Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has been sacked from her role as chairman after the party’s poor showing in the Super Thursday elections, PA news agency understands.
Labour received a drubbing in the local elections in England, losing control of a host of councils and suffering defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in the Hartlepool by-election – the first time the North East constituency has gone blue since its inception in the 1970s.
The sacking of Ms Rayner as national campaign co-ordinator signals cracks at the top of the party, with rows over who was to blame for the election strategy that saw losses in Labour’s traditional heartlands in the North and Midlands.
Despite the change at the top, Ms Rayner will remain as deputy leader, having been elected to the post by party members.
Speaking on Friday, leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the results and vowed to take responsibility and to fix Labour’s election woes.
But former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the decision to remove Ms Rayner – a former social care worker who hails from Stockport – as Labour’s chairman and campaigns chief was a “cowardly avoidance of responsibility”.
Clive Lewis, another MP from the left-wing of the party, branded the situation a “mess”.
Mr McDonnell tweeted: “Keir Starmer said yesterday that he took full responsibility for the election result in Hartlepool and other losses.
“Instead today he’s scapegoating everyone apart from himself. This isn’t leadership, it’s a cowardly avoidance of responsibility.”
Emma Lewell-Buck, Labour MP for South Shields, posted on social media: “I can’t put into words how disappointed I am right now about the sacking of Angela Rayner.”
As well as the shock defeat in Hartlepool, Labour had a net loss of six councils and more than 200 seats in the local elections, losing control of the likes of Harrow, Essex, and Plymouth local authorities in the process.
The party also failed to topple Tory mayoral incumbents in the Tees Valley and the West Midlands, although did produce a surprise victory in the West of England mayoral contest and comfortable wins in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region.
Richard Burgon MP, former shadow justice secretary and prominent left-wing critic, has called for a bespoke party conference to produce a plan to reverse Labour’s polling fortunes in the aftermath of the losses.
“Instead of making progress in the key areas we need to win back, at these elections we’ve gone backwards – this can’t go on,” he tweeted.
“There should now be a special Labour Party conference where the leadership outlines its plan to turn this around and seeks the confidence of the party for it.”
Shadow schools minister Wes Streeting said he had not been told that Ms Rayner had been relieved of some of her duties.
Asked about the development on Sky News, he said: “I’m not sure that’s the case, I haven’t heard anything from the party officially about any of this.
“Angela Rayner is the deputy leader of the Labour Party, she’s not going anywhere, she’s a formidable campaigner, (she) socks it to the Tories.”
Mr Streeting also said that the election performance could not be “put down to individual people or individual factors, bluntly” and that a recovery must be a team effort.