Early evening summary
- Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, has said that it is the wrong time to be changing the party’s leadership election rules. He made the comment in an interview with the BBC (see 6.09pm) as the changes, which would require leadership candidates to have the support of 20% of MPs, instead of 10% as now, were being debated by delegates. A card vote was taken, and the results will be announced later, but Unison is backing the changes, which should significantly boost their chances of being passed. (See 3.41pm.) A win would go some way towards compensating Sir Keir Starmer for the humiliation of having to ditch a more significant part of his original proposal – a return to the original electoral college, under which MPs get a third of the votes in leadership contests. All aspects of his plan have been opposed by the left, which sees them as moves that would prevent the election of another Jeremy Corbyn-type candidate.
- Starmer has said a Labour government would not seek to nationalise the big six energy companies, apparently ditching a leadership campaign pledge to “support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water”. He made the comment in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr. See 11.01am. A few hours after the interview, delegates voted for a green new deal motion backing “public ownership of energy including energy companies”, but Starmer’s aides have indicated that he is willing to ignore this when drafting the next manifesto.
- Starmer has expressed his disapproval of his deputy, Angela Rayner, calling the Tories “scum” – but he did not directly call for her to apologise. (See 11.00am.)
- Sajid Javid, the Tory health secretary, has claimed that Starmer is not fit to run the NHS because, in response to a question about trans rights, Starmer said it was not right to say that only women have a cervix. (See 3.27pm.)
- Labour is spending more than £2m on legal fees every year in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, a senior party official has claimed.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has been speaking at a Labour fringe. As my colleague Rowena Mason reports, he has been setting out his own policy agenda.
Delegates held a card vote on the party rule changes. They have been divided into four parts, all subject to a separate vote: the EHRC-related changes; other disciplinary changes; party conference changes; and “Getting Labour election ready”, the term used to describe the changes to the leadership election rules.
It takes a while to count card votes, and so the results are not expected to be known until later tonight.
The main conference proceedings have now wrapped up for the day.
In the conference delegates have voted by hand for a national executive committee statement calling for the creation of an NEC working group to look at future changes to the party rules.
This is all that survives of the original plan to get rid of the electoral college. The statement says:
As part of the NEC’s key function to win elections and maintain the support of voters, the NEC supports the establishment of an NEC working group to look at future amendments that may be made to the party’s rules so that political levy members may have a say in the party as it delivers on winning the next election and considers how to involve Labour elected members from the Scottish parliament, the Senedd and local government. As part of its work, the NEC working group will also consider methods of promoting diversity and representation, including ensuring women’s representation in any election.
Andy Burnham says it is 'wrong time' to change leadership election rules
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has told the BBC that he does not favour the leadership election changes, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reports.
Shabana Mahmood, the national campaign coordinator, is wrapping up the debate.
She says the leadership election rules changes are “a strong package of reforms that will better connect us with working people”.
She says they will ensure that any candidate has a sufficient basis of support in the party.
If you cannot persuade one fifth of MPs to make you a leadership candidate, “then you will struggle to persuade the people of this country to make you their prime minister,” she says.
Addressing the concerns about the impact of these changes on diversity, she says
As an ethnic minority MP, she says the MPs subject to trigger ballots under the old system were women.
She also says she objects to the idea that MPs are not similar to members.
And she says more than half of Labour MPs are now female. The idea that they will only deliver candidates who are male, pale and stale is wrong, she says.
She says she regrets that she had to spend the summer of 2019 fighting a reselection battle. She would have preferred to spend the summer talking to voters, she says.
The Unite union will not be voting on the leadership election rule changes, it has confirmed.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, says the FBU will be opposing the leadership election rule changes. He says they privilege MPs, and he says the idea that it will make the party more appealing to voters is unconvincing.
He also said that the unions had not been properly consulted on the change.
James McAsh, a delegate from Camberwell and Peckham, says if the 20% threshold were in place in the 1990s, John Prescott and Margaret Beckett would not have been able to stand for the leadership. Ed Balls, Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham would have been excluded in 2010, he says. And he says if the same rule had applied after the 2019 election defeat, Keir Starmer would have been the only candidate.
He says with this rule change, candidates will be paler, maler and staler.
Back in the debate Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow work and pensions secretary, is defending the plans on behalf of the national executive committee. He says MPs must have the support of their local members. But the current rules mean they can be forced to fight a reselection battle even if most members back them.
And he says lifting the nomination threshold for a leadership candidate to 20% of MPs means a candidate must have the support of around 40 MPs. That is the minimum number needed for a viable shadow cabinet, he says.
Tim Farron, the former Lib Dem leader, says that, although he thinks Angela Rayner is impressive, progressive parties will not win elections if people think they are sanctimonious.
Ian Drummond, a delegate from Edinburgh Eastern, says these changes will bake in everything happening in the party that he opposes. He says he does not believe that anyone is looking at the party and saying, if only it became more democratic, they would be more likely to vote for it.
