KEIR Starmer was forced to ditch a major shake-up of his party’s UK leadership election process as the Labour conference got under way yesterday.

The Labour leader arrived in Brighton insisting the conference, which will see his first in-person address to the party on Wednesday, would be a chance to “set out our vision for the future”. But even before it got under way, he had to retreat from proposals which would have dramatically increased MPs’ influence in the election of a new leader after a huge backlash from the unions and Labour’s left.

A revised set of plans has now been agreed by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee and will be put to the conference.

Starmer said: “I’m very pleased these party reforms have got the backing of our NEC.

“These proposals put us in a better position to win the next General Election and I hope constituency and trade union delegates will support them when they come to conference floor.”

Under the original proposal, the one member one vote (OMOV) system would have been replaced with a return to the electoral college made up of the unions and affiliate organisations, MPs and party members – each with an equal share.

Those plans were abandoned, although the revised proposals still amount to a significant shake-up and will face opposition from the left.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (below) had indicated he was among those unhappy with the decision to push for an internal change in the way the UK leader is elected.

The National: Anas Sarwar at FMQs at Holyrood thursday STY..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..23/9/21.

He said: “I don’t think it should be our focus. It is certainly not my focus. I’m going to conference to talk about the issues I care about.”

Sarwar will use his speech to the party’s UK conference tomorrow to reveal plans to establish a Scottish Energy Transmission Commission.

Former UK Government energy minister Brian Wilson will lead the body and will also chair a new taskforce being set up by Scottish Labour to look at how jobs can be created and protected as the country moves to greener forms of power.

Sarwar said: “The transition to net-zero holds tremendous opportunities for Scottish manufacturing and our economy, but we cannot trust the SNP to deliver jobs here in Scotland.”

In May’s Holyrood election, Labour won 22 seats – their worst result since devolution.