Khan and Burnham face cut from Labour conference lineup

The city mayors Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham could lose their speech slots at the Labour party conference this year under a stripped-back speaking programme which will prioritise party member debates.

Khan, who has previously criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, gave a powerful speech last year under the theme of “Labour in power” which was seen by many as a warning to Corbyn not to forget the importance of winning elections. 

The full lineup for the conference has yet to be finalised but Labour sources indicated it was a distinct possibility that Khan and Burnham, the London and Manchester metro mayors respectively, would not have speaking slots.

A source close to Khan told the Guardian: “It would be extraordinary if the mayor of London didn’t speak at Labour conference after the year London has had, with the Grenfell fire and three terror attacks, as well as critical local council elections next year.”

Neil Coyle, the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said it was crucial for Khan to speak at the Brighton event. “Sadiq is a winner and is delivering a strong Labour agenda in London,” he said. “He’s saved my constituents thousands on tube and bus fares and is delivering infrastructure projects that’ll benefit millions.

“Given he won the highest political vote of any elected politician in the UK ever, there is simply no reason to keep him off the rostrum unless those setting the agenda don’t wish to be associated with success.”

The Ilford North MP, Wes Streeting, said “all our star players were needed on the pitch” given a general election could be called at any time. “Sadiq Khan is one of Labour’s best known politicians and given everything that’s happened in London during the past year – and the crucial set of elections in the capital next year – it would be a terrible snub not to have him addressing our conference.”

Labour’s vastly expanded membership has long called for an increased role at conference, in place of long speeches from politicians. It is understood Corbyn is keen for speeches to be shorter and the number of speakers trimmed to give members more time for debates.

Though keynote speeches are expected from Corbyn, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, and the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, other members of the shadow cabinet are likely to have shorter speeches.

Party sources said that with Labour membership having tripled the leadership was keen to give those members greater opportunities to contribute, especially given the effort put in by activists during the election.

The conference, from 24-27 September, is expected to have the biggest turn-out of members in 30 years, with around 1,200 likely to attend. Many local constituency parties will send their full contingent of delegates, when normally only a small number would have been sent on grounds of costs.

Bristol West, one of the local parties which has seen the fastest growth, is expected to send 17 delegates.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jessica Elgot Political reporter, for theguardian.com on Thursday 17th August 2017 12.31 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010