Helena Dollimore, a delegate from Mitcham and Morden, says Labour is at its best when it is out in the community, not facing inwards.
In 2015 even a Tory MP joined the party to vote for the new leader, under the registered supporters scheme. She says it is time to change that.
She says she was in primary school the last time Labour won an election. These rule changes will put Labour “in pole position” for the next election, she claims.
Dave Ward, general secretary of the CWU union, says it is wrong to say the unions have been consulted about these changes.
He says that if he had been consulted, he would have said they were being “bounced”. He suggests the plans should be postponed.
Wendy Nichols, chair of the national executive committee’s organisation sub-committee, is now opening the debate on the other rule changes, including the ones that relate to leadership elections. These ones are summarised by the leadership with the title “Getting Labour election-ready”.
Shabana Mahmood, the national campaign coordinator, is now summing up for the NEC.
She says this a robust package that addresses the demands of the EHRC. She says it has not been rushed.
There will be no hierarchy of discrimination, she says. All protected characteristics will be covered.
She says the antisemitism problem marked a “shameful period” in the party’s history. They want to ensure no community goes through this pain again, she says.
Back in the hall Judi Billing, a Labour councillor, says she is sick of Jewish members having to sit in the conference hall “feeling tense and scared”, as she has done in recent years. She says she is the daughter of a refugee from Hitler’s Berlin, and she grew up in Paddington with Windrush families. She says that at that time the one thing she knew was that if you wanted to fight racism, you should get involved with Labour.
Covid inquiry will show 'all the things wrong with way this country is run', says Burnham
At a fringe meeting at the Labour conference earlier, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester and a former health secretary, said the promised Covid inquiry would show the need for British society to be “completely rewired”.
He said it would “reveal how our country is run” and show “some of the worst traits of that Whitehall and Westminster system”. He went on:
It will tell you about ministers too close to the private sector, ministers too close to newspapers.
It will tell you about local government being completely disregarded, ridden roughshod over.
It will tell you about the north of England crying out for help, being absolutely brushed aside.
It will tell you all the things that are wrong with the way this country is run.
Britain needs to be completely rewired, there needs to be much more power taken out of Westminster and Whitehall and given to people at the local level, so that the pandemic response could have been run properly from that local level.
Back in the debate Paul Shaverin, a delegate from Enfield Southgate, says there were people at the conference laughing yesterday when antisemitism was mentioned. He says, as a Jew, he had to respond to friends who asked why he remained in the party. He says he wants to be able to go home after this conference and tell them the problem has been solved.
Momentum is urging its supporters to vote against the EHRC-related rule changes, LabourList’s Sienna Rodgers reports.
The Labour MP Ruth Smeeth welcomed the proposed rule changes. She said the racists tried to force Jews out of the Labour party, but they failed. She said:
It breaks my heart that racists thought they had a place in the Labour Party, that Jewish members, usually women, were threatened, abused and bullied every day not by the BNP or the EDL but by those who claimed to share our values.
These racists tried to break Jewish members, to hound us out of our party and to scare us into silence.
Well conference, I have news for them: you failed.
We’re still here, JLM [Jewish Labour Movement] is still here, and today we need to send a message to the vile racists and bullies who thought that our party could become a home for Jew hate.
Margaret Hodge, another MP, said today’s rule changes really matter. They would ensure that never again would the party become a hostile environment for Jews, she said.
In his speech at the end of the transport debate, Jim McMahon, the shadow transport secretary, said his father was a truck driver. He criticised the government for not doing enough to make HGV driving jobs attractive. He said:
The truth is, the Tories have failed to value good working-class jobs. They have failed to invest in those jobs and now we are all paying the price. We have a 90,000 HGV driver shortage, leaving supermarket shelves empty and businesses without vital supplies. And it’s only going to get worse.
Just 3% of the 320,000 drivers in the UK are women. The number of drivers completing their practical HGV test after their theory is dwindling. The transport secretary’s answer? Pile more pressure on already exhausted existing drivers and cut corners on test. It simply isn’t good enough.
This Tory government could and should have done more to attract people to the industry – to value those vital jobs. We’ve warned them – if you don’t act now, shelves will continue to be bare, with medicines not delivered and Christmas ruined for the nation.
Wendy Nichols, chair of the national executive committee’s organisation sub-committee, opens the debate. She says the EHRC found the party had acted unlawfully. And she says the party is legally obliged to implement these changes.
The debate will come in two parts. The first will deal with rule changes being introduced in response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report on antisemitism in the party, and the second will deal with the leadership election rule changes.
In the conference hall, the debate on the leadership election rules changes is about to start. There was a round of applause as Sir Keir Starmer took a seat on the platform.
At the Socialism Wins fringe earlier, John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, claimed that delegates were being turned away from conference because they had been suspended by the party without their knowledge. He said:
What I can’t stand is delegates turning up to come and represent their constituencies and being told that they can’t be allowed in because they hadn’t got the email saying they have been suspended. This is insane.
