The Simple Guide to the Labour Leadership

Voting ends 10th September
Voting ends 10th September

The polls are open, the voting cards have been sent out and any chance of joining the Labour party to make your vote has been missed. But for those who have joined in time, or for those who are just curious, here is what you need to know about your candidates:

1. Jeremy Corbyn

The odds on favourite at the bookies is the surprising candidate of the leadership race, who started out as the outsider but has managed to claw himself in front with a sudden huge surge in support.

Dubbed as the left-wing candidate of the race (like we should be surprised there is a left-wing candidate in the Labour party), Jeremy Corbyn has won over many from the left with his anti-austerity approach, saying in an email sent out to Labour supporters: “There is a choice. Whether to accept austerity or to break free of this straitjacket and strike out for a modern, rebalanced economy based on growth and high quality jobs”.

But, at the same time, Corbyn has won over many from the right who are eager to vote him in with the hope that he will ruin Labour’s chances of winning in the next General Election. Journalist and author, Toby Young, told Channel Four news that, when joining the Labour party, he wrote as the reason for his membership: “to consign Labour to electoral oblivion” – because that was a very tactful move and not at all boastful facetiousness. The Labour party obviously infiltrated and blocked Young from joining, but some of the more subtle right-wingers joining the party may by-pass the system and vote for who they believe will be the Tories weakest rival in the next General Election.

Corbyn also wishes to scrap the Trident Programme – a policy the SNP have strongly supported for years – and he has also suggested that he may reintroduce Clause IV. Clause IV is an old Labour policy that was revised by Tony Blair in 1995, two years before his landslide defeat of the Tories in the General Election. Clause IV was a text that supported the common ownership of industry and production, which strongly opposed Thatcher’s neoliberalism. Although Corbyn has not said he wants a complete return to Clause IV, he has promised to renationalise the railways and the energy companies upon becoming Prime Minister. Other Labour MPs have criticised this move as regressive, with fellow leadership candidate, Liz Kendall, describing the remark as “a throwback to the past”. Corbyn was also the only leadership candidate to vote against the Tory’s welfare bill.

Corbyn is so far predicted to have the highest support from Labour members, along with endorsements from political figures such as long-standing MP and London Mayor candidate, Dianne Abbott, and political commentator and Guardian columnist, Owen Jones, as well as backing from many of the unions – including Unite.

2. Andy Burnham 

“Jeremy Corbyn is a man of integrity but, make no mistake, so is Andy Burnham… and only he can lead Labour back to power” is what the Daily Mirror told its readers when they gave their endorsement for the leadership race.

Andy Burnham is the friendly face of Labour, who was once the favourite to win until the Corbyn phenomenon kicked off. An experienced politician, who served as the Secretary of State for both the Health Department and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport within Gordon Brown’s government, as well as a Shadow Minister in Miliband’s Labour, Burnham is, evidently, no rookie when it comes to when it comes to responsibility. He also remains a strong contender to Corbyn as a centre-left candidate who has also pledged in his manifesto – A Radical Labour Vision for the 21st Century – to renationalise the railways as well as scrap tuition fees and lower the voting age to 16.

In his blog he claims to be “the only candidate who can get back in touch with the public”. Ed Miliband was attacked by journalists and the media for his personality and appearance, with Jeremy Clarkson calling him a “North London geek” during an interview and the Sun newspaper posting a picture of him making “a pigs ear” of a bacon sandwich on the morning of the General Election – which later saw a devastating defeat for Labour. Although it is a shallow concept – and certainly not the mentality of the whole country – image over policies clearly factored in during the last General Election. Burnham has made the effort to not look like a geek who struggles to eat a bacon sandwich by selling himself as a family man from a working class background with interests in football and other popular hobbies. He even described himself to the Spectator as “mainstream Labour”.

Although a strong contender, Burnham has been the most passive candidate in the leadership race, showing little opposition to his rivals and abstaining from voting on the welfare bill and then later claiming “we simply cannot abstain on this bill”. Some of his fellow MPs even nicknamed him “flip-flop Andy”.

Andy has received endorsements from fellow MP, Michael Dugher, and ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock.

3. Yvette Cooper

The third favourite in the leadership race is the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper. Having been a Secretary of State, both in Cabinet and in the Shadow Cabinet, for the past six years, she is considered the most experienced for the job of PM.

Cooper has been selling herself as a strong leader, saying in the candidates booklet that she is: “strong enough to take the Tories on, not swallow their myths, but also strong enough to change our party so we reach out”. Cooper, like Kendall, has been very critical of Corbyn, fearing that his “bad economics” will divide the party and be an inevitable loss for the party in the next General Election. She has also been the worst culprit for using buzzwords like “radical” and “credible” to slander Corbyn and sell herself.

Cooper is a tough candidate who has received backing from respected centre-left broadsheet, The Guardian. Although Cooper is her own person with her own views, one hurdle she faces in this race is her marriage to previous Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls. After her camp called for Burnham to “step back”, a senior figure from his camp accused her of using tactics “straight out of the Ed Balls playbook”.

Like Burnham, Cooper abstained from voting on the Tories’ welfare bill but showed it great criticism. Yvette has promised to bring in laws that fight discrimination and support the Trade Unions as well as introduce a “a feminist approach to the economy” which will help families and oppose cuts in tax credits. Cooper also has a MSc in Economics from LSE, making her more qualified to deal with fiscal policy than her rivals.

Cooper has received support from fellow MP and former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson.

4. Liz Kendall

With the popularity of each candidate being dependant on how left-wing they are, it is no surprise that the Blairite candidate is the rank outsider. The latest YouGov poll has predicted that Kendall only has support from 8% of Labour supporters.

As the leadership race has progressed, Kendall has focused more on deterring voters from Jeremy Corbyn rather than promoting her own campaign. She has told Labour supporters that a “Corbyn victory would be Labour’s ‘resignation letter'”. She has even been convincing voters to pick anyone but Corbyn, in a hope that, if she does not win, either Burnham or Cooper will.

Kendall can hardly expect a warm reception from Labour supporters after voting for the Tories’ welfare bill, which will be financially detrimental to the working class people she is supposed to be winning over. Kendall has been considered not radical enough and a blue Labour candidate, with a parody page being created on Facebook called “Liz Kendall for Conservative Leader” – which has since been taken down.

Since the resignation of Tony Blair, the term “Blairite” has become a dirty word amongst voters on the left. Although Blair’s Labour flew in the face of many of the party’s traditional values – in his defence he did rename the party New Labour – he did manage to win three consecutive General Elections, which is the ultimate goal of the party. But the fact that Kendall is being dismissed as the Blairite candidate shows that the support for New Labour no longer comes from within the party and members want radical change rather than a repeat of the previous Labour government.

Kendall has received endorsements from fellow MP, Chuka Umunna, and former leadership candidate, David Miliband.


Votes must be sent off by 10th September and the result should be in two days later. Unlike the General Election, the voting system for the Labour leadership is the Alternative Vote (AV) where you can vote for who you want to win as well as who your second, third and fourth preferences are. This is a system that won Ed Miliband the last leadership after he managed to receive enough second preferences to marginally defeat his brother who received more first preferences than him.

One thing that is sure about this leadership race is that you have a set of politicians all with distinct policies that appeal to supporters from the centre to the left, be it Kendall’s return to New Labour or Corbyn’s idealistic view of a socialist Britain.


By Jonathan Pickles


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