Next Labour Leader Candidates – Strengths and Weaknesses

Rebecca Long Bailey has key backing from the Left

POSITIVE: During Jeremy Corbyn’s four years as Labour leader, the Left of the party assumed control of much of the internal machinery – the National Executive Committee, for instance – prompting a narrative that his allies are now in total control. If that is so, Rebecca Long Bailey will be hard to beat.

The Shadow Business Secretary has clearly been groomed for the job and promoted by John McDonnell – who has repeatedly called for a woman leader. It is widely reported that she will effectively run on a joint-ticket with friend, flat-mate and fellow rising star on the Left, Angela Rayner. Perhaps most importantly, she is in pole position to get the endorsement of the Unite union, led by Len McCluskey. This explains the earlier market move down to [1.9] although she’s back out to [2.9].

NEGATIVE: Endorsements are a help but ultimately, this will be decided by several hundred thousand party members. Earlier polls among them show RLB trailing badly to the likes of Starmer and Thornberry. That suggests the members are not as left-wing as media legend would have it, and is in keeping with earlier signals that support for Corbyn had fallen back due to Brexit.

Heavyweight Starmer is the safe pick

POSITIVE: The case for Starmer will be made strongly by those calling for a return towards the centre ground, following the abject electoral failure of Corbynism. The knighted former Director of Public Prosecutions is a heavyweight – leadership material on conventional measures. He would be seen as a safe pair of hands, and expected to give Boris Johnson a hard time at PMQs. He led Yougov’s last poll of Labour members.

NEGATIVE: Much depends on what conclusions members draw from defeat. If due to their backing a confirmatory Brexit referendum, that bodes ill for this arch-Remainer. Plus being a white male QC from London does nothing to appease grassroots desire for diversity, or to reach out to the lost heartlands in the Midlands and North.

Nandy’s pitch to reunite the party could resonate

POSITIVE: Nandy ticks all the latter boxes. She founded the Centre for Towns think-tank, which warned starkly of Labour’s disaster in the seats that always determine UK elections. Her acceptance speech on election night in Wigan – pledging to listen and learn from those lost Northern voters in order to rebuild Labour’s lost coalition between ‘Lewisham and Leigh’ – was a powerful statement of leadership intent. She is on the ‘soft Left’ of the party and commands respect in the House of Commons. Definitely leadership material.

NEGATIVE: Her pitch could fall on deaf ears if this overwhelmingly pro-Remain audience refuse to change tack. Nandy voted for the Withdrawal Agreement at first reading. She also made enemies on the Left when backing failed leadership challenger Owen Smith in 2016.

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