Joe Stalin would be over the moon about the way we are behaving at the moment.
Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, told Radio 4 earlier that she would not describe Tories as scum. Asked about Angela Rayner’s comment (see 8.43am), Nandy said:
Angela feels very strongly about what this government is doing, I do as well but that’s not the way that I would choose to articulate my anger. The way that I think we best respond to this actually is to prove to the people of this country that we’re an alternative not just an opposition to the government.
John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, has criticised Unison, his union, for its decision to back Sir Keir Starmer in the vote on the changes to the leadership election rules. (See 3.41pm.)
Starmer's chances of winning vote on changes to leadership election rules boosted by Unison backing
Sir Keir Starmer has had a significant boost to his plans to overhaul leadership rules after sources said the Unison delegation had backed the plans.
Momentum had briefed that they believed they could defeat the rule changes – and humiliate Starmer – if Unison abstained in the vote. The trade union has a significant number of votes on the conference floor and had been rumoured to be considering abstention.
Unison had deferred the decision to its delegates, who decided on Sunday afternoon that it would back the changes to both leadership elections and trigger ballots, which are the rules around the deselection of MPs.
Shadow cabinet ministers will be dispatched onto the conference floor this afternoon to personally lobby conference delegates to vote in favour of Starmer’s rule changes.
One shadow cabinet minister said a large number of the Labour party delegates, who represent ordinary members, were persuadable and did not belong to a particular faction.
The conference will vote on rule changes including raising the threshold of MPs required to nominate leadership candidates – the most controversial measure – but also making it harder to deselect MPs and on new disciplinary rules in the wake of the EHRC report into antisemitism.
Speeches are set to begin on the conference floor at around 4pm and votes scheduled for 5.20pm, though results are expected to come later on.
David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, says he had to queue for two hours early this morning to get petrol. He is blaming Brexit.
Jamie Driscoll, the Labour mayor for North of Tyne, has written an article for LabourList saying “there is no route to a Labour government without going big and bold on the green new deal”. He goes on:
Not gestures, but big enough to deal with the problem. Retrofit every home. Zero-carbon, low-cost public transport. A grid powered by 100% clean energy, and a complete replacement of fossil fuels. Matched by the radicalism to devolve this to nations, regions and local authorities around the country.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy has joined other leftwing MPs in urging delegates to vote against the proposed changes to the leadership election rules being debated this afternoon.
McDonnell says Starmer's future of Labour essay 'banality after banality'
John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, took a fresh swipe at the essay on Labour’s future published by Sir Keir Starmer a few days ago, LabourList reports.
UPDATE: Here is McDonnell’s quote.
I have read the 11,500 words. We were told it was 14,000 words - so there is 2,500 missing. That must be where the politics was.
The rest of it is banality after banality. It really is.
My colleague Rowena Mason has more on Piers Corbyn disrupting the event where his own brother was speaking. (See 2.36pm.)
Lucy Powell, the shadow housing secretary, opened the afternoon debate at the conference, on housing and transport. Here are the main points from her speech.
- Powell said Labour was the party of “home-owners and tenants”, while the Tories were “the party of speculators and developers”.
- She claimed that Labour plans to give councils greater power over housing could enable another 100,000 new homes to be built a year. She said:
For too long, speculators and developers have held most of the cards – ducking minimal commitments, extracting huge value from the public for land, and doing too little for first time buyers and local people.
That’s why Labour will give local authorities new powers to buy and develop land for housing, and revitalise town centres, by reforming arcane compensation rules.
This could generate up to 100,000 new homes a year, much of which social and affordable.
- She said Labour would set a new definition of affordable housing, linked to local wages.
- She also said that Labour would promote home ownership, and that “central to this is bold action on restoring the link between wages and housing costs”. But she said little about how this might be achieved.
- She said Labour would stop foreign investors buying up large swathes of new developments. She said:
We will give first time buyers first dibs on new developments, and put an end to the outrageous practise of foreign hedge funds purchasing swathes of new homes, off plan.
- She said Labour would legislate to stop leaseholders having to pay to remove Grenfell-style cladding deemed unsafe.
Jeremy Corbyn’s event has been disrupted by his own brother, Piers, the anti-lockdown campaigner.
The row broke out after Piers Corbyn and another man stood up to try to ask a question. The moderator asked for questions from women and people of colour only, which sparked the male audience member to start shouting, leading to his removal from the room.
Piers Corbyn, wearing a “Resist! Defy!” T-shirt, shouted, accusing the event organisers of assault, while Jeremy Corbyn looked on impassively.
These are from my Observer colleague Sonia Sodha, on how she thinks Sir Keir Starmer should have responded to Andrew Marr’s question this morning about people with a cervix. (See 11.01am.)
These are from my colleague Jessica Elgot, who’s been at the Labour First fringe meeting. Labour First represents what it describes as moderates in the party. Those on the left would call them centrists, rightwingers or Blairites.
