Politics Latest: Labour hustings, Lib Dem leadership and Irish election

Five Labour leadership hopefuls in Liverpool
Thornberry makes her point in leadership hustings

Outsider impresses at Labour hustings, Lib Dems announce long leadership contest and Ireland sets general election date, Max Liu reports in his politics betting update...

"Labour should have a woman leader, it’s often said, then forgotten when it comes to actually electing one."

This weekend the five Labour leadership candidates took part in hustings in Liverpool. Beforehand, Keir Starmer, the 1.374/11 clear favourite with Exchange bettors, was boosted by a YouGov poll that showed him winning the final round of voting 63 to 37% against closest rival Rebecca Long Bailey 5.49/2.

Hustings, however, are a chance for the outsiders to make an impression on the party members who will vote in the leadership election and gain ground on the front-runners.

Outsider Thornberry impresses at hustings

Lisa Nandy 14.5 played down reports she plans to lock up Nicola Sturgeon while Jess Phillips 70.069/1 pitched herself once again as the straight-talking wildcard from the backbenches.

But the occasion probably belonged to Emily Thornberry 130.00129/1 who got a lot of traction on social media for her punchy remarks about how she'd take on Boris Johnson.

The YouGov poll gives Thornberry only 3% of first preference votes but her numbers might improve after Saturday. Then again they might not. Thornberry is perceived as gaffe prone - she had to resign from Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet for a made-up controversy involving a tweet about a St George's flag - but she can be barnstormingly brilliant, as she proved during the 2017 general election campaign, and while shadowing Johnson during his stint as Foreign Secretary.

Starmer played it safe and was a little dull, which can be perilous for early doors leadership frontrunners - see David Miliband and Andy Burnham in 2010 and 15 respectively - but after the last four years there's a growing sense across the party that members want a safe pair of hands.

So why not Thornberry? After all, she and Nandy have been MPs since 2010, while the other three candidates were elected in 2015, and Thornberry has served in shadow cabinets under two leaders.
Some critics say her background as a north London MP with a legal background is a problem as Labour tries to win back working class Brexiteers in the north of England, but that's also true of Starmer. Labour should have a woman leader, it's often said, then forgotten when it comes to actually electing one.

Still, with hustings scheduled across the country every weekend until the end of February, there's a long way to go in this contest as explained in detail here.

Lib Dems set for long leadership contest

If you think Labour's leadership contest is drawn out then be warned: Her Majesty's opposition have nothing on the Liberal Democrats who this weekend set the timetable for the race to succeed Jo Swinson.

The party's Federal Board announced that nominations will open on 11 May and close on 28 May. The Lib Dems have around 105,000 members who will all be able to vote for their next leader between 18 June and 15 July.

Until then Ed Davey and party president Mark Pack will continue as joint acting leaders with the former the 1.768/11 jolly to get the job full-time.

After Tim Farron, Vince Cable and Swinson, Davey is the next candidate in line. But the Lib Dems have endured a torrid decade. Even in 2010, they lost seats (down five from 62 to 57) and, with their current total at 11 following one of the worst election campaigns in history, the party needs a drastic change.

Layla Moran.jpg

The circumstances are ripe for an upset in the leadership contest. Layla Moran 2.77/4 entered parliament in 2017 and is therefore free of the taint of the party's coalition with the Tories. She recently came out as pansexual, clearing the way for a leadership run and setting herself apart from the party's weird backslide into homophobia under Farron.

Interestingly, Moran this week defended the actions of environmentalist activists Extinction Rebellion - a sign that under her leadership the party could return to the kind of territory where it made gains in the 2000s when Labour drifted rightwards.

Irish election on 8 February

Just a month on from the UK's general election, it's been announced that Ireland will go to the polls on 8 February. Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's campaign is expected to focus on his government's record on public services, housing, Brexit and the climate crisis.

At the moment, Varadkar leads a minority government, with his party Fine Gael reliant on help from independent MPs and a supply and demand arrangement with the opposition Fianna Fail.

The two parties occupy the political centre but Fianna Fail are 1.330/100 in the early betting to win most seats on February 8 with Varadkar's Fine Gael 3.02/1. Polls put them neck and neck and a Fianna Fail minority government is popular in the next government market, as are their leader Michael McGrath's chances of becoming next Taoiseach.

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