Keir Starmer faces Corbynite rebellion over Margaret Beckett role

·2-min read
Keir Starmer was accused of "personally lobbying" to ensure the role did not go to Ian Murray of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) - PA
Keir Starmer was accused of "personally lobbying" to ensure the role did not go to Ian Murray of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) - PA

Sir Keir Starmer faced a "full frontal attack" from senior allies of Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday after they stormed out of a meeting in protest at Dame Margaret Beckett being appointed to chair Labour's ruling body.

The Labour leader was accused of "personally lobbying" to ensure the role did not go to Ian Murray of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), a hard-Left ally of his predecessor.

The row follows days of infighting over Sir Keir's decision to withhold the Parliamentary whip from Mr Corbyn, with Mr Murray one of various Left-wing figures to criticise the decision.

Mr Corbyn, who has been suspended for three months, has been issued with an ultimatum stating that he must "unequivocally" apologise for saying the scale of anti-Semitism in the party had been "overstated".

At a meeting held virtually on Tuesday morning, several members of the party's national executive committee (NEC) had argued that as serving vice-chairman Mr Murray should be automatically promoted to the role of chairman.

Dame Margaret Beckett was appointed to chair Labour's ruling body - PA
Dame Margaret Beckett was appointed to chair Labour's ruling body - PA

However, allies of Sir Keir pointed out that the NEC had previously voted to block former vice-chairman Wendy Nichols, a moderate figure, when the Corbynistas commanded a majority on the committee. They added that until recently, it had been a convention that the longest serving member of the NEC would become its chairman.

After branding the move a "factional attack" on the party's Left wing, 13 NEC members - led by Howard Beckett, Unite's assistant general secretary - exited the virtual meeting in protest.

In their absence, Dame Margaret, a former Labour deputy leader, was elected unanimously, securing 24 votes.

The 77-year-old is considered a moderate in the party and has previously stated that she was a "moron" for nominating Mr Corbyn to become leader five years ago.

Sir Keir's grip over the NEC has also been bolstered by the appointment of Alice Perry, a fellow moderate and Islington councillor, as vice-chairman.

Lashing out after the meeting, Mr Beckett said: "Today the entire left walked out of Labour's NEC. We won't stay silent on Keir Starmer's factionalism any longer."

Mish Rahman, another Left-wing NEC member, added: "Yet again Starmer is trying to play games with democracy and undermine the role of trade unions within our party. This latest factional attack on the FBU fits a worrying pattern of control-freakery reminiscent of the New Labour years."

In a letter to David Evans, Labour's general secretary, the group claimed that the "true reason" for Dame Margaret's election was because Sir Keir was seeking to punish Mr Murray for criticising his decision to suspend Mr Corbyn.

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