Jeremy Corbyn has drawn a crowd of hundreds in a big tent at the World Transformed festival outside Labour conference. Delegates whooped as he laid into main conference – and by implication Keir Starmer – for debating “unnecessary ... rule changes” instead of focusing on the climate emergency.
He went on to talk about the environment as a class issue, saying a move to a green economic revolution must not mean mass loss of jobs in old industry.
Keir Starmer denies Labour would renationalise energy firms – video
Momentum, the Labour group set up when Jeremy Corbyn was leader to support him and his agenda, has welcomed the vote in favour of the green new deal 1 composite. (See 1.20pm.) Gaya Sriskanthan, the Momentum co-chair, said:
This is a turning point. The grassroots have had enough of timid centrism and have overwhelmingly endorsed transformative socialist policy that meets the crises of the 21st century head on. From the public ownership of the energy sector to the creation of a national care service and millions of green jobs, this motion gives us a clear vision of what a just transition under a Labour government would look like.
And the Labour for a Green New Deal also welcomed the result. Chris Saltmarsh, the co-founder of the campaign, said:
Despite efforts to block this motion and stifle party democracy, members have demonstrated the strength of support for a transformative climate agenda. Despite his promise to create a more democratic culture, Starmer is alienating himself from ordinary members. He should re-state the ambitious pledges of his leadership campaign, and put the green new deal at the heart of his agenda.
This result shows that there is huge support for a radical agenda in the Labour party, and that he membership and affiliated unions are united in their support for transformative politics. Starmer should recognise this, re-state the ambitious pledges of his leadership campaign, and put the green new deal at the heart of his leadership.
Starmer publishes plans to ensure pupils leave school 'ready for work and ready for life'
Labour has now published details of its plans to change the curriculum, and other aspects of how schools are run, to ensure that pupils leave school “job-ready and life-ready”.
The plans include reforming citizenship education so that pupils learn about things like pensions, credit score and mortgages; making work experience compulsory for two weeks; teaching all pupils functional computer skills; and giving pupils more access to extra-curricular activities through the 10 by 10 pledge.
Commenting on the plans, Sir Keir Starmer said:
Every child should leave education ready for work and ready for life.
Employers all around the country, in every sector, have told me how much they need well-rounded young people with relevant skills, literate in technology, equipped for life. And young people have told me how ambitious they are for their own futures.
That’s why Labour would create an education system that would give every child the skills for the future.
Jo Stevens, the shadow culture minister, was the final speaker in the morning’s debate. Here are the main points from her speech.
- Stevens said Labour would use a healthy living index to ensure government policy changes take into account wellbeing. She said:
Labour’s healthy living index would ensure that every government decision would have to improve wellbeing, just as the Office for Budget Responsibility tracks government spending. A healthy and happy life is a right that Labour will fight for. Everyone should have the opportunity of both good quality work and good quality leisure.
- She criticised the government for not using the online safety bill to protect people from online fraud. She explained:
The epidemic of online fraud and scams continues. More than £2.3bn lost by victims in England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year. But the government refuses to include protection for people in the bill. Financial campaigner Martin Lewis has called for it, victims, City of London Police and the FCA have too, but the Conservatives say no.
Well Labour will do what the Tory government won’t. We’ll fight inside and outside parliament for better legislation that protects the public against the fraudsters and scammers, that forces a proper duty of care on social media companies about what they host on their platforms and unlike the government, we’ll fight for criminal penalties for senior tech executives who repeatedly breach the new law.
- She said Labour would get a new agreement with the EU to allow British musicians to tour easily on the continent.
Delegates support green new deal motion backing 'public ownership of energy'
At the end of the morning conference session, delegates voted on five composite motion. Four of them were passed on a show of hands, but the fifth went to card vote because it was close, meaning the result will not be announced until later.
Of the motions that were passed, the green new deal 1 composite is probably the one that has attracted most attention. It backs a “socialist green new deal that will shift power from capital into the hands of workers” and advocates “public ownership of energy including energy companies, creating an integrated, democratic system”.
The extensive motion also calls for the repeal of all anti-trade union laws, and for the creation of a national climate service to tackle the climate crisis.
Although Labour conference votes in theory determine party policy, in practice what matters is what gets included in the manifesto and sometimes the leadership does ignore conference votes.
A second composite motion passed this morning, on public ownership, calls for the Royal Mail to be returned to public ownership. It says “the case for extending democratic public ownership in the post-Covid economy could not be clearer”.
But this morning Sir Keir Starmer suggested he was only in favour of further nationalisations where this would be “pragmatic”. (See 11.01am.) His interview was almost certainly a better guide to the next Labour manifesto than the voting this morning, and Starmer’s team don’t seem too bothered by the motions being passed.
The other motions that were passed covered the community wealth building agenda and high street regeneration.
The card vote is on the green new deal 2 composite, which overlaps a lot with the first one but also calls for more nuclear power stations.
