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Keir Starmer was fighting to restore authority over Labor last night after a deadly defeat at the hands of the 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 present himself as future Prime Minister to the British people, the Labor leader was forced to withdraw his plan to limit the role of party members and increase that of MPs in the selection of future leaders party. , after the unions united in opposition to block the movement.

As the humiliating retirement was announced, allies of her deputy, Angela Rayner, made clear their fury at the way Starmer and her office had allowed what she saw as an unnecessary argument to dominate on the first day of the conference. and eclipse a set of major economic policies. she announced in her opening speech.

At a national executive committee meeting yesterday morning, Rayner proposed amendments to Starmer’s plans in a desperate attempt to find a way forward. “She didn’t agree with Starmer’s plans and was trying to find ways to stop them from destroying the conference,” an ally said.

Rayner used a Times interview yesterday to say that she would be ready to run for party leadership in the future: “If I felt it was the right thing to do for the party and the right thing for the country, then I would would get up and I would. “

Last night Starmer loyalists tried to talk about the leader’s success in pushing through other reforms that would make it harder for left activists to deselect Labor MPs. “He blocked the hard left. This is a major achievement, ”said one leader.

But there was widespread dismay across all wings of the party at how Labor had been embroiled in more confrontational internal arguments just as they hoped to point their guns on the Tories and present its leader as a future occupier. of n ° 10.

In a scathing article in today’s newspaper Observer, former ghost chancellor John McDonnell says he can no longer play the stalwart elder statesman.

He says Starmer “abandoned the platform on which he was elected Labor leader, dismissed much of the large team that got him elected and reached the Blairite playbook and resurrected the old crew of Blair, of Peter Mandelson as his advisor, combined with an appetite for factional purges that make the Kinnock era feel like it’s tamed. The result is that we are seeing something akin to a band’s performance. Blairite tribute with the same old stunts and strategies deployed on time, but with a lot more venom.

Starmer and the shadow cabinet are still hoping to save the conference with a series of major announcements on job security, green policies and education, among others, in the coming days. The Labor leader is also determined to increase the volume of criticism from the Conservatives over truck drivers and fuel shortages as well as the looming cost-of-living crisis.

Starmer told the Observer he required emergency visas for truck drivers so that they could get supplies quickly. “Labor is also demanding the rollback of the universal credit cut and the end of the national insurance tax hike. Both worsen the situation for workers.

“Finally, let’s end the panic in the short term with a plan to address labor shortages by improving working conditions and UK industry so that we buy, manufacture and sell more in this country, building together a stronger future. “

Ed Miliband will today push ahead with ambitious Biden-style plans to invest in a greener industry, including the steel industry, as part of the “green new deal”. Miliband said it was not time to be careful. “We must bet on green because it is the only way to achieve economic and climate justice together, and it is the only way to fight the greatest threat to humanity,” said the former chief of the party and shadow minister of affairs.

But anger at Starmer’s misconception over leadership rule changes has seriously shaken morale, even among shadow ministers who see themselves as scrupulously loyal. “It’s a total disaster,” a frontbench member said last night.

According to Starmer’s original proposal to change the rules for electing officers, the one-member, one-vote system would have been replaced by a return to the electoral college made up of unions and affiliates, MPs and party members – each with an equal share. Even party moderates said the plan – designed to make it harder for left-wing members to elect a leader like Jeremy Corbyn – was a hard sell because it seemed to send a message that the party did not trust to its members.

Delegates were due to vote last night on a revised package under which candidates for leadership should have the support of 20% of MPs, up from 10% currently.

Other conference hot spots for the leader could include wrangling over Labor’s stance on trans rights and the changes mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission after its inquiry into the anti-Semitism.

Starmer was also criticized last night by his predecessor. Speaking at a rally of young Labor, Corbyn suggested that the left could organize against Starmer: “The Electoral College plan may have been defeated for now, but we have seen the true colors of the direction.

“If we want Labor to be a vehicle for winning elections to address the climate emergency and to redistribute wealth and power to as many people as possible, then we need to come together and organize.

“There is another way forward, for Labor and Britain, which is based on peace and justice, in policies that the majority of people really want, not what the establishment and its supporters – media say they should want to. If our leaders do not stand up for this path, our movement must and will. “