Labour leadership contest: the state of the race so far

6 January 2020

6:15 AM

6 January 2020

6:15 AM

The candidates to replace Jeremy Corbyn have been busily launching their campaigns and giving political interviews this weekend, with the party deciding the rules for the contest at a meeting of its ruling National Executive Committee tomorrow. There are still a couple of candidates left to launch their official campaigns, including Rebecca Long-Bailey, who appears to have disappeared to a location far more secretive than any prime ministerial holiday, and Ian Lavery. But here’s what we know so far about each of the candidates:

Keir Starmer: considered the frontrunner in the contest, the shadow Brexit secretary launched his campaign last night with a moving video. It was moving in the sense that it offered Starmer’s own personal story and a sense of why he is in politics, but also because it quite obviously moved him to the left of where he’s sat for the past few years. It seems he thinks he will end up fighting a centrist candidate such as Jess Phillips or Lisa Nandy, and is going for the members who can’t back either of those. His slogan is ‘Another future is possible’.

Jess Phillips: Her video on Friday promised to ‘Speak Truth. Win Power’ and the Birmingham Yardley MP is busily characterising herself as someone who says what they think (something Labour members used to love about Jeremy Corbyn, but which hasn’t gone down so well when it’s Phillips joking about knifing Corbyn in the front, for instance). She will get plenty of attention – and criticism – for suggesting today that she could campaign for Britain to rejoin the EU.

Lisa Nandy: When she’s not talking about how much she loves towns, Nandy’s pitch is considered by party colleagues as rather Blue Labour-ish. She criticised her party for ‘patronising’ voters on Brexit and is the most vocal about the current political system not working for the communities Labour should represent.

Emily Thornberry: Declared before Christmas and despite remaining a member of the shadow cabinet spent today tearing into her party’s election manifesto. She told Sophy Ridge that there are ‘all kinds of criticism in terms of the way the election was organised’, which explains why she stayed so quiet during the campaign itself. She wants the party to be much more realistic on spending pledges, and says she won’t be fighting from the left, right or centre.

Rebecca Long-Bailey: Not yet declared, but expected to run on a joint ticket with deputy leadership hopeful Angela Rayner. The most Corbynite of the realistic candidates, with strong backing from John McDonnell.

Ian Lavery: Not yet declared. Will be to the left of Long-Bailey and less likely to garner support in the parliamentary party.

Clive Lewis: Making the ambitious claim that Labour hasn’t yet sufficiently detached itself from Blairism, which is the strangest criticism ever levelled at Corbyn.

The NEC meeting tomorrow will show us how determined the Corbynites are to hold on to the levers of power, despite the fact that their man is stepping down after such a disastrous election result.It is within the NEC’s power to change the rules on the threshold of support from MPs that a candidate needs to make it onto the ballot paper, and to decide whether registered supporters will be able to vote, as well as the deadline for new members to join and be eligible to vote in the contest. The theory is that the longer the amount of time available for new members to sign up, the more favourable the situation for the centrist candidates such as Phillips and Nandy. Already the rival camps are muttering about the threats of a stitch-up, and there is a row about the presence at tomorrow’s meeting of Jon Lansman, who supports Rebecca Long-Bailey. Long-Bailey herself will not be at the meeting, but her opponents, particularly the Phillips and Lavery campaigns, will be on a hair trigger to accuse her acolytes of attempts to stitch up the contest before it has properly begun.

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