The battle to be the next leader of the UK’s main opposition Labour party narrowed to five MPs on Monday after the first round of nominations closed, leaving frontrunner Keir Starmer facing four female opponents.
Many senior Labour figures have emphasised the need for the party to select a female leader for the first time in its century-long history. But Sir Keir, the shadow Brexit secretary and a former director of public prosecutions, is the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn after he secured the backing of 86 MPs and MEPs.
The other candidates through to the next round are the leftwing shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey, who was supported by 33 MPs, backbenchers Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips, who secured the support of 31 and 23 MPs respectively, and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, who was also backed by 23 MPs.
contender not to secure enough support was shadow Treasury secretary Clive
Lewis, who withdrew from the race on Monday morning. His decision helped Ms
Thornberry scrape over the threshold minutes before nominations closed.
The party now faces a leadership contest that will be a proxy battle for control between Mr Corbyn’s “hard-left” faction, represented by Ms Long Bailey, and the others, who are considered more moderate socialists.
Ms Long Bailey is expected to continue with many of the policies in Labour’s 2019 general election manifesto, despite the party losing 59 seats in December’s poll. Candidates needed to secure the votes of 22 MPs or MEPs, about 10 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour party, to reach the ballot.
The five candidates now have until February 14 to secure the backing of either 5 per cent of the constituency Labour parties, or three affiliate bodies, including trade unions. More than half a million members of the party, as well as one-off “registered supporters”, will then choose the next leader who will be unveiled at a special conference on April 4.
candidates vying to be the next deputy leader — Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon,
Rosena Allin-Khan, Ian Murray and Dawn Butler — all secured enough support to
proceed to the next part of the contest.
Ms Nandy launched her leadership bid at an event in Dagenham on Monday afternoon. After Labour’s “shattering defeat” it was neither time to steady the ship nor play it safe, she said: “If we do not change course we will die and we will deserve to.” Ms Nandy, who had argued for Labour to accept the need to respect the result of the EU referendum, said the party did not have to choose between Leave and Remain areas.
She said she had had to fight both the Labour leadership and her own constituents in her pursuit of a soft form of Brexit. It would be “defeatist” to have to pick between working class and middle class voters, between young and old, between town and country, she said: “We may not be in power but we should never believe we are powerless.”