Continuity or change? The Labour leadership election


By Lacey Waters, Associate

Less than a month after Labour’s most disastrous General Election defeat since 1935 and we already have a departure date for their outgoing leader and six (so far) candidates vying to take Jeremy Corbyn’s place. But who are the six and what is the process?


The Process

As with the leadership election post-Ed-Milliband’s-Election-defeat, Labour’s National Executive Committee decided to widen its leadership electorate beyond full members of the party. Registered Supporters can apply next week (during a mere 48-hour window) and pay a fee of £25 to decide Labour’s future. This is an increase on the 2015 fee of £3 which encouraged many – apparently – on the right to vote for Corbyn in the hopes it would decimate Labour for good (that went well). 

Any MP hoping to be on the ballot will need the support of at least 10% of the party’s MPs or MEPs by Monday afternoon, which is 22 signatures. Currently, Sir Keir Starmer is the one contender to reach and exceed this figure with 27 at time of writing. Any leadership hopeful who does not reach this threshold will be eliminated. Following this, each candidate will need to secure the backing of at least 5% of all constituency parties, or three affiliates – two of which must be trade unions (surprise). They will have one month from January 15 – February 14 to achieve this, if not, they will again be eliminated. 

On February 21 the ballot will officially open to all members and supporters, closing on April 2, with a conference to announce the results two days later on April 4. 


The Hopeful Six

Clive Lewis

MP for Norwich South

Shadow Minister for Sustainable Economies

At the top of the list purely for alphabetical reasons. If not for the seemingly low faith in Emily Thornberry’s candidacy, he would likely be at the bottom. Lewis previously served in Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet twice – as Business Secretary and Defence Secretary – potentially too close to the outgoing leader to go far. Despite being a Shadow Minister, he seemingly tried to distance himself from Labour’s top team during the election campaign. A wise move, but too little too late?


Rebecca Long-Bailey

MP for Salford and Eccles

Shadow Business Secretary

A strong Corbyn ally and protégé of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, constantly at the former’s side during the election campaign. However, those closest to failure rarely see it – Long-Bailey co-wrote many of Labour’s recent policies yet maintains their catastrophic loss was all down to the evil Tories. Likely to be a favourite of the Corbyn / Momentum factions of the party, which could carry her far. But those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.


Lisa Nandy

MP for Wigan


You could be forgiven for not being aware of Nandy until recently. She did briefly serve in Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet but was the first Labour MP to not just publicly accept the reason why the party performed so badly, but also to offer a solution. A co-founder of Centre for Towns, the majority of her Parliamentary career has been about decentralisation and increased support for towns – areas Labour will need to impress if they are to win an election again. 


Jess Phillips

MP for Birmingham, Yardley


Everyone and their Grandma knows of Jess Phillips. You either love her, or love to hate her, and if you disagree you’re just lying to yourself. By chance, Phillips was the angel of this year’s Nudge Factory office Christmas tree (not that we’re terribly partisan when it comes to decorations, 2018’s tree angel Geoffrey Cox QC is forever in our hearts). Never afraid to go toe to toe with the ‘establishment’, a Phillips leadership would surely shake things up at PMQs, but could she win? Often called a Blairite by the hard-left of the party (which she seemingly does not like) and told to ‘go and join the Tories’ on social media, it is difficult to see how her candidacy could result in the top job. Perhaps better suited to Deputy Leader. There’s always next time.


Sir Keir Starmer 

MP for Holborn and St Pancras

Shadow Brexit Secretary

So far, Starmer appears to be the favourite and has already exceed the 10% threshold. Although a long-term member of Corbyn’s Cabinet, he has managed to escape the majority of criticisms that usually follow the Leader’s allies. Despite being more of a centrist, Starmer has already pitched to the trade unions for their support. In theory, there is potential for him to unite (perhaps that’s too strong a word) or at least calm relations between the Blairites and hard-left – but is it likely?


Emily Thornberry

MP for Islington South and Finsbury

Shadow Foreign Secretary

As a regular stand-in for Corbyn at PMQs you would think this would give Thornberry an advantage, but seemingly not. Currently the least favourite, and there are rumours she will struggle to meet the 22 signature threshold, meaning elimination will come on Monday afternoon. Perhaps her ill-fated tweet seemingly mocking the good people of Rochester and Strood for having the audacity of owning white vans and flying England flags back in 2014’s by-election has come back to bite her. Again.


By Monday evening, we should have a clearer view of who the strongest candidates are. Regardless, the choice for party members and supporters remains the same – choose a continuity Corbyn candidate, or opt for change and the potential of actually winning an election?


You can read our blog on the deputy leadership election here.


Photo Credit: Parliament UK

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Scroll to Top