Stakes rise in most surprising nominations for Labour leadership

Douglas Alexander, Eric Joyce, Frank Field and Kate Hoey.

With the Labour Party publishing official nominations online as they are made, close Labour watchers will find many MPs nominating the candidate who would seem to fit most naturally with their own political views or personal ties.

There is also an emerging regional theme. Ed Balls's and Andy Burnham's early nominations do not just reflect a good many friends in the north, but suggest that they could raise rival White Rose and Red Rose New Labour armies, given their strong centres of gravity in Yorkshire and the north-west, though David Blunkett is leading a Burnhamite incursion in Yorkshire.

But not all of the nominations are going where one might expect. Here are some of the early contenders in the Least Predictable Nomination stakes.

1. Douglas Alexander for David Miliband

There were four "next-generation Labour" voices most closely associated with Gordon Brown over the past decade. Two of them -- Ed Balls and Ed Miliband -- are now rival candidates for the leadership, while Yvette Cooper chose not to join a "family fortunes" leadership race, and has instead nominated her husband. That Douglas Alexander, the fourth Brownite, has nominated David Miliband may well demonstrate a welcome desire among this generation to break out of the "sons of Blair and Brown" frame of reference.

Although he may be disappointed not to have secured the Alexander nomination, I can't see many surprises on the Ed Miliband list of initial nominees.

2. Eric Joyce for Ed Balls

The standout surprise on the Ed Balls list of his first 24 nominations is the MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce, for a long time among the most Blairite members of the Parliamentary Labour Party. As an ex-soldier, Joyce was often put up on Newsnight to defend the government over Iraq when no minister was willing to do so. On that, he and Balls can agree to differ.

3. Frank Field and Kate Hoey for John McDonnell

Asked to identify the most right-leaning member of the PLP, a number of Labour members would put Frank Field and Kate Hoey on their shortlist.

Both are living up to their reputations as freethinking mavericks by being among the first supporters of John McDonnell. Perhaps the stalwart of the Socialist Campaign Group and the candidate of the Labour Representation Committee left will run a Blairite "big-tent" strategy after all?

Ed Miliband is doing well on nominations, but I do not see any great surprises. Perhaps we should challenge him to prise Nick Brown's nomination from Ed Balls

Finally, Diane Abbott has yet to record any official nominations on the Labour website. David Lammy, who is personally close to David Miliband, has pledged to nominate (but not vote for) her. Though McDonnell has set the bar high, I suspect Abbott may turn out to be the winner in the Least Likely Nominee stakes after all.

Sunder Katwala is general secretary of the Fabian Society.

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

0800 7318496