Schrödinger’s sacking: Overshadowed by infighting, Labour wins go uncelebrated

Sienna Rodgers
© Twitter/@Keir_Starmer
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After a devastating defeat in Hartlepool, another heavy one in the Tees Valley mayoral race and council losses across England, the second day of election results offered a mixed bag including some much-needed positives for Labour. In Wales, Mark Drakeford’s party won a working majority. In England, Dan Norris won the West of England mayoralty from the Tories, and Dr Nik Johnson repeated the feat in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Labour also made gains in Worthing. Scottish Labour lost a net total of two seats, but Anas Sarwar concluded that his party is “back on the pitch” as the results could have been much worse.

Although it was declared on Saturday that Liam Byrne had lost in the West Midlands, Sadiq Khan was re-elected in London, Steve Rotheram triumphed in the Liverpool City Region, Andy Burnham won again in Greater Manchester with an increased vote share and Marvin Rees saw off the Greens in Bristol. There is little evidence that Labour is managing to turn against the electoral trends that Keir Starmer has made his mission to reverse, but these successes were definitely worth highlighting. That won’t get much air time, however, because Angela Rayner was sacked.

Just before 7pm, the news emerged that the deputy leader had been sacked as party chair and national campaign coordinator. The move prompted negative reactions from across the party, including MPs generally supportive of Keir Starmer. “Wrong response,” one frontbencher told LabourList, adding that the “kneejerk reaction” suggests “the wrong lessons are being taken”. Members of the national executive committee (NEC) said the leader was risking his majority on the ruling body. MPs on the party’s left spoke out publicly. Andy Burnham tweeted: “I can’t support this.”

There was a certain level of shock because it is widely understood that Rayner was frozen out of the May elections campaign, despite her official title of national coordinator, and yet the move appeared to blame her for the poor results. The optics were bad because Starmer had just promised to take “full responsibility” and because the deputy leader is a working-class woman from the North of England. The timing, with results still coming in, was terrible.

The line being pushed by those sent out to do media rounds today is that Rayner “has not been sacked” and instead been offered a promotion to take her “from the back office to the front office”. Allies of Rayner take a very different view. And across the party, people are wondering why the move was not made at the same time as the broader reshuffle, where the claim that she was being promoted from party chair to another role would have been convincing. It could have been announced properly and presented as one in a set of overall well-received decisions.

There are lots of rumours flying around about who is up and who is down, but we are expected to be told certainties later today and LabourList will report on the changes when things firm up.

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