A shadow cabinet minister was warned Jeremy Corbyn not to “damage” Keir Starmer’s conference in Brighton later this month.
In an interview with HuffPost UK, Angela Smith – Labour’s leader in the House of Lords – said the party should expect a “hard-hitting” approach from Starmer on the south coast.
Corbyn will also be in Brighton and is slated to speak at The World Transformed, a fringe event linked to Momentum, the campaign group which helped elect him leader in 2015.
It will be Starmer’s first in-person conference because of the Covid pandemic – and Baroness Smith said he would use it to offer a “better idea of where the Labour Party is heading”.
“Don’t be under any illusion, he wants to be in government,” she told the Commons People podcast.
Asked what Starmer should do if audience members start singing Corbyn’s name during his conference speech, Smith said: “If people are seen to be disrupting that, I think Labour Party members and trade unions will not be happy about that,.
“There was always a core that loved Jeremy whatever he does, there was always a core that hated him whatever he did. The bulk of members just wanted Labour leaders to succeed.
“If Jeremy tries to damage conference in that way, a lot of people who supported him previously will be bitterly disappointed, because that would be a very un-Labour, and in Labour Party terms, un-comradely, thing to do.”
Labour has been given a boost in the polls ahead of the conference, as the party took a lead over the Tories for the first time since January. A YouGov survey put the Tories on 33 per cent and Labour on 35 per cent.
Smith said she believed some voters, who had “hated” the party under Corbyn, had “shifted” back.
“Let’s face it, 2019 was a pretty horrible experience out on the doorstep, it wasn’t a great election to be campaigning on,” she said. “We have got permission to be heard from those people.
“We’ve now got to give them a reason why they should vote Labour. That’s Keir’s challenge at conference and one that, from my conversations with him, he is relishing.”