Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has been sacked as party chair and national campaign coordinator following poor local election results across England.
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.
Keir Starmer had vowed to take “full responsibility” for poor results on May 6, which saw Labour lose the parliamentary seat of Hartlepool.
Reports claim Rayner and Starmer reportedly clashed during the election campaign after the deputy leader wanted the focus of the May 6 elections to be on a real living wage for care workers, with the leader instead opting to focus on the NHS.
The sacking has reopened splits over the direction the party is going in.
Momentum co-chair Gaya Sriskanthan criticised the news in remarks to LabourList.
“Angela Rayner’s sacking is blatant scapegoating. Channel 4’s polling shows that the main reason for the catastrophic defeat in Hartlepool is Keir’s leadership.
“It is his failed strategy that has brought us to this point, and he said he would take responsibility. Yet again he has gone back on his word.”
Another blamed Jenny Chapman, the leader’s closest aide, for the losses.
“This sacking isn’t about Angela. She’s a scapegoat, simple as. The major faults that were political are at Jenny Chapman’s feet”.
Left-wing commentator Owen Jones remarked: “Trying to pin the blame on working-class women for their lack of vision or strategy, their lack of answers to the country’s problems. The absolute pits.”
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.
Rayner remains the deputy leader as a position elected by the party membership, and it is likely she will be given an alternative position in the shadow cabinet.