Starmer must “get on board or get out of the way”, Whittome tells Young Labour

Caitlin Prowle

Nadia Whittome, the MP for Nottingham East, has told a Young Labour rally that the Labour leadership should “get on board or get out of the way” after the party reportedly failed to co-operate with Young Labour’s organisers in planning their conference events.

Whittome, who was attending the event this evening as a member of Young Labour as well as Labour’s youngest MP, said that the party’s support “should not be conditional on toeing the line” and that young members are “not just foot soldiers”. Young members are “showing the so-called grown ups how it’s done”, she told the crowd.

Conflict with the leadership “wasn’t a war that we wanted”, Young Labour chair Jess Barnard told the rally. She condemned the party for “shying away from addressing racism and transphobia in its own ranks” and promised that Young Labour would continue to “call out the Labour leadership while it shies away”.

The Labour Party recently apologised to Barnard after she was issued a notice of investigation relating to anti-transphobia tweets. The party said the notice was ‘issued in error’ and clarified that she was not in fact being investigated.

John McDonnell, introduced as “the best Chancellor we never had”, condemned the “fucking desertion” of left-wing members “walking away from the fight” in leaving the Labour Party following Keir Starmer’s election as leader. He encouraged the rally to fight to “bring this purge to a disgraceful end” – a purge that he said was intended “not only to ditch the left but to stitch up this conference”.

McDonnell also claimed to be waiting for his own exclusion letter, which he said would “probably come tomorrow” after his association with Young Labour.

The former Shadow Chancellor also claimed that “Angie Rayner wanted the publicity” for policies developed under the last Labour leadership after she announced ‘fair pay agreements’ policy today. He paid tribute to Andy McDonald MP and others and suggested they deserved the credit.

Angela Rayner launched the employment rights green paper as part of her conference speech this afternoon. She thanked Andy McDonald, as well as shadow minister Imran Hussain for “the work that has gone into producing our most detailed set of policies to date”.

A spokesperson for Rayner told LabourList: “Angela was a minimum wage care worker and a shop steward when she first started campaigning for fair pay agreements and strengthen rights at work. John McDonnell is welcome to his view.”

Barnard told attendees that the rally was eventually paid for by Unite in a room away from the conference venue so that Jeremy Corbyn could attend and speak, after a party source allegedly told Young Labour that the former leader would not be allowed to attend.

Referring to Starmer’s plans to cut the number of motions debated at conference from 20 to 12, Corbyn told the rally that “democratic discussion and debate takes time and sometimes drives us around the bend” but is a prerequisite for building consensus.

Several speakers condemned the leadership’s idea of scrapping the one-member-one-vote system and introducing an electoral college, which were abandoned today. The original proposal was characterised as “tragic naval gazing” by Richard Burgon. He called on Labour to show “dignity” and “backbone”.

Other speakers included Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Young Labour’s motion on “solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle” was today selected as one of 20 priority ballots to be debated at conference.

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