Starmer accused of reneging on pledge to back nationalisation of energy companies
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary when Jeremy Corbyn was party leader, has also accused Sir Keir Starmer of going back on a promise he made during the Labour leadership contest to nationalise the energy companies.
Here are two tweets critical of Sir Keir Starmer’s response in his Marr interview to the question about Angela Rayner’s “scum” comment.
From Iain Dale, the broadcaster and former Tory adviser
From my colleague Rafael Behr
Liam Fox, the Conservative former international trade secretary, has joined those Tories who have already criticised Angela Rayner for calling them “scum”.
This is from my Guardian colleague Owen Jones, one of the most prominent commentators on the Labour left.
Back in the conference hall Aden Harris, a delegate from Filton and Bradley Stoke CLP, has just delivered one of the most stirring speeches of the morning. It included this rebuke to Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, who told the Sunday Times she did not believe in the magic money tree. He said:
And yes, Rachel Reeves, there is a money tree. It’s called the top 1%. So let’s tax them. It is a forest, it a forest, we will tax them, and we will save this planet. It can be done and we will do it.
Harris said taxing the top 1% of earners would fund a radical green new deal.
The Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who represents Aberavon in south Wales, has welcomed Ed Miliband’s announcement about a £3bn green transition fund for the steel industry. (See 11.39am.) He said:
Our steelworkers make the best steel that money can buy, but for a decade they’ve been held back and let down by Conservative governments that have refused to bring forward the policies that are needed to enable our steel industry to compete on a level playing field.
Labour’s £3 billion steel renewal fund will change the game, completely. It will ensure a just transition to cleaner, greener production methods by sustaining and creating highly skilled steel jobs and strengthening proud steel communities like the one in my Aberavon constituency.
In the conference debate on the green new deal, Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said that for his members the climate crisis was already an industrial issue. He said:
Conference, we see the climate catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes every single day. Floods in Belgium and Germany that cost hundreds of lives. Wildfires across most of Europe. We see the climate catastrophe exposing the inequalities in society across the world.
Workers killed in flash floods in unlawful basement flat apartments in New York City – one of the richest cities in the world.
For us, in our union, this is already an industrial issue. Our members are out there tackling the impact of the climate catastrophe, here and now, and it has been growing over the past 20 years. I will give one example, which I used before but I don’t apologise: every year, colleagues of ours in the United States are killed doing their job.
Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader, has posted a message on Twitter confirming his opposition to the proposed rule changes being debated this afternoon that would require a leadership candidate to be nominated by at least 20% of Labour MPs.
When Corbyn was elected leader in 2015, the threshold was 15%. Subsequently it was reduced to 10%, in what was seen as a move to increase the chances of a leftwing candidate being able to enter a future contest. Sir Keir Starmer’s plan to raise it to 20% is seen as a move to achieve the opposite, and to Corbyn-proof the Labour leadership election process.
Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, opened his speech by saying that the last time he addressed conference he was party leader. And he started by suggesting that, although he may have lost the 2015 general election, he felt vindicated.
Remember David Cameron’s warning. “Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice – stability and strong government with me, or chaos with Ed Miliband.” Didn’t work out so well for him, did it?
Or more to the point for the country. Instability? Weak government? Chaos? Friends, I didn’t get everything right.
But I’ll tell you one thing: I’d have done a damn sight better than this miserable shower.
Miliband also said that, although his main opponents from the 2010-15 era were now gone from frontline politics – David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne – he had come back to the shadow cabinet because he was passionate about tackling the climate crisis.
In his speech, he announced a plan for £3bn programme to help the steel industry go green, over 10 years.
He also said Labour wanted to implement a green new deal, and that part of this would involve creating “a green Britain where public and alternative models of ownership play their proper role in making the transition affordable, secure and fair”.
This line received sustained applause, although it was not clear whether or not this was evidence of delegates pushing back against Sir Keir Starmer burying full nationalisation of the main energy companies as an option in his Marr interview. (See 11.01am.)
The interview was was awkward for Miliband because only recently he told Newsnight that Labour remained committed to nationalising the energy companies. “We haven’t changed that commitment,” he told the programme. “If we’re going to make this green transition, then public ownership is the right way to go.”
Starmer says UK may need to bring in 100,000 foreign lorry drivers
Here are the main points from Sir Keir Starmer’s interview with Andrew Marr.
- Starmer ruled out nationalising the big six energy companies. Asked if he would do this, at first he said the immediate problem was to secure supply. But when asked again if would nationalise them, he replied: “No.” When it was put to him that when running for the Labour leadership he did propose nationalising them as one of his 10 principles, he told Marr that nationalisation was not the same as common ownership. He also said it was important to be pragmatic. He said:
I’d be pragmatic about it, and where common ownership is value for money for the taxpayer and delivers better services then there should be common ownership.
He cited test and trace as an example of a service that should have been under common ownership.
In the 10 pledges document issued during the Labour leadership contest, Starmer said:
Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water.
