Labour’s left is preparing to fight a drift away from Corbynism if Sir Keir Starmer is elected the party’s new leader.   

Sir Keir, the shadow Brexit secretary, is widely expected to beat Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary viewed as the heir to Jeremy Corbyn, in the race. 

The result will be announced online at 10.45am, after a planned special conference to unveil the new leader was cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis.

The strict measures in place to prevent the spread of the disease also mean that each of the candidates has had to record a video to be played in the event of their victory. 

Angela Rayner, currently the party’s shadow education secretary and an ally of Ms Long-Bailey, is expected to be elected the party’s new deputy leader. 

 

The leader of the Unite union, one of Labour’s largest political donors, has warned Sir Keir, who has been standing on a ‘unity’ platform, not to sack pro-Corbyn MPs if he becomes leader.  

Sir Keir should reject pressure to “engage in any purge of the left”, Len McCluskey told the Politico website. 

In an interview to mark his departure as Labour leader, Mr Corbyn also warned his successor not to enter a national government with the Conservatives to steer the UK through the coronavirus crisis. 

Mr Corbyn said Labour’s role was to oppose and challenge the government. 

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George Freeman, a Conservative MP and former minister, has called for a cross-party ‘Covid cabinet’.

In the same interview, Mr Corbyn said he would also encourage Labour members “to stand up for all the causes that I believe so passionately in”.

Meanwhile, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor and a key ally of Mr Corbyn, is understood to be planning to maintain a high-profile when he returns to the backbenches this weekend. 

It is understood Mr McDonnell plans to have a significant presence at future Labour party conferences and alongside striking workers on picket lines.  

Labour insiders point out that it is the first time in years that senior MPs on the left of the party are returning to the backbenches, and compared Mr McDonnell to Tony Benn. 

A new Corbynite think tank could also emerge from the leadership contest, sources suggest. 

Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary and a candidate for the deputy leadership, has called for the creation of a new left-wing think tank, the ‘Tony Benn School of Political Education’.

It is believed a similar project will be set up, no matter where Mr Burgon finishes.   

One Labour MP last night described the think tank proposal as “divisive”.  

Sir Keir is also facing pressure from some MPs expected to be included in his shadow cabinet to sack Ms Long-Bailey, arguing she shares the blame for December’s general election defeat with Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell.

One said: “They are all culpable.”

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