Supporters of the deputy leader are said to be canvassing support for an unprecedented challenge against her boss if the party loses in Batley and Spen today. Labour is defending a majority of more than 3,000.
The Conservatives are confident of winning the Labour stronghold in Yorkshire, regaining the seat for the first time in almost a quarter of a century.
A Survation poll published last week put the Tories on 47 percent, up 11 percent from the 2019 general election, while Labour was on 43 percent.
The result could be a knockout blow for Sir Keir’s leadership after the party also lost the Hartlepool by-election in May.
Voters in the northern town elected a Tory MP for the first time in 50 years, with the Labour leader being regularly cited by voters as a reason for abandoning the party.
READ MORE: Batley and Spen by-election: Will there be an exit poll tonight?
An Opposition party has not lost two by-elections in a row since the 1800s.
Last night Sir Keir’s spokesman said the leader would not resign if the party faced the crushing defeat.
He said: “Keir has been absolutely clear that this is a four-year path to get back into power and he is determined to lead the party into the next general election.”
The comments mean the Labour leader would need to be challenged for the top job in order to oust him, with Ms Rayner’s friends thought to be talking to parliamentary colleagues and trade unions to gauge support.
“There’s definitely been people sounding out the possibility — it’s clear she’d easily reach 40 nominations — and urging her to run if the worst happens in Batley,” a close ally of the deputy leader told The Times.
One Corbynite MP said: “Angela’s people are speaking to a number of comrades.
READ MORE: Starmer risks being ‘shortest-lived Labour leader’ in 100 years
Today, Ms Rayner sought to distance herself from claims of an imminent challenge.
She tweeted this morning to say the story was “news to me”.
Relations between Sir weir Starmer’s office and his deputy have reach new lows in recent weeks after the Labour leader botched a reshuffle of his shadow cabinet in May.
Under pressure from the loss of the Hartlepool vote, Sir Keir aimed to shift blame from himself to his deputy.
Ms Rayner was sacked as the party’s chair and head of campaigns just 24 hours after the result of the election.
Sir Keir was forced to then desperately backtrack and offer the Ashton under Lyne MP a promotion after backlash from his MPs.
With frustration mounting on Labour backbenchers, the leader has thrown everything at winning today’s by-election.
The party bent their own rules to select Kim Leadbeater, the sister of former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox who was murdered in the constituency in 2016, as their candidate.
Usually, Labour candidates have to have been a member of the party for at least a year before they can stand.
The party are hoping the close family ties to the constituency will help persuade voters to back their candidate.