Starmer tells Labour top team: ‘I take responsibility for by-election loss’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer leaves his north London home (PA Wire)
14:45pm, Mon 10 May 2021
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Sir Keir Starmer has told his shadow cabinet that he takes full responsibility for Labour’s crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election.

The Labour leader met his reshuffled top team at Westminster on Monday for the first time following the party’s damaging losses in last week’s elections.

It followed intense criticism over the weekend after he stripped deputy leader Angela Rayner of her roles of party chairwoman and campaign co-ordinator.

Angela Rayner (PA Wire)

Amid furious accusations he was trying to make her a scapegoat, it was announced late on Sunday she would be given a new role shadowing the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

She was also made shadow first secretary of state, effectively making her the shadow deputy prime minister.

Labour sources said Sir Keir made clear during the meeting on Monday that he was not trying to shift the blame for the party’s dismal election showing.

He was said to have told them there was no escaping the scale of the defeats which said “something profound about the size of the journey we have to go”.

He said: “To be clear, I take responsibility. Nobody else.

“I lead the Labour Party and it is entirely on me.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham (PA Wire)

Sir Keir said that he had given Ms Rayner “a big new role, taking the fight to the Tories”.

In other changes shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds was demoted to party chairwoman, to be replaced by Rachel Reeves who was previously shadowing Mr Gove.

Veteran chief whip Nick Brown also stood down to be replaced by Alan Campbell.

Sir Keir continued to face criticism over the way he treated Ms Rayner – particularly from the Labour left.

Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the Labour leader was trying to make her “carry the can” for last week’s poor results.

“It was a foolish thing to even think about and he has had to walk it back – you can’t sack an elected deputy leader,” she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Tracy Brabin during the count for the West Yorkshire mayoral election (PA Wire)

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said that he did not like the way Ms Rayner’s removal as party chairwoman was handled.

“I don’t think the way Angela was treated was right. But it’s been resolved and we move on from this morning,” he said.

Mr Burnham denied the results were “catastrophic” for Labour and said the party needed to build on those successes it did achieve – such as in Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire where Tracy Brabin became the region’s first elected mayor.

“Labour needs to move on from the left and the right conducting this civil war within, focus on delivery now and making change happen and celebrating Labour in power – because this is Labour in power, look at what we’re doing,” he said.

He added: “The public like devolution, they are getting behind the idea of Labour mayors.

“We’ve got 10 Labour mayors now across the country – that is a fantastic foundation for the Labour Party to build on, and I believe he (Sir Keir) will, and that’s the opportunity before us.”

Meanwhile, the party’s new national campaign co-ordinator Shabana Mahmood acknowledged that Ms Brabin’s success in West Yorkshire meant they were facing another potentially difficult by-election in Batley and Spen where she is the MP.

Ms Mahmood told BBC Breakfast: “It is no doubt going to be a big test. It is an important by-election for us.

“We have just won in West Yorkshire and that is the base on which we have to build.

“I am in no doubt as to the amount of work that needs to be done.”

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