Fulfilling Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to step aside following last month’s historic shellacking at the hands of Boris Johnson’s Conservatives (Labour recorded its worst parliamentary showing since before WWII), the Labour Party will formally begin its leadership contest on Monday, Bloomberg reports.
As the contest begins, the remaining members of Labour’s centrist wing (or at least, those who oppose Corbyn’s brand of left-wing populism) have taken to the British press to express their reservations about the prospects of the Labour Party, which is still controlled by the same people who have assiduously backed Corbyn at every turn, electing, in essence, another Corbyn.
Over the weekend, Tom Watson, the former Labour deputy leader, declined to name his pick for the party leadership, but warned that the prospect of the party backing Rebecca Long Bailey, the shadow business secretary under Corbyn, made him extremely worried, according to the Guardian. He attacked her as the “continuity candidate…”
“The one that I worry about – but I don’t know what she stands for – when I look at Rebecca Long Bailey, she’s really the continuity candidate. She stands for Corbynism in its purest sense. And that’s perfectly legitimate but we have lost two elections with that play.
…while also acknowledging the possibility that Long Bailey could choose a more moderate tack if/when she announces her campaign.
“She hasn’t said anything yet; as far as I know she has not formally announced and it might be that she chimes a different note in her opening bid and that she wants to take the party in a different direction and she’s very candid about what went wrong, in which case then she’s in quite a good position to shift things around. But I think it’s fair for me to reserve judgment.”
So far, Labour Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer (the frontrunner according to the polls) has been the only one of the top-polling candidates to throw his hat into the ring. Starmer, whose leadership of the pro-remain faction in the House of Commons often put him at odds with Corbyn, according to Bloomberg, is polling at 36%, comfortably ahead of Bailey, who came in second, according to the polls.
Though in his launch campaign video, Starmer appeared to try and pitch himself as a natural successor to Corbyn, arguing that the party should “build on” Corbyn’s anti-austerity message and radical socialist agenda.
I believe another future is possible – but we have to fight for it.
That’s why I’m standing to be leader of the Labour Party.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) January 4, 2020
While reporters wait for more candidates to announce, Labour’s National Executive Committee will meet on Monday to set the parameters for the contest, including how much support a candidate needs to qualify for the ballot, and the timetable for the contest, including, crucially, the cut-off point for new members to join if they want to have a vote.
Eventually, a vote will be held among party members to elect the new leader.
During the last two contests, the party membership overwhelmingly backed Corbyn, prompting some MPs to leave the party over Corbyn’s perceived history of antisemitism, as well as his radical agenda, which includes extending public broadband access to all British households.
Starmer is expected to face three women during the leadership contest: Bailey, MP for Birmingham Yardley Jess Phillips (who has declined to rule out the possibility of Labour pushing to rejoin the EU) and Lisa Nandy, the MP from Wigan, who recently told Sky News that “there is definitely a disconnect between the hierarchy of the Labour Party and the people of the country and towns like mine.”
Which is reassuring. Understanding this key fact – which was proven incontestably during the election – should be a prerequisite for entering the contest.