It’s not that Boris Johnson’s Tory administration is having an especially easy time of it – energy bills are rising and a restrictive post-Brexit immigration policy has exacerbated labor shortages, fueling shortages and raising food concerns. But this year’s Labor Party conference in Brighton showed a party still in the middle of a civil war. Starmer was unable to overthrow left-wing Corbynites, but he was also unwilling to make peace with them and unite his party.
The stalemate in Brighton
Elected after Labor’s defeat in December 2019, Starmer suffered an initial humiliation here after failing to win the OMOV party’s leadership elections in favor of a return to an electoral college in which Members, trade unions, and Labor MPs each provide a third of the vote. OMOV was launched by former leader Ed Miliband to modernize the party, but the changes opened the door to membership growth that sparked the resounding election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader in 2015. This, of course, was never popular with Labor MPs.
Starmer’s meeting last week with the Union-to-Workers’ Party Liaison Organization (TULO) – the body that connects Labor affiliates to their political leadership – was described by The independent one as a “car accident”.
A union source described how Dave Ward, the left general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, asked Starmer if TULO chairman Mick Whelan – a socialist who leads the train drivers’ union – had been consulted on the proposed rule changes to the leadership. Starmer informed the room that Whelan had been involved in negotiations, whereupon Whelan declined the Labor leader’s microphone and informed the meeting that he, Whelan, had not been consulted at all. This set the tone for a divided and ultimately very damaging meeting in which the electoral college’s proposal was thrown out.
However, the conference as a whole has passed reforms that would make it more difficult to trigger democratic primaries against incumbent Labor MPs, as well as reducing the number of nominations MPs must secure before entering a leadership contest, down from 10 percent (the number below Corbyn) to 20 percent. Given the current composition of the parliamentary party, it is difficult to imagine that another Jeremy Corbyn could overcome this hurdle – a victory, undoubtedly for Starmer, who leaves the Labor party again, leaves little reason to support his project.