Sir Keir Starmer given leadership election warning as he fails to win unions' backing for Labour rule changes

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Sir Keir Starmer has failed to win immediate trade union backing for his plans to change the way Labour chooses party leaders, amid a deepening row over his proposed reforms.

Ahead of Labour's conference in Brighton later this week, Sir Keir had unveiled proposals to return to an "electoral college" - made up of unions, affiliate organisations, MPs, and party members - for electing leaders and their deputies.

The reforms would scrap the "one member, one vote" system that was introduced in 2014 and saw Jeremy Corbyn twice elected Labour leader prior to Sir Keir's own election.

Sir Keir also wants to introduce rule changes related to how Labour Party policy is created, as well as the means by which parliamentary candidates are re-selected.

The plans have already prompted a backlash from Labour's left wing - including suggestions that Sir Keir should face a leadership election if he pushes ahead with his changes.

And, following a meeting with trade union leaders on Wednesday, Labour admitted Sir Keir had yet to convince them to support his proposals.

It is understood unions want more time to consult their members on the proposals.

A joint statement from Labour and Mick Whelan, chairman of the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation (TULO), revealed that talks would continue ahead of the Brighton conference beginning on Sunday.

"Keir Starmer and Labour's affiliated trade union leaders had a positive meeting this afternoon to discuss the rule changes that the Labour leader would like to bring to conference in Brighton," the statement read.

"There was broad consensus on the need to refocus the Labour Party on the country and concerns of working people.

"Discussions will continue."

Sir Keir himself described Wednesday's talks as "positive" and said he would "look forward to continuing those conversations through the coming days because the principles are important and we have to look at how we need to change to win again".

"I said yesterday this was never a 'take it or leave it' conversation," he added.

"I am continuing to take suggestions and have discussions about how we do everything we need to in order to make the Labour Party the party of working people again."

On Wednesday, Labour's former shadow chancellor John McDonnell raised the prospect of Sir Keir facing a leadership challenge if he pressed ahead with the party rule changes at the Brighton conference.

"If he (Keir) wants to plough ahead, in all honesty he should go back to the people who elected him in the first place and say 'look this is what I didn't tell you then, this is what I want to do'," Mr McDonnell told the Northern Agenda podcast.

"And, yes, that does mean a leadership election. Why not? If he feels so strongly about this."

Mr McDonnell had earlier told Sky News that Sir Keir's planned reforms were a "complete distraction" and could "rip our party apart".

As well as the backlash to Sir Keir's proposed rule changes from Labour's left wing, a member of the party's shadow cabinet also refused to publicly support the suggested reforms.

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Thangam Debbonaire, Labour's shadow leader of the House of Commons, repeatedly declined to give her personal view on her party leader's plans.

Asked by Sky News whether she thought Sir Keir's proposed changes were a good idea, Ms Debbonaire would only say: "What I think is a good idea is for the Labour Party to continue championing the rights and causes of our constituents as we are doing.

"And for the Labour Party conference next week to debate, as we do, in a democratic way, what our rules might be and whether or not they need to change.

"Keir's right to take a look at that."

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