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Labour: Jon Lansman criticises Keir Starmer

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The Labour leader has drawn widespread criticism for sacking Angela Rayner as the party’s chair and national campaign manager. Critics have argued Sir Keir has made Ms Rayner a “scapegoat” amid the opposition party’s failure to appeal to voters. Labour suffered a string of humiliating defeats in the “Super Thursday” ballots, including the loss of the Hartlepool constituency in a by-election.

It marked the first time the north-east town has elected a Tory MP since the seat was created.

Labour took further hits when the Conservatives gained control of councils from Harlow and Northumberland.

The party also lost control of Durham council for the first time in a century and witnessed heavy defeats in Rotherham and Sunderland at local authority level.

In Rotherham the Tories jumped form zero councillors to 20 while Labour saw its number of seats plummet to 32 but managed to retain overall control.

Labour voices blasted Sir Keir’s campaign and Jeremy Corbyn allies were scathing in their review of his performance.

During an interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Diane Abbott, who served as shadow home secretary in Mr Corbyn’s cabinet, said the loss of Hartlepool was “devastating” for Labour.

But she also pointed to the party’s wins in Wales, Greater Manchester and the London mayoral elections.

Ms Abbott, one of Mr Corbyn’s closest allies, was pressed by the host on whether the wins in those areas and the losses in other regions suggested a “leadership problem” was to blame.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford all held onto their spots.

Ms Abbott said: “I think it’s a strategy problem.

“When Keir Starmer was first elected as leader he talked about unifying the party and he talked about not oversteering away from the policies under Jeremy Corbyn. He needs to go back to that way of thinking.”

She joined a growing number of voices on the Left to hit out at Sir Keir’s decision to sack Ms Rayner, saying it was “not unifying”.

One shadow cabinet member, speaking anonymously, said the defeat in Hartlepool had set off “full-on panic” among Labour MPs that their seats could be vulnerable at the next general election.

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As the fallout from the poor election performance continues, it emerged on Sunday that Sir Keir would conduct an urgent reshuffle of his cabinet.

Speculation is rife that Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, and Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, could be ousted.

Sir Keir’s sacking of Ms Rayner, who will remain as deputy party leader as that is an elected role, sparked fury among many Labour MPs.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell warned Sir Keir he had made “a huge mistake”.

He told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I haven’t spoken to Angie. And let me be clear, I don’t have any brief for Angie – I didn’t support her as deputy leader, I supported Richard Burgon.

“When the leader of the party on Friday said he takes responsibility for the election result in Hartlepool in particular and then scapegoats Angela Rayner, I think many of us feel that is unfair, particularly as we all know actually that Keir’s style of leadership is that his office controls everything.”

Mr Burgon, the East Leeds Labour MP, backed Ms Abbott’s call for a return to the 2019 manifesto policies.

He tweeted: “Labour’s leadership had no vision in these elections.

“To rebuild we should push our popular policies: 67 percent back £10+ per hour min wag, 83 percent back free personal care for the elderly, 60 percent + back public ownership of rail & mail, 64 percent back higher taxes on the rich.

“And there’s much more!”

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