- He expressed his disapproval of his deputy, Angela Rayner, calling the Tories “scum” – but did not directly call for her to apologise. Asked about her comment, he said:
Angela and I take different approaches and that’s not language that I would use.
Asked if she should apologise, he said:
That’s a matter for Angela … but I would not have used those words. I will talk to Angela about it later on.
- He suggested the government might have to grant visas to 100,000 foreign lorry drivers, not just the 5,000 planned by ministers. He said:
On the HGV situation we are going to have to bring in more drivers and more visas. I’m astonished the government, knowing the situation, is not acting today. The prime minister needs to say today what he is going to do.
Asked if he would bring in 100,000 foreign drivers, Starmer said:
We are going to have to do that. We have to issue enough visas to cover the number of drivers that we need.
- He said he was “very happy” with the outcome of the internal Labour debate on his proposed changes to party leadership election rules. His decision to withdraw his plans to bring back the electoral college, because of union opposition, has been described as an embarrassing defeat. (See 8.40am.) But Starmer claimed he did not see it that way. He said:
By the way, I’m very happy with the situation we’re in now because I’ve got a package of alternatives that does what I wanted them to do, which is to ensure that the Labour party can focus on the country and some of those rules were holding us back.
So I’m very happy with the situation we find ourselves in. It’s a strong package …
There’s almost nobody in the Labour party who doesn’t say we need to change the rules. What people have been saying is that it would be better to delay it. I think to delay it and not take a difficult decision is weakness.
I think strong leadership requires tough decisions to be taken, and to be taken quickly …
I would rather take three days of arguing about rule changes and get them through than do what everyone else is saying, which is put it off for another 12 months. The last thing I want is another 12 months arguing about these rules.
- He rejected claims that as leader he needed to be more of a “showman”, able to engage with voters emotionally. He said people saying that thought he should be more like Boris Johnson. He went on:
It’s priced in, apparently, that [Johnson] is dishonest. Just stop there and ask ourselves: do we want our politics, and our political leaders and our prime minster to be of a characteristic where they are untrustworthy, and where it’s priced in. I’m different, I’m afraid. I believe in integrity, I believe in truth.
- He cited Mark Drakeford in Wales as an example of how a leader could be successful without “showman” qualities. He did not describe Drakeford as boring (one of the criticisms frequently made of Starmer himself, and a word that has been applied to the Welsh first minister too), but instead he praised Drakeford as “honest, reassuring and transparent”.
- Starmer said people should not say only women have a cervix. Asked if it was transphobic to say this, he replied:
It is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right.
But, when pressed to explain why he took this view, he did not elaborated but instead said: “We do everybody a disservice when we reduce what is a really important issue to these exchanges on particular things that are said.” He said he wanted to see a “mature, respectful debate about trans rights” and he said the trans community was “the most marginalised and abused” of many communities. He also said that it would have been safe for Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP, to attend conference. Duffield is staying away because of the controversy generated by her remarks on trans issues, which have included liking a tweet saying women were people with a cervix.
- He said Labour has no plans to raise income tax. When Marr put it to him that Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, told the Sunday Times that the party was not going to raise income tax, Starmer said Reeves said the party was not currently considering an income tax rise. Starmer’s account of the interview (paywall) is correct. Reeves told the paper: “I don’t have any plans to increase the rates of income tax.”
Starmer rules out nationalising big six energy companies, saying it's important to be 'pragmatic'
Here is my colleague Heather Starmer’s story about Sir Keir Starmer ruling out nationalising the big six energy companies in his Andrew Marr interview.
This is from my colleague Rafael Behr on Sir Keir Starmer’s Andrew Marr interview.
Q: What do you say to people who argue that what Labour needs is a leader who is a showman, and who is more emotional?
Starmer says people say that about Boris Johnson. People know he is untrustworthy, but they say that is priced in. Do we really want that for the country, he asks.
He says Mark Drakeford in Wales shows how an alternative model of leadership work.
Q: What do you say to people who say you should stand aside for someone else?
Starmer says he will be setting out his platform in his speech on Wednesday.
And that’s it. The interview is over.
I will post a summary soon.
Starmer claims pushing through leadership election rules sign of 'strong leadership'
Starmer says he is “happy” with the leadership election reforms being voted on.
He says delaying a decision would have been a sign of weakness. Taking decisions is “strong leadership”, he says.
He says it is better to spend three days having an argument and getting this sorted out than to duck the issue.
Starmer expresses his disapproval over Rayner calling Tories scum
Q: Should Angela Rayner apologise for calling the Tories scum.
Starmer says he would not have used those words.
Q: Should she apologise?
Starmer says that is a matter for her.
Q: Are women only people with a cervix?
Starmer says he wants to see a mature, respectful debate about trans rights.
He says he spoke to Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP who has attracted strong criticism for backing the view that women are people with a cervix. He says she would have been welcome at the conference.
