Meet the contenders vying to become the new Labour Party leader

The powerful union Unite’s executive will meet in London on Friday where they will interview the remaining hopeful candidates for the 2020 Labour leadership contest to decide who to endorse. 

Rebecca Long-Bailey is expected to receive their backing, and endorsement by the influential union will solidify her position in the race to be head of the party, which could mean trouble for front-runner Keir Stalmer.

James Miller, Freelance journalist, and political commentator  explains how union endorsements are “massive” if a candidate hopes to achieve a place on the final ballot.

“You can make an argument that the last 10 years were defined by the unions. For example, making Ed Milliband Labour leader. Clearly, Labour is a movement that has come from the unions and has close ties to them.”

“Unite are very important, certainly in being seen as the heir to Corbyn. You want to have the Unite endorsement, and it looks like Rebecca Long-Bailey is going to get that.”

It has been suggested that Unite would ask its members to put Lisa Nandy as second preference possibly to deny Keir Stamer a clear run in the leadership. Miller says “On the face of it, Nandy is the second most ‘lefty’ candidate. 

Keir Starmer was in the Shadow Cabinet and state loyal throughout so that also gives him a certain amount of currency amount the ‘Corbynistas’, which most of the members are. I think the second preferences are fairly predictable and I;m not sure whether Unite telling people how to place their second preference will make a huge amount of difference.”

Len McCluskey, the general secretary for Unite, is expected to announce their backing decision later this afternoon.


Labour Leadership Contest Rundown

The four candidates proceeding to the second round of nominations are: Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry. They had to receive sufficient nominations in the first round to get to this stage. 

Clive Lewis, Shadow Treasury Minister, withdrew from the race earlier this week. 

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham, left the race on Tuesday despite gaining enough nominations to earn a place in the second round. “The Labour Party will need to select a candidate who can unite all parts of our movement, the union movement, members and the elected representatives,” she said, “at this time, that person is not me.”

The final ballot opens 21 February 2020.


Meet the candidates

Keir Starmer:

Keir Starmer - UK Parliament official portraits 2017

(MP & MEP nominations: 88)

(Constituency Labour Party nominations: 32)

Sir Keir Starmer has served as MP for Holborn and St Pancras since 2015.

At the time of writing, he has achieved 32 CLP nominations, more than the rest of his opponents combined.

Of the current candidates, Keir Starmer looks most likely to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

In his own words: “I’m now standing to be leader of the Labour Party because I believe I can help unite our movement, take on the Tories and build a better future. When Labour is united, we can achieve anything.

“The NHS, the minimum wage, the Equal Pay Act, peace in Northern Ireland: impossible dreams made possible by Labour governments. We now need to provide an effective opposition to Boris Johnson. We need to start winning elections again – starting with the local elections in May, building to 2024.”


Lisa Nandy:

(MP & MEP nominations: 31)

(CLP nominations: 7)


Lisa Eva Nandy has been the Labour MP for Wigan since 2010. Nandy currently serves as Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. She was the second candidate to secure her place on the members’ ballot due to winning the backing of affiliate group Chinese for Labour.

She said: “From working with child refugees and rough sleepers, to a decade in Parliament opposing free schools and tackling climate change as the Shadow Secretary of State – I know that Labour is at our best when we are bold and have the courage of our convictions. I have never shied away from difficult battles and I never will.

“I am standing to be leader of the Labour Party to lead us back into power. The road will be steep, but it doesn’t have to be long. We win together.”

Nandy is set to be the one to challenge front runner Stalmer for the position, though she has less than a quarter of his current constituency nominations.


Rebecca Long-Bailey:

(MP & MEP nominations: 33)

(CLP nomination: 7)


Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford and Eccles, joined the labour party in May 2016. Bailey currently serves as Shadow business secretary, undertaking the position in 2017.

Before becoming an MP, Long-Bailey studied Politics and Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, then completed “various part-time law conversion and solicitors’ courses.”

She gained the second-highest number of votes (33) from colleagues.

“My vision is one of a democratic, aspirational and decarbonised society that hands wealth and power back to ordinary people,” Long-Bailey said, “I believe we can build a green, democratic future that bridges the deep divides in our electoral coalition.

“This is my ambition – an aspirational, socialist, democratic future that can unite the country and build our path back to power.”

Long-Bailey is yet to receive any endorsements from affiliates or unions, but she is hopeful of securing the Unite backing later.


Emily Thornberry:

(MP & MEP nominations: 23)

(CLP nominations: 3)


Emily Thornberry has been the MP for Islington South and Finsbury since 2015. Previously, she served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and then Shadow First Secretary of State.

She was the last candidate to be put forward, garnering 23 nominations from MPs and MEPs.

Thornberry said: “Our greatest strength lies not just in our party’s history, values, or achievements in government, but from the army of union members, CLPs and student activists who’ve inspired all of that, and continue inspiring it today.”

“Our party is at its best when we’re listening to our members and answerable to them, and our best policies are driven by the experience of our members.

That’s the way I’d lead our party, lead the fight against Johnson, and lead us into power. By standing up and fighting back together.”

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