Image Credit: Chris McAndrew
With December delivering a devastating general election result for Labour, where the party achieved their lowest share of the vote since 1935, the race is on to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
The key issues in this election will be focused on how leaders respond to controversial issues in the manifesto, and whether they take Labour closer to the centre-ground or continue Corbyn’s policies of widespread nationalisation and significant investment in infrastructure.
Candidates will also have to address how Labour will respond to the Brexit process given the Conservatives’ large majority, as well as their actions to tackle anti-Semitism from within the party. With nominations from fellow Labour MPs closing last Monday, and five candidates achieving the quota of 10 per cent of the Parliamentary Party, the scramble is now on to get the required nominations from affiliated trade unions, as well as Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) across the country, before they face a vote from all party members.
While much discussion has focused on the potential for Labour to elect a female leader for the first time, current polling suggests that Sir Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and current Shadow Brexit Secretary is the favourite to succeed Corbyn.
Starmer’s popularity has attracted support from across the party and he has himself suggested that supporters should not ‘trash’ the legacies of Tony Blair, nor Jeremy Corbyn.
However, critics attribute Starmer’s pro-European stance to Labour’s failure at the general election, citing that the majority of seats were lost in Leave-voting areas.
The female MP with the most support so far is Rebecca Long-Bailey, who has been dubbed ‘continuity Corbyn’ and is a close ally of the outgoing Labour leader. Long-Bailey was a key architect of Labour’s Green New Deal election policy focusing on a green industrial revolution, but with questions surrounding her ability to provide a genuine change from Labour’s election strategy, she is unlikely to appeal beyond the left of the party.
Recent polling by The Guardian places Starmer as the favourite candidate to take over as Labour leader at 62 per cent. Although, similar polling places Long-Bailey’s chances of victory second to Starmer, at 33 per cent. However, after gaining the support of Momentum she has been gaining on Starmer.
Lisa Nandy, who served in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet and founded the Centre for Towns think tank is also in the running. The Wigan MP has emphasised the failure of Labour to listen to traditional Labour-voting towns, at the expense of focusing both time and policy on larger urban areas.
Prominent back bencher Jess Phillips is widely regarded as the staunchest anti-Corbyn candidate and has been a vocal critic of Corbyn’s leadership since her election in 2015. Phillips advocates keeping the option open for the UK to re-join the EU and has advo-cated the scrapping of some of Labour’s more ambitious policies of renationalisation. Despite supporters praising her outspoken and plain-talking tone, supporters of Jeremy Corbyn accuse her of undermining the leadership.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry completes the ballot, after just managing to achieve 24 nominations from MPs to be included in the contest. Elections for Deputy Leader are also taking place, with Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner in a strong position to win after receiving 86 nominations.
The ballot of Labour members opens on 21 February and closes on 2 April. The following Saturday will see the results of the leadership race announced at a one-day conference in London.