Pressed again on the cervix question, he says this debate should not be reduced to simple questions.
Q: Will you nationalise the big six energy companies?
Starmer says the immediate issue is how to get through the winter.
Q: Will you nationalise the big six companies?
No, says Starmer,
Q: But in your 10 principles, when you stood for the leadership, you said these companies should be under common ownership.
Starmer says common ownership is not the same as nationalisation. He says he wants to be pragmatic.
Q: Ed Miliband said on Newsnight recently that this would mean nationalisation.
Starmer says where common ownership provides values for the taxpayer, and provides a better service, he is in favour of it. He cites track and trace as an example. He says it cost £37bn, but would have been better off in the public sector.
Q: Would you put up taxes for income from shares?
Starmer says they will not unfairly tax working families.
Q: Would you repeal the national insurance hike?
Starmer says it was the wrong thing to do?
Q: Would you repeal it?
Starmer says it is an unfair tax. He says Labour’s view is that those with the broadest shoulders should pay.
Q: Rachel Reeves says today you would not put up income tax.
Starmer says Reeves said they are not considering putting up income tax.
She has set out new fiscal rules. They are looking at tax, he says.
Q: This sounds like free movement.
Starmer says it sounds like lack of planning by the government.
Starmer says more foreign lorry drivers needed
Andrew Marr starts by asking Sir Keir Starmer about the lorry driver crisis.
Starmer says this problem has been known about for a long time. He says the government, when it left the EU, should have prepared a back-up plan.
He says another 5,000 visas for foreign drivers will not be enough.
Q: So would you let in 100,000 – the number of drivers the UK is short of?
Starmer suggests the government might have to. He says 5,000 will not be enough. The problem will last until Christmas, he says.
And he says the army cannot be brought in over the long term.
This is from the Labour backbencher Steve McCabe, pointing out that Angela Rayner is not the only MP in trouble this weekend over a remark deemed offensive.
How Rayner defended her claim about Tories being 'scum'
This is what Angela Rayner told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday about why she called the Tories “scum” at a meeting last night. She said:
Anyone who leaves children hungry during a pandemic and can give billions of pounds to their mates on WhatsApp, I think that was pretty scummy.
Now that is a phrase, and let me contextualise it, it’s a phrase that you would hear very often in northern working-class towns. We’d even say it jovially to other people. And that to me is my street language …
I’m not saying that anyone who voted for Conservatives are racist, scummy and homophobic …
I’m saying the prime minister has said those things and has acted in that way …
If the prime minister wants to apologise, and remove himself from those comments that he’s made that are homophobic that racist, that are misogynistic, then I will apologise for calling him scummy.
Asked about Angela Rayner’s “scum” comment, McDonnell says “we’ve all been there, late at night”. He says he likes the way Rayner sounds like an ordinary person.
He says sometimes people do not get their language right. But people will forgive them if they understanding their motives, he says.
John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, is being interviewed on Sky News. He says he thinks it will be “touch and go” whether the watered-down changes to the party leadership rules being debated this afternoon pass.
He says he is not in favour himself.
I don’t think actually we need a change in the rule, but if it goes through, to be honest, we’ll work with it, it won’t prevent a left-winger coming forward, as far as I’m concerned.
But I don’t think it’s necessary and I would oppose it this morning if I had a vote, definitely.
Asked if he thinks the proposal reflects the fact that the leadership does not trust the membership, McDonnell agrees. He says some people do not trust party democracy.
UPDATE: McDonnell said:
I think there are some people - maybe around Keir as well, I don’t think it’s Keir himself - who have a pathological fear of our members.
Trust the people. Don’t have your shenanigans where you’re trying to restrict the role of members. In fact, when Keir stood for leader he said he was going to engage with members more and members would have more of a role - that’s why people feel this is a bit of a step backwards and he hasn’t been really straight.
Rayner says she considers Starmer feminist. She says during the Covid crisis Starmer discussed with her making arrangements for her to take over if he fell ill. That was a sign of respect for her status and role, she says.
Q: How can women trust Labour when the Labour MP Rosie Duffield does not feel safe to come to conference?
Rayner says the abuse the Duffield has faced is “completely unacceptable”. She says the MP has her full support.
Rayner defends calling Tory ministers 'scum', saying it's 'street language' and leaving kids hungry 'scummy thing to do'
Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, is being interviewed on Sky.
Q: Did Sir Keir Starmer talk to you in advance about his proposed rule changes?
Yes, says Rayner. And she says he spoke to the unions too.
Q: So you did not agree, because you proposed a separate plan to the national executive committee?
Rayner says she will not discuss private conversations, but she says she wanted to make sure the rule changes did not stop a broad selection of candidates being on the ballot.
Q: How can people believe you and Starmer are together when you cannot agree?
Rayner says they did agree. Her amendment was a friendly amendment to ensure that they did achieve the goal both she and Starmer wanted.
