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 constituency has gone blue since its inception in the 1970s.
The sacking signals cracks at the top of the party, with rows over who was to blame for the election strategy.
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.
Keir Starmer said yesterday that he took full responsibility for the election result in Hartlepool & other losses. Instead today he’s scapegoating everyone apart from himself. This isn’t leadership it’s a cowardly avoidance of responsibility. https://t.co/HysX0DQn8D— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) May 8, 2021
“Cowardly avoidance of responsibility”
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”.
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.”
Clive Lewis simply labelled it a “mess”.
Mess.— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) May 8, 2021
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.”
Social media reaction
Reaction on social media has been fiery too.
Here’s what people had to say:
BREAKING: Keir Starmer follows through on his promise to take full responsibility for Labour’s abysmal election results by sacking Angela Rayner.— News Addict (@addicted2newz) May 8, 2021
Labour MP: “nothing says I take full responsibility better than firing your second in command”— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) May 8, 2021
Keir Starmer has decided to take full responsibility for Labour’s disastrous campaign by sacking Angela Rayner, a northern working class woman. What an absolute wasteman.— Liam Young (@liamyoung) May 8, 2021
Sacking Angela Rayner is *bound* to unite the Labour party 🤔— Dawn Foster (@DawnHFoster) May 8, 2021
Sir Keir yesterday: I take full responsibility.— Tom Harwood (@tomhfh) May 8, 2021
Sir Keir today: It was Angela Rayner’s fault.
Sacking Angela Rayner is just daft. And raises serious questions about whether Keir Starmer actually understands politics.— (((Dan Hodges))) (@DPJHodges) May 8, 2021
Keir Starmer is sacking Angela Rayner as party chair as part of his new strategy, Operation Scapegoat Working Class Women For The Abject Failures Of Keir Starmer https://t.co/x6SPCLSSwY— Owen Jones 🌹 (@OwenJones84) May 8, 2021