As voters in Batley and Spen head to the polls – and Labour braces itself for the possibility of another crushing by-election defeat – speculation is rife that Angela Rayner is plotting a coup to replace Sir Keir Starmer.
According to The Times, these are not baseless rumours. Rather, it’s a “very badly kept secret in Labour circles” that the deputy Labour leader’s allies have been sounding out Labour MPs and trade union figures ahead of a leadership challenge. Incidentally, Rayner’s parliamentary clique all met for dinner last night…
Stamer’s own allies admit that Rayner is “on manoeuvres”. And it looks like she may get a boost from some hard-left MPs too. One senior Corbynite told The Times: “Angela’s people are speaking to a number of comrades. Sections of the party would back her without doubt.”
The reports suggest relations may well have soured between Starmer and Rayner since the Labour leader was accused of using her as a scapegoat for the Hartlepool humiliation, after he sacked her from the shadow cabinet before quickly promoting her to a new position in the farce that ensued.
Rayner is being coy about the reports: “The ‘story’ on the front page of The Times tomorrow is news to me,” she tweeted last night.
According to the latest YouGov poll, four in ten Labour members believe that Starmer should resign if he loses Batley and Spen today.
But they’re not necessarily vouching for an Angela takeover. In fact, the poll has Yvette Cooper – who gained 35 per cent of the vote – as the clear first choice. Rayner was trailing behind on 12 per cent, just one per cent ahead of her former flatmate Becky (Long-Bailey).
The glaring omission is man of the moment Andy Burnham who didn’t feature on the poll since it was limited to MPs. But, in another YouGov poll, 69 per cent of Labour members thought Burnham would make a better leader than Sir Keir.