Supporters of the deputy leader are said to have been canvassing Labour MPs and trade unions to see if they would support a bid to oust Sir Keir.
Ms Rayner would need the backing of 20 per cent of the parliamentary Labour Party, 40 MPs, in order to force a contest which would see the incumbent automatically added to the ballot paper.
Supporters of Sir Keir believe that Ms Rayner is ‘on manoeuvres’ and they are braced for a challenge.
It comes after Sir Keir vowed he will not resign even if Labour loses today’s crucial by-election.
Allies of Angela Rayner have been laying the groundwork for her to launch a leadership challenge against Sir Keir Starmer if Labour lose today’s crunch Batley and Spen by-election
Supporters of the deputy leader are said to have been canvassing Labour MPs and trade unions to see if they would support a bid to oust Sir Keir
The Batley constituency in West Yorkshire has voted Labour since 1997, but there are real concerns in the party that it could be seized by the Conservatives.
Polling published yesterday suggested as many as four in ten Labour members would want Sir Keir to stand down after a loss there.
The Labour leader is already under pressure after the party lost the Hartlepool by-election and performed poorly at ‘Super Thursday’ local elections back in May.
A defeat at the ballot box today will inevitably reignite questions over his long term leadership of the party, with Ms Rayner reportedly being told by supporters to challenge Sir Keir if Labour loses.
A close ally of Ms Rayner told The Times: ‘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.’
Hard-left Labour MPs said they had been approached by supporters of Ms Rayner, with one telling the newspaper: ‘Angela’s people are speaking to a number of comrades. Sections of the party would back her without doubt.’
However, in a sign that Sir Keir’s inner circle now view a leadership challenge as increasingly likely, a source close to the leader said: ‘It would be very silly for Angela to try anything. But, like many people, she is on manoeuvres.’
Ms Rayner tweeted: ‘The ‘story’ on the front page of [The Times] tomorrow is news to me.’
Her spokesman said: ‘Anybody doing that [canvassing for support] is not doing it under instructions from Angela or with Angela’s backing. Angela is focused entirely on her jobs.’
Sir Keir’s spokesman insisted yesterday that he is on a ‘four-year path’ to lead the party back into power and will not stand down if he oversees another electoral defeat.
The spokesman played down the prospect of victory for his party in Batley by saying it ‘has always been a marginal seat’ and that winning ‘was always going to be challenging’.
‘Keir is not going to resign,’ he responded when asked by journalists at a Westminster briefing.
He added: ‘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 and to take us back into government.’
A poll published yesterday showed that 41 per cent of Labour members would want Sir Keir to stand down and make way for fresh leadership if Batley and Spen is lost.
But 48 per cent would back Sir Keir to remain in place regardless, according to the YouGov survey for Sky News of 871 members conducted over the past week, which had the remaining 11 per cent as undecided over his fate.
The Batley constituency in West Yorkshire has voted Labour since 1997, but there are real concerns in the party that it could be seized by the Conservatives
Polling published yesterday suggested that 69 per cent of Labour members would prefer Andy Burnham as leader, despite the Greater Manchester Mayor no longer being an MP and therefore unable to immediately challenge Sir Keir
The research also suggested that 69 per cent of Labour members would prefer Andy Burnham as leader, despite the Greater Manchester Mayor no longer being an MP and therefore unable to immediately challenge Sir Keir.
Though Mr Burnham is clear favourite, the Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Yvette Cooper is viewed as the leading MP candidate in the event of a sudden contest.
Some 35 per cent of members would choose her, with shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy on 13 per cent and Ms Rayner on 12 per cent.
In an interview with the New Statesman, Mr Burnham said he would like to return to the House of Commons but not in the immediate future.
‘I ain’t going back any time soon,’ he said. ‘I get asked it relentlessly: would I ever go back? So the answer is, I would, but it’s not any time soon.
‘I’m supporting Keir – I want him to win the next general election, and I’ll do whatever I can to help him achieve that.’