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29 September 2021

Who were the real winners of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party rule change?

The main outcome of this year’s messy and fractious conference was an overhaul of how Labour runs itself.

By Stephen Bush

Can Keir Starmer turn internal triumph into external success? That’s the challenge for the Labour leader after a messy and fractious conference in which he secured significant changes to how Labour is run. 

A lot of the coverage of Starmer’s rule changes has talked about them in terms of how they benefit the left, the right or the centre of the party. As far as the present composition of Labour’s membership and its parliamentary party, the biggest winner of the rule changes is, for the moment, the party’s centre.

But the real winner from Starmer’s changes are Labour MPs as a class. They are essentially secure in their place and no longer have to worry about their selections, unless they manage to alienate both their party memberships and the trades unions. 

There’s an ideological argument you can make for that: the United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy and therefore Labour MPs have to be in the driving seat. Starmer hasn’t made that case.

He instead has made an instrumental argument: that returning some of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s (PLP) power will make the party better at facing out to the voters rather than within, to itself. The challenge both for him personally this afternoon and for the PLP in general over the next three years will be proving that they can make something of their increased internal clout.

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