Labour Party rebels have urged MPs to overthrow Sir Keir Starmer, amid anger over his refusal to overrule the Tories’ two-child benefit cap.
The mutineers, made up of a group of former advisers who worked for Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn, spied Ed Miliband as a fitting figurehead to save the party from drifting towards conservatism.
Though the rebels had touted Miliband as the man who could safeguard the party’s future, the idea is said to have fallen apart when Miliband dismissed the plot as “completely nuts.”
A source close to Miliband told the i: “We wouldn’t give these people the time of day.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband during a visit to the Beatrice wind farm off the Caithness coast on Friday March 24, 2023.
"It’s absolutely bonkers because you could not find someone more loyal to Keir than Ed. It’s completely nuts.”
Nevertheless, the group of Starmer critics remain bullish about their ousting plans.
One ex-adviser told the i: “There’s a group of former very high level Labour staffers and trade unionists deeply worried about Labour’s longer term electoral prospects under Keir because polling shows people are voting against the Tories and not for Labour.”
They added: “Now is the time to force him out before disaster strikes. The group is deadly serious”.
Sir Keir Starmer with Angela Rayner and Keir Mather, Labour candidate for Selby at Selby Community Centre, during a visit ahead of the Selby by-election.
Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Sir Keir has alienated parts of his party in confirming to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that Labour was “not changing” the controversial two-child cap, despite his shadow ministers criticising it for increasing child poverty.
The interview prompted a social media trend referring to the Labour Party leader as ‘Sir Kid Starver,' and led to deputy leader Angela Rayner facing backlash from backbenchers at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday night.
The conspirators told the i that this had been the “last straw” for them.
One said: “There is a view that it’s necessary to approach a senior figure – most obviously Ed Miliband – to press for a leadership challenge to change course. Despite the poll lead, it is not at all obvious that Keir Starmer would win a Labour leadership election if there was a challenge.
“There is a lot of discontent and the two child cap has helped crystallised it. There’s a number of former Labour advisers who think the current course being set for a Labour government is disastrous.
“Keir’s leadership is setting up a continued squeeze on pay, and letting fiscal rules block or hold back substantial change. That will be a disaster in government, a wasted opportunity, and may open the door to a backlash and the rise of very unpleasant right wing forces.”
Despite the vocal criticism, the Shadow Cabinet meeting on Tuesday is said to have gone smoothly for Sir Keir, with not a single minister condemning the party line.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy Labour Party leader Angela Rayner travel by train from London to Selby to campaign for the upcoming by-election.
Starmer told the Shadow Cabinet: “Tough choices give us the platform and the permission to have a bold reforming Labour government that can do those things, raising living standards, investing in public services, tackling child poverty.”
He added: “It’s vital to us being able to do what we need to do in government and getting over the line. Simply saying we’re a bold reforming government doesn’t deliver us a bold reforming government – otherwise we’d have had Labour governments permanently.”
Starmer is said to have found an especially loyal cheerleader in Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, who supported the leader's reminder that every policy needed to be fully costed.
Less impressed, Labour MP Stella Creasy became the latest backbencher to criticise the two-child benefit cap, citing studies that suggested the cap was “costing more than it was saving,: for it deterred parents from getting into work.
For Starmer to be dethroned, Labour rules require 20 per cent of the Parliamentary Party to launch any coup, which equates to 39 MPs.