In Brief

What is Keir Starmer’s eight-point plan to reform Labour?

Leadership favourite vows to revamp disciplinary procedures and restrict the governing NEC

Labour leadership frontrunner Keir Starmer has announced that he will revamp party disciplinary procedures and press for all-ethnic minority shortlists, if he wins the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

Unveiling an eight-point plan for reform within Labour, Starmer said the changes would make the party “open, respectful, creative and engaging”.

“We need our party to function like friends round a table, where each of us can be confident that our ideas are valued while we work together to find a way forward,” he said.

He added that he wants to deliver “unity and reconciliation” within the party, words that PoliticsHome reports will be seen as “a thinly-veiled attack on Jeremy Corbyn”.

One eye-catching proposal is that Labour headquarters should stop imposing candidates on local parties. This has sometimes allowed past leaders to effectively gift safe seats to favoured candidates.

“The current system is impenetrable, with too much reliance on who people know rather than what they can do,” Starmer said. “It costs too much and takes too much time, effectively ruling out potentially excellent candidates.”

The New Statesman reports that the reform proposals are Starmer’s “most important campaign announcement yet” because he has “hinted at reducing the powers of the National Executive Committee (NEC)”.

The NEC is the governing body of the Labour Party, overseeing the overall direction of the party and the policy-making process.

In 2018, candidates backed by Momentum, the campaign group founded to support Corbyn’s leadership, won eight of nine positions to the National Executive Committee (NEC). Peter Willsman, another pro-Corbyn figures who was removed from the Momentum slate in a row over anti-Semitism, won the ninth spot.

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Starmer also said he would set up an independent body to deal with complaints about members. “Our current system does not work... and it should be replaced by an independent panel with experts on racism, sexual harassment and poor personal conduct cases,” he added.

His other six proposals for reform within the party are:

  • Making candidates more representative
  • Providing better access to the party for disabled members
  • Promoting more innovative campaigning
  • Making policy decisions more democratic
  • Improving the transparency of Labour strategy
  • Strengthening links between the party and trade unions

The Guardian says that although internal party reform is a “relatively niche topic”, it is important because the winner of the leadership contest is “unlikely to have any say over government policy for the next four years at least”.

But, the paper adds, “whoever wins the leadership election will, potentially, be able to do quite a lot to change Labour”.

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