Sir Keir Starmer has faced fresh demands to pave the way for Jeremy Corbyn to stand as a Labour candidate at the next general election.
Former Labour leader Mr Corbyn remains a party member but sits in the Commons as an Independent MP after having the whip withdrawn due to his response to an Equality and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism in the party.
But some party delegates have forced a vote on a proposed rule change in a bid to allow Mr Corbyn (Islington North) to be re-selected as a Labour candidate.
“Significant legal risks”
Supporters say it is focused on allowing a Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to be in control of who their candidate is rather than the parliamentary Labour party (PLP).
But the party believes the proposal represents a “significant legal risk to it”.
Peter Talbot, of Islington North CLP, said: “We need a range of Labour candidates. We need to demonstrate that the Labour Party truly is a broad church. And that’s particularly important in relation to the thousands of young people that Jeremy brought into supporting Labour.”
He added: “If we don’t change the rules and Jeremy can’t stand for Labour at the next election, well that would just be a disaster for us frankly, it would not end well.
“It would be a gift to the Greens, to the Lib Dems and the Tories.”
“Bit of a mess”
Explaining the proposed change, Mr Talbot said: “It will ensure that the Parliamentary Labour Party cannot disqualify a sitting Labour MP from standing in an election by simply withdrawing the whip.”
Rachel Garnham, Mid Bedfordshire CLP, said Labour would be “far better” going into a general election “as a united party rather than attempting to make Jeremy grovel”.
She said: “I feel like as a party we’ve got ourselves into a bit of a mess.
“Instead of turning our collective fire on this horrendous Westminster Government it feels like too much time and energy is sadly going into fighting the left of the party – and we’re not going away.”
She added Labour’s “political enemies” include Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, adding: “Our political enemy is not Jeremy Corbyn.”
Thomas Glasman, of Hackney North and Stoke Newington CLP, said: “The issue at hand on the selection of MPs is not necessarily one of whether you personally like or dislike Jeremy Corbyn or what he stands for.
“It’s a principle of whether CLPs have a democratic right to select who they wish to have as an MP.”
Samantha Niblett, from Erewash CLP, spoke against the “flawed” proposal before adding: “The public don’t care about our internal arguments.”
Michael Wheeler, vice-chair of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) organisation sub-committee, said: “The rule change represents a significant legal risk to the party.
“In order to successfully defend legal claims the party must be able to show there it’s applying its rules consistently and fairly.
“Changing the fundamental rules midway through a parliamentary cycle leaves the party open to legal challenge from candidates that may be put at a disadvantage.”
A card vote on the proposal took place at the end of Sunday’s session in Liverpool.