UK Elections: Starmer faces furious backlash following Labour losses

Party leadership in chaos as chief whip sacked in shadow cabinet reshuffle

Labour leader Keir Starmer says that he takes "full responsibility" after his party lost badly to the ruling Conservatives in the northeastern English town of Hartlepool byelection. Video: Reuters

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

British Labour leader Keir Starmer has sacked his chief whip and replaced the shadow chancellor in a shadow cabinet reshuffle amid chaos at the top of the party following its poor showing in last week’s elections. Rachel Reeves, a figure on the right of the party, has replaced Anneliese Dodds as shadow chancellor. Ms Dodds will lead a policy review for the party.

Labour lost more than 300 local council seats in England, along with the Westminster seat of Hartlepool, which the Conservatives captured in a byelection. Sir Keir faced a furious backlash after he sacked deputy leader Angela Rayner as party chair and national campaign co-ordinator in an apparent attempt to blame her for the losses.

Ms Rayner, who cannot be sacked as deputy leader because the position is elected by the Labour membership, will now shadow cabinet office minister Michael Gove. Reports of Ms Rayner’s sacking emerged on Saturday, as some of Labour’s best results were being reported and the news drew criticism from all wings of the party.

Last week’s elections saw incumbent parties rewarded in England, Scotland and Wales as they benefited from Britain’s successful coronavirus vaccine rollout. The Conservatives gained seats in England, while Labour equalled its best-ever result in Wales.

Referendum

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon told British prime minister Boris Johnson on Sunday that she will legislate for a second independence referendum after her Scottish National Party (SNP) won a fourth term in office and a pro-independence majority was returned to the Holyrood parliament. The SNP won 64 seats in last Thursday’s election, one short of an overall majority, but the pro-independence Greens won eight seats, so the new parliament has its biggest-ever majority in favour of leaving the United Kingdom.

“The first minister... reiterated her intention to ensure that the people of Scotland can choose our own future when the crisis is over, and made clear that the question of a referendum is now a matter of when, not if,” Ms Sturgeon’s spokeswoman said after a call between the first minister and the prime minister on Sunday evening.

Mr Johnson has until now ruled out a second independence vote for at least a generation, but Mr Gove on Sunday declined to rule out a second referendum within the next five years or to commit to challenging in court any vote Ms Sturgeon calls.