Labour’s national executive committee has approved the move to double the MP nomination threshold from 10% to 20% in party leadership contests as part of a raft of rule changes put forward by Keir Starmer in a key meeting today.
LabourList understands that half of UNISON abstained on the rule changes and its delegates will be advised to do so on the conference floor. Sources said new general secretary Christina McAnea wanted to avoid internal warfare, as the left has a majority on the Labour Link and executive committees.
NEC sources said 22 voted in favour and 12 against, with one of the two UNISON representatives abstaining. LabourList was also told that it was Angela Eagle who proposed lowering the threshold proposal from 25% to 20%, which Starmer accepted.
It is understood that Angela Rayner had previously proposed an amendment so that the threshold would be 25% but if no woman secured a place on the ballot, the woman with the most nominations would be automatically added to it.
This was not moved to a vote as Angela Eagle then suggested simply lowering the threshold to 20%, which allows up to four leadership candidates to pass the MP nomination stage rather than just three.
It was also proposed by Lara McNeill, the NEC youth rep, that contenders could qualify by either reaching nomination thresholds via MPs, local parties or unions. This amendment was defeated by 22 votes to seven.
Starmer said: “I’m very pleased these party reforms have got the backing of our NEC. These proposals put us in a better position to win the next general election and I hope constituency and trade union delegates will support them when they come to conference floor.”
The rule changes passed by NEC today – which also include 50/50 simple majority trigger ballots, cutting the number of policy motions debated at conference from 20 to 12 and scrapping registered supporters – will be voted on by conference on Sunday.
Delegates will also be asked by the leadership and ruling body to back a rule change that would see a six months freeze date on new members being eligible to vote in future party leadership elections.
Labour NEC member Mish Rahman of Momentum said: “Changing the threshold like this will destroy the right of ordinary people to shape the future of the party. If this rule change passes, Labour will be well on its way to becoming the party of the Westminster elite.
“If the 20% threshold applied to the 2020 leadership election, it would have been a contest between Sir Keir Starmer QC and Sir Keir Starmer QC.”
Under Jeremy Corbyn, the MP nomination threshold was lowered from 15% – as set under Ed Miliband, following the Collins Review and as agreed by a special conference in 2014 – to 10%, making it easier for left candidates to reach the ballot.
The last Labour leadership also increased the number of policy areas debated at conference to 20, allowing ten to be chosen by local party delegates and ten to be picked by affiliates in the priorities ballot.
Starmer is said to want a return to a ‘Warwick-style’ process for establishing what goes in the manifesto. This means policies will be thrashed out at a national policy forum (NPF) meeting a year before the election rather than at ‘Clause V‘.
This is understood not to be a formal rule change. The composition of Labour’s NPF will be put to a conference vote, however, with affiliate trade unions being given more seats on the policy-making body.
LabourList sources also say there is an NEC statement declaring that the body supports setting up a working group to look at future rule changes allowing all political levy payers to have a say in leadership elections.
This was amended by Jackie Baillie, the Scottish Labour representative on the NEC, to say that the working group will look at ways of giving MSPs, MSs and councillors a greater say in the internal Labour contests.