Keir Starmer’s favoured party rule changes will not go to the Friday evening meeting of the ruling body as had been expected, after he held a meeting with trade unions that was described by sources as a “car crash”.
The Labour leader wants a return to an electoral college for leadership elections rather than the one-member-one-vote system, changes to make it easier for MPs to get reselected and a cut to the number of policies debated at conference.
The suggestions were not warmly welcomed at a meeting with unions on Wednesday. The latest union gathering today, which started at 5pm, was not successful for Starmer either, as he was grilled by unhappy union general secretaries.
Gary Smith, the new leader of the GMB trade union who was widely expected to be supportive of Starmer’s leadership, asked Starmer whether he was “embarrassed” by Labour’s position on energy, according to a source from the meeting.
Sources also say the GMB general secretary asked whether Starmer knew “how embarrassing it is” for Labour to be pushing for a £10-an-hour minimum wage. His union supports a £15 minimum wage for care workers.
“Even GMB didn’t throw him a lifeline,” another source said of the meeting tonight. “I think he just hacked everyone off. Unravelling the understanding at [Wednesday’s TULO meeting] that this was a longer-term discussion didn’t help.”
Reacting to the rule changes not being brought to the NEC tonight, Momentum co-chair Gaya Sriskanthan said: “Starmer’s attack on democracy is floundering… But it’s not over yet.” She said Momentum would “keep up the pressure” to ensure they are not passed.
Although the proposals will not be going to Labour’s NEC this evening, it has been suggested that the leadership hopes to negotiate overnight and could put the rule changes to the Saturday morning NEC meeting instead.
The NEC is scheduled to meet at 11am on Saturday. Party sources have complained that further discussion of the rule changes could therefore be ongoing through the opening of conference and key speeches at the start.
While the union meetings have gone very badly so far according to LabourList sources, the situation has been described as “very fluid still” and the possibility of Starmer winning over key unions such as Usdaw and UNISON has not been ruled out.