Starmer passes EHRC rule changes and internal party reforms at conference

Sienna Rodgers

Keir Starmer has passed both the Equalities and Human Rights Commission rule changes – by 73.64% – and his favoured internal party reforms – the closest result being 53.67% in favour – at Labour conference 2021 tonight.

The results were as follows:

  • EHRC: 73.64% for, 26.36% against (CLP: 64.74% for, 35.26% against; Affiliate: 82.53% for; 17.47% against)
  • Safeguarding and Disciplinary Procedures: 61.59% for, 38.41% against (CLP: 61.88% for, 38.12% against; Affiliate: 61.30% for; 38.70% against)
  • Party Conference: 56.12% for, 43.88% against (CLP: 50.84% for, 49.16% against; Affiliate: 61.40% for; 38.60% against)
  • Getting Labour Election Ready: 53.67% for, 46.33% against (CLP: 47.14% for, 52.86% against; Affiliate: 60.20% for; 39.80% against)

Reacting to the news, the Labour leader said: “I’m delighted that these vital reforms have passed. They represent a major step forward in our efforts to face the public and win the next general election.

“This is a decisive and important day in the history of the Labour Party. I promised to tackle antisemitism in our party. We’ve now closed the door on a shameful chapter in our history. I want to acknowledge the courage of all the people who spoke up against it.

“As I promised when elected as leader, the Labour Party is now relentlessly focused on the concerns of the British people and offering them a credible, ambitious alternative to this government.

“This is a crucial step forward for party I lead and am determined to see in government. And in the coming days you’ll hear us set out ideas on how we win the next election.”

A Labour source close to the leader said: “When everyone was saying Keir shouldn’t do this and refusing to back him, he pressed on and changed the party. Deserves some serious respect.”

Conference delegates were told ahead of the card vote this evening that the Labour Party had the chance to “finally turn the page on the blight of antisemitism that has infected our party” by passing the EHRC rule changes.

Corbynite group Momentum urged delegates to vote against the EHRC rule changes, namely a new disciplinary process with independent oversight. LabourList understands that Unite the Union abstained on the reforms.

Addressing conference as it considered the changes recommended for approval by the national executive committee (NEC), former Labour MP Ruth Smeeth urged those present to back them.

“If you’re an anti-racist, if you believe in equality and if you want the scourge of antisemitism to be removed from our party, then you have to vote for these rule changes,” the ex-MP for Stoke-on-Trent North said.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge paid tribute to Keir Starmer today, describing his leadership as a “transformation” and saying that he has shown “by his actions” a determination to “root out this poisonous ideology from our Labour Party”.

Labour’s ruling national executive committee earlier this month passed the constitutional amendments that were legally mandated by the EHRC, allowing the proposals to be sent to party conference.

The new process will apply to all complaints about antisemitism, Islamophobia, other forms of racism, sexual harassment, and discrimination on the grounds of disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership.

Momentum, Unite the Union and smaller left-wing unions all voted against Starmer’s other rule changes today, including a reform to increase the nomination threshold in leadership elections from 10% to 20% of Labour MPs.

Although the leadership’s meetings with trade unions had not gone well over the past week according to numerous sources, UNISON voted in favour. The decision was made despite a suggestion on Saturday that the UNISON delegation would abstain.

The reforms will make it easier for sitting MPs to be automatically reselected by their local parties before a general election, as the trigger ballot threshold has been increased from a third of either local party or affiliate branches to more than 50% of branches in an electoral college.

Starmer has also cut the number of policy motions debated at annual party conference from 20 to 12, and his reforms have scrapped registered supporters – a measure introduced under Ed Miliband at a special conference in 2014.

Before the EHRC result was announced, Jewish Labour Movement chair Mike Katz said: “Passing this rule change is a moral, legal and political imperative for Labour.

“An independent disciplinary system was mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission following its report that the party broke equalities law and discriminated against its Jewish members. It’s essential if Labour is to rebuild its relationship with the Jewish community and its wider reputation as a tolerant, anti-racist party.

“From day one Keir Starmer has shown the real leadership Jeremy Corbyn never did, in taking concrete steps to tackle anti-Jewish racism, including supporting JLM in delivering training.

“But passing this rule change alone is not enough to detoxify party culture. The reaction by some both inside and outside Conference today shows there is still a huge amount of work to do for Labour to become a truly safe and welcome space for Jewish people.”

Responding to the results tonight, Labour NEC member and Labour First secretary Luke Akehurst said: “This extraordinary win shows Labour is rapidly putting the Corbyn years behind it.

“The party will not be saddled with leaders with no parliamentary support, with a trigger system that forced MPs to look over their shoulder for fear of being deselected, and with the danger of committed Labour members being out voted in a leadership election by £3 easy come easy go registered supporters.”

A Momentum spokesperson said: “This is a needless self-inflicted blow to democracy in our party, delivered against the opposition of Labour members. 

A substantial majority of the CLP section at conference voted against this rule change, but it was UNISON’s delegation breaking their own policy that swung it for the leadership and the Labour right.

“But we have won big on policy today – from a Socialist Green New Deal to an ambitious council house building programme, and we will build the pressure on Starmer to force him to take up these vital demands from below.”

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