, who quit the frontbench on Monday, came as a series of MPs from the party’s left bloc stood up at a rally on Wednesday evening to criticise the leadership, with one accusing Sir Keir of “waging war on the left”.

On the evening before the Labour leader’s first major in-person address to party delegates, another left-wing MP described the conference as “goddamn awful” while a third claimed the leadership was “missing in action” as the country faced a series of crises.

The rally — hosted by The World Transformed on the fringes of the conference — included John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and Zarah Sultana alongside other MPs from the parliamentary Socialist Campaign Group.

The event underscored the widening divisions between the left and Sir Keir’s leadership, with rows erupting at Labour’s annual conference over the party’s rulebook, concerns the leader is backtracking on key pledges he set out before succeeding Mr Corbyn in 2020, and the resignation of a shadow minister with a withering attack on Sir Keir.

On the penultimate day of the conference, the left-wing bakers’ union also disaffiliated from Labour — a move described by Ms Long-Bailey at the rally on Wednesday as a “very dark day” for the party.

In a message read out to activists, Mr McDonald, who quit the frontbench on Monday over a campaign to introduce a £15-per-hour national minimum wage, reiterated his criticisms, but also suggested Sir Keir should face the membership again.

“My message to Keir is that he must return to the 10 pledges on which he was elected to the leadership by Labour members. Comrades, if he fails to do so, he should go back to the membership to seek another democratic mandate,” he said.

“If the leader has any respect for democracy and for our members, I call on him to honour to the decision conference took this afternoon for a £15 an hour national minimum wage.”

In remarks that received a rapturous applause from activists, Richard Burgon, a key member of Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, also said the Labour leadership was “missing in action” — despite the country facing a crisis on multiple fronts.

Referring to the changes to the rules on future leadership contests, he went on: “The best the Labour leadership could come up with was bloody rule changes. It ended in the grotesque chaos of a Labour leader — a Labour leader — scurrying around Brighton trying to draft the terms of his own redundancy.”

The MP added: “The rumours of the death of the Labour left are somewhat exaggerated. The Labour left will again one day win a leadership election.”

In his own speech on Wednesday evening at The World Transformed, Mr Corbyn said he was “so depressed” time had been set aside at conference to discuss a rule change “that nobody wanted, nobody asked for, and nobody demanded”.

In scathing remarks, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP said: “It has been a goddamn awful conference with a goddamn awful leadership. 

“The problem is he [Sir Keir] might a very nice man, but he is not a politician for the Labour Party,” he added.

“No politician worth their salt would wench the whole of conference to try and introduce rule changes like they did. No politician worth their salt would wage an internal war on a party when we have one of the worst governments in history.”

And in a message directly aimed at the leadership, Zarah Sultana, a member of Labour’s 2019 intake, said: “Instead of waging war on the left, instead of purging members, provide real opposition to the Tories – do your job.”

A second member of the 2019 intake, Nadia Whittome, said some delegates will be leaving conference “demoralised” with the left “facing huge attacks” and democracy in the party being “undermined”.

But she added: “To those of you who feel like leaving the party, I urge please you to stay. This the long game. The right of the party want you to leave, don’t play into their hands.”

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