After a difficult week, Keir Starmer will have felt like he had a good first day of conference. His electoral college proposal fell away, as LabourList said it might do because there was not nearly enough preparation beforehand and the details were too complicated to iron out in just a few days. But Starmer still got a bold package of rule changes through the ruling national executive committee (NEC), which voted by 22 to 12 in favour of increasing the MP nomination threshold in leadership elections from 10% to 20%, making it more difficult for a Corbynite with limited support among colleagues to reach the ballot. For a full account of the meeting and the NEC changes to be voted on today, read my write-up.
Evans called a card vote on his own appointment as general secretary (which is unprecedented) and was approved by 59% to 41% of delegates – a relief for the leadership. Momentum is somewhat cheerful, though. The expectation was that the NEC rule changes put to conference yesterday would all pass and the CLP ones would all be rejected. That was nearly the case, but one CLP resolution, on ‘snap parliamentary election candidate selections’, was carried, with CLP delegates voting around 62% for and 38% against and affiliates voting around 44% for and 56% against. It means selections in by-elections and snap general elections must be controlled by local parties, rather than the NEC.
The truth, acknowledged on both sides of the factional divide, is that a lot of delegates here are not intensely factional. A sizable number don’t follow the recommendations of Labour to Win, CLPD or Momentum, and can be swayed either way by speeches from the floor. We always knew there would be a squidgy middle in Brighton, but it’s bigger than anticipated. So far, the pro-leadership vote among local party delegates has swung from a low 38% to a high of 64%. Seven of the policy motions prioritised by local parties were Momentum’s, while four were Labour to Win’s.
Insiders believe that while the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) rule changes will go through today – despite Momentum instructing delegates to vote against them – there are two key determinants of what happens with the leadership election, trigger ballot and other proposals. The first is the quality of the speeches. The second is whether the UNISON delegation abstains, as we were told they would yesterday, or aligns with the leadership after seeing how finely balanced votes this year can be.
If you missed the Sunday shows this morning, both Starmer and Rayner were on and there were lots of news lines from the interviews. Do check out our round-up. And if you’re in Brighton, do come to our conference events today. We’re kicking off at 12.30pm with the panel ‘Socialism wins: Why Labour needs to go bold’, where Survation’s Carl Shoben will be unveiling exclusive polling. From 3pm, we have ‘How many more? Time for an effective response to violence against women and girls’, with experts and Labour frontbenchers talking about how to respond. And finally, our rally ‘LabourList and Unite rally: Rebuilding Post-Covid’ starting at 5.30pm is jam-packed with top Labour speakers including Angela Rayner, Sadiq Khan, Mark Drakeford and many more. All three events will be in the Ambassador Room, Hilton Brighton Metropole. See you there. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.