Tom Harwood: What is the Labour Party up to?

Tom Harwood: What is the Labour Party up to?
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Tom Harwood

By Tom Harwood

Published: 27/09/2021

- 09:50

Updated: 27/09/2021

- 10:31

'The constitutional wrangling this week points to a view that Starmer is not going to win the next election'

Focusing on changes to the way the next party leader will be elected is a strange priority for a relatively new leader's first in-person Party Conference.

Huge amounts of political capital has been spilled on making it harder for the Corbynite left of the party to capture the leadership once Sir Keir moves on.

Why is that?

These are not the moves of a campaign that is entirely happy with the leader it has as things stand.

There are whispers here on the floor of the Labour Party Conference, quiet conversations in the evenings, quiet but real - that those around Sir Keir Starmer have a little more than half an eye on what may be coming next.

The rumour is that many in the Leader's circle view him as a transitional candidate. A means to an end. A vehicle to change the Party's structure. And then to be discarded.

Starmer himself stood to be leader on a decidedly left wing platform. He backed mass nationalisation of rail, mail, energy companies, and water. He promised to defend Jeremy Corbyn's legacy.

Yet months later the nationalisation pledges were ditched, and Corbyn himself was booted from the party.

Starmer himself has decidedly left wing credentials. As a radical lawyer he was certainly on the left of the party. It is hard to know whether where he stands now is a genuine conversion, attempted expediency, or just a lack of conviction.

What certainly is true is that pulling this kind of bait and switch leaves him open to many Tory attacks.

The constitutional wrangling this week points to a view that Starmer is not going to win the next election.

Instead his leadership represents a vehicle for internal reform, clearing the path for a true candidate of the Labour right to take his place.

Clearly there are those around Starmer who believe in his personal mission. But clearly there are those who are looking towards what comes next.

And in the corridors of this conference venue, people are certainly talking about who is next.

The nomination threshold rising - as was voted for yesterday - gives huge power to a small number in the Parliamentary Labour Party to engineer the next leadership election.

And tweaks like these may end up, unwittingly, being Starmer's biggest legacy.

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