Sadiq Khan refuses to back Keir Starmer over Labour leadership rules

Party leader has failed to win union support for plan to end one member, one vote system

Adam Forrest
Thursday 23 September 2021 11:11
<p>London Mayor Sadiq Khan</p>

London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has refused to back Sir Keir Starmer’s plan to end the one member, one vote system which elected Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Labour mayor was asked three times if he supported Sir Keir’s proposal to replace existing rules with a return to an electoral college system, which would give MPs and unions a much greater say.

But Mr Khan three times spurned the chance to back the party leader. “I’ve got to be frank, as the mayor of London, internal party rules isn’t at the fore of my mind,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The senior Labour figure said he had not had “a chance to look into the changes being considered” and repeated that the plan was “not at the fore of my mind as mayor”.

Sir Keir’s efforts to change the leadership rules have sparked another internal dispute after failing to secure union support ahead the party’s conference in Brighton, which starts on Saturday.

The Independent understands union leaders do not want the proposal to go to a vote at the party conference, while left-wing grassroots group Momentum warned it could “mark the start of a civil war in the party”.

Unite’s new general secretary Sharon Graham has urged Sir Keir to “think again” – calling the proposed changes “unfair, undemocratic and a backwards step”.

Under Sir Keir’s plan, Labour members would only get a third of the votes in future leadership contests, while Labour MPs and the unions would also be given a third of the vote.

Despite pressure to delay the proposal until after the conference, the Labour leader is said to be considering putting his idea to the party’s governing body on Friday.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a leading figure in the Corbyn era, accused Sir Keir of focusing on “internal factional pursuits” in a bid to give the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) more power.

The attacks come as Sir Keir said set out his vision for Labour to be “Britain’s bricks and mortar” in an 11,500-word essay for the Fabian Society published on Wednesday night.

The response has been mixed. Commentator Rafael Behr said the document was “a necklace of platitudes strung together with banalities, fastened with cliche,” but former Gordon Brown adviser Theo Bertram said it had “substance and significance”.

Labour frontbencher Lucy Powell called it a “well-written, compelling read”, but Mr McDonnell told The Independent the lengthy pamphlet was filled with “platitudes” and did not have any information on “what a Labour government would actually do.”

Oliver Dowden, Conservative Party co-chairman, said: “If this is Starmer’s ‘big vision’ then he should have gone to Specsavers. Labour are talking to themselves about themselves. They’re all essays and no action.”

Meanwhile, Mr Khan has warned that time is running out to act on the climate emergency, set to have devastating effects on the capital. “We either take bold action now or face the consequences, with catastrophic impacts on our environment,” he will say at a speech on Thursday.

The mayor will launch a London-wide environmental campaign to raise awareness of the crisis and engage Londoners with changes such as the ultra-low emission zone expansion.

It comes as analysis suggests rising temperatures could make the Tube potentially unbearably hot for more than a month a year, while a quarter of London’s rail stations are now at high risk of flooding.

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