In less than a month, members of the Labour Party will vote for a new party leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn after the party’s catastrophic loss in the December general election.
Local branches and fringe groups of the party have until 14 February to nominate candidates for the leadership before polls open on the 21st of this month.
The new leader of the party should be known by 4 April.
The party is also voting for a new deputy leader of the party, to replace former deputy leader Tom Watson.
Four leadership candidates remain in the running, with a wide range of views on the subject of Brexit, the economy and Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy between them:
Rebecca Long-Bailey (MP for Salford and Eccles), Keir Starmer (MP for Holborn and St. Pancras), Lisa Nandy (MP for Wigan) and Emily Thornberry (MP for Islington South and Finsbury).
Rebecca Long-Bailey is considered to be the “continuity candidate” to Corbyn – having won the endorsement of the left-wing faction Momentum and the trade union Unite, she is expected to continue many of the policies Corbyn started.
Starmer has shown interest in keeping Corbyn’s radical vision alive, while Thornberry has criticized Corbyn for his inability to win elections and stamp out antisemisitism in the party.
As expected, each of the candidates has spoken out on the topic of climate change.
Rebecca Long-Bailey helped develop Labour’s policy for a Green New Deal in her time as shadow business secretary and has called for scrapping of plans for new Heathrow runways, arguing it would accelerate carbon emissions.
Lisa Nandy, on the other hand, spent time as the party’s Shadow Secretary for energy and climate change.
The greatest source of division between candidates is the issue of Brexit.
Both Thornberry and Starmer have been vocal proponents of a second referendum on the issue. Both have also served as shadow Brexit secretaries under Corbyn, with Thornberry only serving for a few months in 2016 before Starmer’s takeover.
Thornberry also attracted controversy by dressing up as a European Union flag, with a blue dress and gold star necklace, at a people’s vote rally coinciding with the Labour Party national conference last year.
Lisa Nandy has blamed Labour’s 2019 defeat on its support for a second EU referendum, the policy that Starmer and Thornberry helped to spearhead, claiming that it alienated voters in the North of England where Labour’s traditional heartland was nearly completely lost.
A poll of party members conducted by LabourList, a Labour Party news website and forum, had Long-Bailey coming out on top with 42 per cent of respondents placing her as their first choice.
Starmer came as a close second with 37 per cent, with none of the other candidates reaching the double digits for first preferences.
Edinburgh’s very own Ian Murray, MP for Edinburgh South, is running in the deputy leadership election.
Among his opponents for the position are Rosena Allin-Khan, Richard Burgon, Dawn Butler and Angela Rayner.
Murray used his deputy leadership announcement to criticise Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell for suggesting Labour might support plans for a second independence referendum at a Fringe show last summer, further cementing his firmly unionist stance on Scottish Independence.
The leadership contest comes as a result of a devastating defeat for the party in last year’s election. Every candidate pitches a very different face for the party.
While Long-Bailey supports have argued she offers a younger and more energetic face for the policy line started by Jeremy Corbyn, a change of leadership would potentially bring a major change in Labour Party policy.
The Student will continue to follow both the Labour Party Leadership and Deputy Leadership contest in the coming weeks.
Image: Rwendland via Wikimedia Commons