In Depth

Labour leadership latest odds: who will replace Jeremy Corbyn?

Results of contest to be announced this Saturday

The three Labour leadership finalists have been asked to pre-record a victory speech for when the contest’s result is announced on Saturday.

The party had planned a special conference in London for 4 April, but this had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. The BBC says members will instead hear the result via email and the media.

Leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey told Sky News the pre-recordings were part of an effort to “deal with these strange times”, but admitted it will be “bizarre” to record a speech before knowing the result.

Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy are also vying to replace Jeremy Corbyn, who announced his resignation after the party’s poor showing in the December General Election. A new deputy leader will also be elected to replace Tom Watson.

So who is leading the race and what do the candidates stand for?

Keir Starmer 1/100

As Labour’s Brexit spokesperson, Starmer has become one of the most visible figures in Corbyn’s top team and has been credited with holding the Tory government to account over its handling of Brexit negotiations.

The outspoken Remainer has held his Holborn and St Pancras seat since 2015, and was “instrumental in shifting Labour’s position towards backing a second Brexit referendum”, says The Guardian.

Starmer is the favourite among bookmakers to win the contest - and held a comfortable lead over his rivals in the latest YouGov/Sky poll of party members.

The survey suggested he could win on 53% of the first preference vote, which would just be enough for him to win on the first round. He was ahead of Long-Bailey on 31% and Nandy on 16%.

He is forecast to win convincingly among men and women, among Labour members of all age ranges, social grades and in all parts of the country, as well as among those who voted Remain at the 2016 EU referendum, says Sky News.

The former director of public prosecutions has promised to champion a “human rights-based foreign policy”, “rebuild our economic model in place of the failed free market one” and “spread power across all of our communities”.

He has also laid out an eight-point plan to reform Labour, including the introduction of an independent disciplinary committee and changes aimed at limiting the power of the National Executive Committee.

Much has been made of Starmer’s attempts to appeal to both the moderate and hard-left wings of the party, with some criticising him for attempting to be everything to everybody. 

As Buzzfeed political correspondent Emily Ashton writes: “He is dismissed as a Blairite centrist by the left and a radical Marxist by the right. He praises both Corbyn and Tony Blair as excellent party leaders.” However, a close ally of Starmer, Lord Falconer, described him as “utterly committed to the causes of the left”.

Starmer is also seen as a unifying candidate, as evidenced by his campaign team which includes Jenny Chapman, a former MP who was vice-chair of Blairite pressure group Progress; Simon Fletcher, ex–chief of staff to Corbyn; Kat Fletcher, who also worked on Corbyn’s 2015 leadership campaign; and Morgan McSweeney, who ran Liz Kendall’s doomed leadership bid in 2015.

The Sunday Times reports that Starmer may go for a “scorched earth” approach if he wins the leadership, “purg[ing] Jeremy Corbyn’s allies in the shadow cabinet and party headquarters within weeks” as part of an effort to end the “factionalism of the party under his predecessor”.

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Rebecca Long-Bailey 33/1

Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, is seen by many as the continuity-Corbyn candidate, and secured the backing of pro-Corbyn group Momentum early in the competition.

The YouGov poll of Labour members revealed that those who joined the party during Corbyn’s leadership want Long-Bailey as leader over Starmer by three percentage points.

The campaign group describes her as being “at the heart of a new and diverse generation of socialists who recognise that we cannot return to the politics of the past”.

As well as being loyal to the former leader, Long-Bailey is also close to shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who has endorsed her campaign.

In an article for Tribune magazine, she said Labour needed a “socialist leader who can work with our movement, rebuild our communities and fight for the policies we believe in”. Long-Bailey has also vowed to champion “progressive patriotism”, which she describes as “patriotism rooted in working life, built upon unity and pride in the common interests and shared life of everyone”.

Other policies touted by Long-Bailey during her leadership campaign include the abolition of the House of Lords, which she would replace with an elected senate, and the formation of a “People’s BBC”.

The latter would see the BBC made free of political interference and instead run by staff and the public. Under reforms proposed by Long Bailey, the government would lose the right to appoint the chairman of the BBC, the corporation’s most powerful official, who in turn selects its director-general and drives its strategy.

She has also said that she would not stand in the way of another Scottish independence referendum.

It has been reported that 40 MPs are considering resigning from Labour if Long-Bailey triumphs in the party leadership race. The walkout would see some sit as independents in the House of Commons and others quit politics altogether, according to The Independent.

Lisa Nandy 50/1

An assured campaign, bolstered by a strong early appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Neil Show in January, saw the relatively unknown Nandy elevated in the contest. 

It has been suggested that a Nandy leadership would help the party reconnect with the former Red Wall. Born in Manchester, the Wigan MP is the granddaughter of Frank Byers, a Liberal MP for North Dorset in the 1940s, and she has described her father as “one of the few remaining” Marxists in the country.

The former shadow energy and climate change secretary told PoliticsHome that she decided to become an MP after going to a 2009 Conservative Party conference while representing The Children’s Society. “Everyone was pretty sure they [the Conservatives] were going to win,” she said. “It was in Manchester which is my home town, which was pretty depressing, and I thought somebody has got to do something about this.”

Offering what the Daily Mirror describes as “pragmatic left-wing politics and engaging personality”, Nandy backs plans to ramp up taxes on pollution and inheritance rather than targeting high earners and backed the idea of abolishing university tuition fees.

Writing in The Guardian earlier this month, Nandy called on Boris Johnson to strike a deal to extend the EU transition period because of the coronavirus crisis.

Nandy said: “British companies who trade with the EU do not know what terms they’ll be trading on in 10 months’ time. Add to this the falling demand and disruption created by coronavirus and it is reasonable to expect many businesses will not survive.”

She first announced her candidacy with a letter to the local Wigan Post newspaper in her Greater Manchester constituency, promising to “bring Labour home” to voters who have abandoned the party in its traditional strongholds.

At the time, BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said the decision to launch her campaign in her local paper should be read as a “challenge to London-based candidates such as Keir Starmer”, as the Wigan MP has “argued that the next Labour leader should come from a community like hers”.

Who is running to become deputy leader?

Following former deputy leader Tom Watson’s departure at the start of the 2019 general election campaign, Labour must also choose a new deputy leader.

 The candidates are:

  • Richard Burgon, shadow justice secretary
  • Ian Murray, shadow Scottish secretary
  • Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary
  • Dawn Butler, shadow women and qualities secretary
  • Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow sports minister


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