UK Politics: Labour leadership outsiders scramble for nominations

Clive Lewis and Emily Thornberry
Lewis and Thornberry are leadership outsiders

On the eve of the deadline for nominations, Labour leadership hopefuls are trying to secure their place in the contest. Max Liu reports on the latest odds and news...

"In a pitch to Labour's left this weekend, Starmer said the party shouldn’t 'trash' the past four years under Corbyn and promised to champion a left-wing economic agenda."

Longshots Emily Thornberry 210.00209/1 and Clive Lewis 430.00429/1 are trying to secure the support of 22 MPs or MEPs that will allow them to stand in the Labour leadership election. The pair have until 14:30 on Monday to reach the threshold required to take part in the contest, which will ultimately be decided by the party's half-a-million members and reach its conclusion on 4 April.

Keir Starmer 1.341/3, Rebecca Long-Bailey 8.88/1, Lisa Nandy 10.519/2 and Jess Phillips 25.024/1 are all already through to the next stage having gained the necessary backing. Starmer has 63 nominations - more than double any of his opponents - and his odds shortened again on the Exchange this weekend.

Thornberry said on Sunday she was confident of getting 22 while Lewis was continuing to pitch his vision for the party to potential backers.

The odds suggest Thornberry and Lewis can be written off. But in case anyone thinks that scraping together the numbers at this stage means a candidate has no chance of emerging as the eventual winner, it's worth remembering that this was exactly the position in which Jeremy Corbyn founds himself in 2015.

Corbyn received just 36 nominations - fewer than Liz Kendal (41), Yvette Cooper (59) or Andy Burnham (68) - before surging ahead once the contest proper had begun. It is still possible that one of the other candidates will catch up with Starmer over the next three months.

An early poll by YouGov for the Party Members Project showed Starmer defeating Long-Bailey by 61 to 39% in the final round but Nandy could yet be the one to watch. She's been backed by more than 60 Labour figures, with councillors and peers joining the MPs and MEPs who nominated her.

Starmer and Long-Bailey pitch to left of party

Starmer's campaign received a boost earlier this week when Unison announced it was backing him. Unison are one of the "big three" trade unions which have an important role to play in Labour leadership elections, although they're perhaps not as influential as in the past.

Unison coming out for Starmer isn't necessarily a surprise - according to Labour historian David Kogan it's "the most centrist of the big unions" - but it is significant, as Unison supported Corbyn in 2015.

In a clear pitch to Labour's left this weekend, Starmer said the party shouldn't "trash" the past four years under Corbyn and promised to champion a left-wing economic agenda. Earlier this week, the front-runner refused to mark Corbyn's leadership out of 10 and described Corbyn as a friend.


Starmer also used his speech on Saturday to set his sights on leading Labour to victory in five years saying: "My campaign will be about defending Labour's radical values and winning a majority in 2024." A market on the outcome of the next general election has just opened.

The grassroots group Momentum are not backing Starmer at this point, after they sent an email to supporters on Saturday saying Long-Bailey she was "the only viable left candidate who can build on Labour's socialist agenda, deepen democracy in the party and unite all of Labour's heartlands at the next election."

Momentum will, however, hold a ballot of its member on which candidate to support early next week.
Meanwhile, the Unite union, which is lead by close Corbyn ally Len McClsukey, will decide which candidate it's backing for the leadership after its executive committee meeting on 24 January.

Rayner way out in front for deputy leader

The leadership isn't the only job up for grabs and members will also vote on who they want as their deputy leader.

Angela Rayner is 1.152/13 to get the job after the shadow education secretary made a strong start to her campaign winning 72 nominations for the job. She also has the backing of Unison, although as one of their former reps it would have been surprising if she didn't receive their support.

Angela Rayner 956.jpg

Her nearest rival, in terms of nominations, is Ian Murray 16.5 with 30. Exchange bettors, however, prefer the chances of Rosena Allin-Khan 13.012/1, while Richard Burgon 16.015/1 and Dawn Butler 28.027/1, who both served in Corbyn's shadow cabinet are also in the race.

Based on current odds then, Labour is destined to spend the next five years with Starmer and Rayner at the top of the party. If so they should work in greater harmony than their predecessors, Corbyn and Tom Watson, but that's not saying much.

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