UK Politics

Labour Leadership Election: The Candidates

Written by Fraser Innes

With the Labour Leadership election drawing closer and the ballot paper already having four names on it, Fraser Innes looks at the six people who want to replace Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

Clive Lewis

MP for Norwich South since 2015 (gain from Liberal Democrats), Shadow Treasury Minister.

As a student he was a senior figure in the National Union of Students but was suspended as Vice-President by then-President and future front-bencher Jim Murphy for issues relating to tuition fees. He worked as a BBC journalist in the East as well as serving a tour-of-duty in Afghanistan as a member of the Territorial Army.

Upon election to Parliament he nominated Corbyn as leader, and held a number of front-bench positions, including shadow Defence Secretary. He again endorsed Corbyn during Owen Smith’s ill-fated leadership challenge of 2016. He clashed with Corbyn on a number of issues being demoted and resigning from the front bench on issues involving Brexit and nuclear weapons. He has faced controversy, being cleared of allegations of groping a woman at a Momentum fringe event at the 2017 Labour Party conference.

His leadership platform includes electoral reform by switching to a PR system. As well as calling for a referendum on the future of the Royal Family.

He faces an uphill battle with only 9% name recognition among the public according to a Deltapoll poll, the lowest among all declared candidates. He has received only four nominations for leader, including his own: again, the lowest of all contenders. It seems unlikely that Lewis will succeed in his bid to get on the ballot, let alone winning the contest as a whole.

Rebecca Long-Bailey

MP for Salford and Eccles since 2015 (Labour hold), Shadow Business Secretary.

Rebecca Long Bailey at Labour Party Confrence

A former NHS Solicitor, she too supported Jeremy Corbyn in both 2015 and 2016 leadership elections. After serving in more junior roles on the front benches, Long-Bailey joined the shadow cabinet as Shadow Business Secretary in 2017 following Clive Lewis’ resignation. She has largely avoided controversy during her time in parliament and served as the Corbyn surrogate on a BBC debate during the 2019 election campaign.

She has secured the support of the powerful Momentum pressure group after avoiding any clash with roommate Angela Rayner with the arrangement of the two running on a de facto joint ticket. Long-Bailey serves as very much a continuation of Corbynism and the belief that it was personality and presentation – rather than policy – which cost Labour so dearly in December.

With Momentum’s support, she has made her way easily onto the ballot paper, and has established herself as a frontrunner so well, the Telegraph has already taken old quotes wildly out of context. The bookies second favourite seems to be lining herself up for a clash with Keir Starmer in the later rounds of the alternative vote system.

Lisa Nandy

MP for Wigan since 2010 (Labour Hold).

Image result for lisa nandy

Daughter of an Indian Marxist and granddaughter of a Liberal MP and Lord, her Labour Party career began working as a researcher for left-wing backbencher Neil Gerrard before moving to the charitable sector for seven years. Throughout that time, she also was elected as councillor in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

After being parachuted into a Labour safe seat in 2010 she worked her way up in a series of junior roles in the Labour frontbenches under Ed Miliband’s leadership. After the labour defeat in 2015, she was encouraged to run for leader but declined and supported Burnham instead. Again in 2016, she was suggested as a possible candidate to oppose Corbyn after resigning her post in the shadow cabinet, but instead served as co-chair of Owen Smith’s unsuccessful campaign team.

She is a soft-left member of the party, with a campaign focused on towns rather than the cities exemplified by an article in the Mirror about the state of Britain’s buses. Having earned her place on the ballot, she now faces the issue of gaining the support of party members as she has only 10% name recognition among the general public: the lowest of the four on the ballot. A YouGov poll has her out in the first round, but the bookies have her third at 5/1; Lisa Nandy’s performance in this election remains an enigma.

Jess Phillips

MP for Birmingham Yardly (Gain from Liberal Democrats).

Image result for jess phillips labour leader

After working at her parents’ event management company, Jess Phillips joined the Women’s Aid Federation of England. Providing refuges for those impacted by domestic abuse is one of many of her most characterising qualities including her pragmatism in putting people’s lives before her political principals as well as her fearless outspokenness. As a political candidate in 2012, she flipped a Conservative seat in Birmingham City Council.

Upon entering Parliament, she did not stop her outspoken ways, having challenged Corbyn on the gender make-up of his first shadow cabinet after supporting Yvette Cooper. Her uncompromising feminism has attracted significant online abuse including innumerate rape threats. After the murder of Jo Cox MP, a “panic room” was set up in her constituency office.

Her campaign focuses on social care and childcare but has been somewhat derailed by the emergence of anti-Semitic tweets by a campaign staffer, who was quickly dismissed.

