McDonnell pulls out of Labour leadership race

John McDonnell stands aside to give Diane Abbott a fighting chance of making the ballot.

Paul Waugh has the news that John McDonnell has withdrawn from the Labour leadership race after failing to secure enough nominations. It's a principled move by the Labour left-winger and, as I argued yesterday, it's Abbott who has the better chance of making the ballot.

Here's his statement:

I stood for the Labour leadership as the candidate of the left and trade union movement so that there could be a proper debate about Labour's future in which all the wings of the party were fully represented.

It is now clear that I am unlikely to secure enough nominations and so I am withdrawing in the hope that we can at least secure a woman on the ballot paper.

Yesterday I wrote to Harriet Harman to urge her to use her position as acting leader in association with the party's national officers to secure a reduction of the qualifying threshold for candidates to be allowed on to the ballot paper. Regrettably this has not occurred and so I have no other option but to withdraw in the interests of the party.

I know that many Labour activists and trade unionists will be disappointed that their candidate will not be on the ballot. I am urging them to continue the fight for democracy within the party so that in future leadership elections rank-and-file members will be represented by the candidate of their choice.

It's worth noting that he doesn't mention Diane Abbott by name (he's never been a fan), merely stating that Labour should have "a woman" on the ballot paper.

Abbott's chances of making the ballot have improved dramatically, and between them the pair have 27 nominations, just six short of the required 33. But, according to Waugh, only eight of McDonnell's 16 supporters will transfer their votes to Abbott.

That doesn't come as a surprise; many Labour MPs have never forgiven Abbott for her decision to send her son to private school and were unhappy that she entered the contest in the first place and split the left.

Still, with 36 Labour MPs yet to nominate a candidate (you can see a list of them here), it would be wrong to write off Abbott just yet.

Ed Balls has already urged his potential supporters to back an alternative candidate and others may follow.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn ends 2016 with victory - for Parliamentary Beard of the Year

The award's founder thinks Tom Watson could still beat him, though. 

Jeremy Corbyn may be facing a by-election backlash, but there is one area in which he is the undisputed victor - the Parliamentary Beard of the Year awards.

Corbyn has held onto his title in 2016 thanks to a "beard and eyebrow combo" that left facial-hair lovers watching Prime Minister's Questions stunned. 

The Opposition leader scored a similar victory to his recent leadership election, with more than half the poll. It is his seventh win since 2001. 

Keith Flett, the spokesman for the Beard Liberation Front which awards the prize, praised Corbyn for leading the way in acceptance of unshaven politicians.

He said: "It used to be tough to scrape together a list of 10 MPs. That is no longer a problem.

"I am not sure you hear people saying 'I wouldn't vote for Corbyn because he has a beard', which you would have 20 years ago."

Flett believes many more MPs could have had a shot at victory, if they would only dispense with their razors.

He said: "We always thought that David Cameron would have been vastly improved by having a beard. but there was always some doubt as to whether that was ever possible."

Flett also mourns the demise of Labour deputy leader Tom Watson's beard, which clinched the prize in 2009.

He said: "He had a magnificent beard, which he subsequently shaved off, because he claimed his partner didn't like it, and he has refused all entreaties to regrow it.

"We had a conversation recently where he said the key thing he had in common with Corbyn was they both won Beard of the Year."

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.