Angela Rayner has secured the backing of three big left-wing unions for a potential leadership challenge against Sir Keir Starmer.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, the rail union Aslef and the Communication Workers Union have all signalled they would back Rayner if she launched a leadership campaign.
MPs behind the deputy leader have been canvassing support among parliamentary colleagues and trade bodies. The three unions have raised concerns about the direction Starmer has taken the party over the past year. All three signed a letter to the Labour leader in October saying that Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension after his comments about antisemitism was “ill advised and unjust” and called for unity.
Senior figures at Unite, Labour’s biggest union backer, are also understood to be willing to support Rayner. The deputy leader has not approached any unions directly or told them that she wants the job, but it’s now believed that allies of Starmer are bracing themselves for a leadership contest from his deputy after yesterday’s Batley & Spen by-election which Labour held on to by just 323 votes.
Both Starmer and Rayner are from the soft left of the party, but the deputy leader is closer to the unions and seen as more left-wing on the economy. Relations between the two have been strained since a reshuffle in May in which he tried to move her. Instead he spent more than 24-hours negotiating a new role that enhanced her authority.
A Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association source said that it had an internal process for choosing who to support and would act accordingly when the time is right.