After making it to the ballot paper, she is in a good position as possibly the most centrist candidate so far, in addition her attractive straight-talking has driven her to early polls see her making the penultimate round of the contest.

Keir Starmer

MP for Holborn and St Pancreas since 2015 (Labour Hold). Shadow Brexit Secretary.

Image result for keir starmer

Keir Starmer was hailed in 2008 as one of the brightest lawyers of his generation by the Guardian. As a QC, he defended the “McLibel Two” in the longest-running Libel case in English History which was ruled by the ECHR to have not been a fair trial. This and other human rights cases propelled him to a position where he was named the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2008. In this role, he announced that then-Energy Secretary Chris Huhne would be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. After leaving this role after five years, he was knighted for services to law and criminal justice, before being selected as the Labour candidate to replace the retiring Frank Dobson as MP.

This position led to Starmer being encouraged to run to replace Ed Miliband mere weeks after being sworn in as an MP for the first time. He declined instead supporting eventual runner up Andy Burnham. He was appointed as a shadow Home Office minister by Corbyn, a position Starmer resigned before supporting Owen Smith to unseat Corbyn as party leader.

He was not out of the shadow government long, being appointed shadow Brexit Secretary a few months later.

Not terribly far from Corbyn on many policies, Starmer is campaigning not as a complete abandonment of Corbynism, but instead of a rationalisation of Corbyn policies. Long seen as the sensible voice in the old leadership’s ear, Starmer has been pitched as an acceptable face to both Blairites and Corbynistas alike and pundits generally agree he is the candidate the conservatives fear most. The first on the ballot and with a commanding polling lead in both Labour members and Labour voters, plus in the public as a whole, the campaign appears to be Starmer’s to lose at this point.

Emily Thornberry

MP for Islington South and Finsbury since 2005 (Labour Hold). Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow First Secretary.

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Working as a Human Rights Barrister for twenty years, after working her way through secondary school when her father left unexpectedly to eventually become UN Assistant Secretary-General.

Before standing in South Islington and Finsbury and winning a narrow majority in 2005, she ran a failed challenge of a Conservative incumbent in Canterbury, 2001.

As an MP, she was a backbencher for her entire first term, before missing out in the shadow cabinet elections in 2010 by just one vote. She was appointed as a shadow care minister before being promoted to shadow attorney general by Ed Miliband.

Under Corbyn, she bounced around collecting shadow government roles, until eventually landing as Shadow Foreign and Brexit Secretaries before Keir Starmer took over her role as Shadow Brexit Secretary. After the 2017 general election she added the role of Shadow First Secretary of State when the title was resurrected for Damian Green.

Her campaign is based around strong leadership but has little to say on concrete policy and she seems to be unlikely to be able to get onto the ballot as by threatening legal action against one of her former colleagues she has alienated herself within the PLP. She also has an issue with removing Labour’s image as the “North London Elite” as her constituency borders that of Jeremy Corbyn and she has previously ridiculed those in the north tweeting: “Image from #Rochester.” with an image of a house decked in St. George’s flags and a white Ford Transit parked outside, in combination with her alleged decrying of Don Valley voters as stupid which triggered the aforementioned legal action, Thornberry seems to be what the party are trying to avoid being construed as: Champagne Socialists who look down on those outside the M25.

Deputy Leadership Candidates

Simultaneously, there is an election to replace Tom Watson as Deputy Leader, the candidates are as follows:

  • Rosena Allin Khan: MP for Tooting since 2016 by-election (Labour Hold). Former Junior Doctor. Nominated: Smith, None yet.
  • Richard Burgon: MP for Leeds East since 2015 (Labour Hold). Shadow Justice Secretary. Former Employment Lawyer. Nominated: Corbyn, Corbyn, None yet.
  • Dawn Butler: MP for Brent Central since 2005 (Labour Hold, boundaries have changed). Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities. Former trade union officer. Nominated: Corbyn, Corbyn, None Yet.
  • Ian Murray: MP for Edinburgh South since 2010 (Labour Hold). Various previous jobs. Nominated: None, Smith, Phillips.
  • Angela Rayner: MP for Aston-under-Lyne since 2015 (Labour Hold). Shadow Education Secretary. Former care worker and trade unionist. Nominated: Burnham, Corbyn, Long-Bailey.

While Murray has the support of the Blairite wing of the party and is second in PLP nominations, the out and out favourite is Angela Rayner as her support from both the grassroots and the PLP (she has a commanding lead in MP/MEP nominations) should be more than enough to lead her to the deputy leadership.

About the author

Fraser Innes

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