Q: Margaret Beckett yesterday talked about civility. So did David Evans, the general secretary. You called the Tories last night “a bunch of scum”. Is that the kind of civility the Starmer/Rayner party envisages?
Rayner says that was “post-watershed”, to some activists. She says the PM has said racist and homophobic things, and he has wasted money by contracts for mates. She says she was speaking to activists to get “fire in their belly”. She says when she was young the Tories said women like her got pregnant just to get a council house. And she says the PM has not apologised for what he said about Muslim women.
Q: But you were talking about a bunch of them.
Rayner says cabinet ministers are involved in what the government has done. She cites Priti Patel. She says to leave children hungry during the pandemic is “a scummy thing to do”. That is “street language”, she says.
Q: Are you saying people who vote Tory are scum?
No, says Rayner. She says she is not saying that.
Q: Will you apologise to the PM for calling him scum?
Rayner says she will if the PM apologises for the racist things he has said.
Good morning. It is the first full day of the Labour conference in Brighton, and so far it is not going well. Here is the Observer splash by my colleagues Toby Helm and Michael Savage.
And here is an extract.
Keir Starmer is battling to restore authority over the Labour party after a bruising defeat at the hands of unions and the left sparked a storm of criticism over his performance as leader.
Ahead of a conference billed as the moment when Starmer would introduce himself as a future prime minister to the British people, the Labour leader on Saturday was forced to withdraw plans to limit the role of party members, and increase that of MPs, in selecting future party leaders, after the unions united in opposition to block the move …
Starmer loyalists tried to talk up the leader’s success in forcing through other reforms that would make it more difficult for hard-left activists to deselect Labour MPs. “He has locked out the hard left. This is a major achievement,” said one frontbencher.
But there was widespread dismay in all wings of the party over the way Labour had been plunged into more divisive internal arguments just at the point when it had hoped to train its guns on the Tories and present its leader as a future occupant of No 10 …
Anger at Starmer’s misjudgment over the leadership rule changes has seriously dented morale, even among shadow ministers who see themselves as scrupulously loyal. “This is a total disaster,” one member of the frontbench said.
Still, things can only get better, as they used to say at these events. Here are some of the other Labour conference stories around this morning.
- Starmer says Labour would end charitable status for private schools, forcing them to pay an extra £1.7bn in tax, the Sunday Mirror reports. The money would be used to improve state schools, including by offering better citizenship education. Starmer told the paper:
Employers in every sector told me how much they need well-rounded young people with relevant skills and literate in technology.
And young people have told me how ambitious they are for their own futures.” Labour’s reforms would mean every child having a laptop at home. To ensure teenagers are fit for jobs, two weeks’ work experience would be compulsory. And to prepare for the real world, statutory citizenship courses would include pension planning, mortgage applications, and understanding credit ratings and employment and rental contracts.
- John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, has used an article in the Observer to say “people have been left without knowing what or who the party stands for” under Starmer.
- Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has told the Sunday Times (paywall) that she does not believe in a magic money rules and that Labour would apply its own fiscal rules. In their write-up of the interview, Tim Shipman and Caroline Wheeler report:
A Labour government would balance day-to-day government spending, but allow itself to borrow for capital investment. Crucially, it would be committed to reducing the national debt as a proportion of national income. Going into the 2008 financial crisis it was 38 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP), rising to 60 per cent when Labour left office in 2010. By the start of the Covid crisis it was 80 per cent and now it has hit 98 per cent of GDP …
Reeves has two further rules which will give her more wriggle room: Labour would take government assets into account when examining the books, which would deter the sell-off of assets that make a return for the taxpayer, a move that has the backing of the new OBR boss Richard Hughes. (This she is keen for us to know “means it isn’t mad”).
Finally, the OBR could declare a crisis situation where all the rules are suspended for a period. Reeves argues that it is important to work such a scenario into the rules so unexpected events do not simply lead to them being torn up. “It will be up to the OBR, not to the government, to say we’re in a crisis,” she explains.
- Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, has been criticised by the Conservatives after describing them as “a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic” at a conference event.
- Len McCluskey, the former Unite general secretary, has said at a conference event it is “almost impossible” for Labour to win the next election, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
Here is the main agenda for the day.
8.30am: Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, is interviewed on Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday. Other guests include John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, and Christina McAnea, the Unison general secretary.
After 9am: Sir Keir Starmer is interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
9.50am: The conference opens. Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, opens a debate on the environment and the green new deal.
12.25pm: Jo Stevens, the shadow culture secretary, speaks to the conference.
Lunchtime: Jeremy Corbyn, the former party leader, is due to speak at lunchtime fringe events
2.15pm: Lucy Powell, the shadow housing secretary, opens a debate on housing and transport.
4.10pm: Jim McMahon, the shadow transport secretary, speaks to the conference.
4.20pm: Delegates begin a debate on party rule changes, including requiring leadership candidates to be nominated by 20% of MPs, not 10% as now, and changes to the way disciplinary complaints are investigated (a response to criticism of the party by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission).
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