Tom Watson is frontrunner for Labour's deputy leadership post. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who are the MPs competing to become Labour's deputy leader?

The hunt for Harriet Harman's successor.

Harriet Harman, acting Labour leader, will resign her position as deputy leader once a new one is elected. Nominations close on 17 June. Who's in the running for the deputy leadership?

 

Tom Watson

MP for West Bromwich since 2001, former Labour campaign coordinator, worked to expose the phonehacking scandal.

From Brownite apparatchik to scourge of Rupert Murdoch, Tom Watson has long been in the public eye as a vocal Labour supremo. He is crowdfunding for a deputy leadership bid. Watson, who has been MP for West Bromwich East since 2001 and is the party's former campaign coordinator, would be difficult to beat. He has a lot of campaigning experience, and would have the unions' backing. However, he blotted his copybook over the Falkirk candidate selection scandal, when he stood down as campaign coordinator in 2013 (famously recommending Ed Miliband listen to some Drenge).

Strengths: Lots of support from both unions and members; well-known figure; would make the deputy leadership a key campaigning role.

Weaknesses: He's sort of had a rise and fall already; associated with Labour's past.

Read George Eaton’s interview with him here.

 

Ben Bradshaw

Former Culture Secretary, MP for Exeter since 1997, used to be a BBC radio journalist.

Ben Bradshaw is preparing his bid for the deputy leadership, according to the MailBradshaw is a Blairite and will run on a platform encouraging Labour to shift back to the centre ground. It is unlikely he will find enough support among the Parliamentary Labour Party to support his bid, and the fact that there are a few candidates making so-called Blairite bids for the leadership might clash with his endeavours. It is generally thought that the new leadership team needs one voice for the blue collar voters, and one for the aspirational middle classes.

Strengths: A popular centrist message; experience of government.

Weaknesses: Not a broad enough support base; too similar to some of the leadership candidates' messages.

Read Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre’s interview with him here.

 

Caroline Flint

Shadow energy secretary, MP for Don Valley since 1997, held various ministerial positions under Gordon Brown.

Caroline Flint is widely tipped to run for the deputy leadership. She resigned from her position as Minister for Europe in 2009 due to a fall-out with Gordon Brown, in which she famously commented that she had been treated as “female window dressing”. Serving in Miliband’s cabinet throughout his leadership, Flint has been able to detach herself from Labour’s past. She also impresses as a bullet-proof media performer, calm and competent when taking hits for Labour on television and radio. Veteran of the last Labour government, David Blunkett, is running her campaign.

Strengths: Impressive media performer; experience in government and opposition.

Weaknesses: Would she be wasted in such a role?

Read Caroline Flint's articles for the New Statesman here.

 

Stella Creasy

Shadow BIS minister, MP for Walthamstow since 2010, academic.

Stella Creasy has been so impressive in parliament that she was thought to be a leadership contender. But she has reportedly said she would be open to running for the deputy role. She is an impressive MP, working hard for her constituents (she won a stonking 23,000 majority this election) and also pushing tirelessly on individual campaigns – her fight against payday loan companies being the most well-known.

However, forever a "rising star", she hasn't shot up through the party ranks, and this is because she is seen as a bit of a lone operator by her fellow MPs. There may not be enough of a support base.

Strengths: Appeal beyond parliament; young, and a break from the past; impressive work ethic and ambition; broad appeal.

Weaknesses: Lacks strong support base in the party.

Read Stella Creasy's articles for the New Statesman hereRead my interview (for Total Politics) with her here.

 

Angela Eagle

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, MP for Wallasey since 1992, chair of Labour’s National Policy Forum.

One of the more quietly influential figures of the Labour party in recent years, Angela Eagle may be pitching for a job to save her from disappearing under Labour’s next regime. She did well under Gordon Brown, and it is possible she could run on a joint ticket with Andy Burnham (who is likely to contest the leadership).

Strengths: Has been in politics for a long time; experience of government and opposition; would receive support from the Brownites in the party.

Weaknesses: Associated with Labour’s past.

Read George Eaton’s interview with her here.

 

John Healey

MP for Wentworth and Dearne since 1997, shadow health secretary for Miliband's first year, held Treasury roles under Blair, served as Local Government Minister and Housing Minister under Gordon Brown.

This experienced Labour politician and quietly canny operator wasn't initially going to stand for the role. But he changed his mind, saying, “I’ve been dismayed at how narrow and shallow Labour’s debate has been so far.” He used to be campaign director of the Trades Union Congress, and has long been warning his party about the threat from Ukip in Labour's northern seats. He also urged Labour to talk about borrowing. 

He has nominated Yvette Cooper for the leadership, and in many ways is the Cooper candidate of the deputy leadership race: a Yorkshire MP with a New Labour past and some current Bluish Labour concerns who defends the last government's economic record. But they are not running on a joint ticket.

Strengths: Popular in the parliamentary party, experience in government, on the National Executive.

Weaknesses: Announced his intentions later than the other candidates, not a dynamic performer.

Read comments he made about borrowing to George Eaton here. Read his articles for the New Statesman here.

 

Rushanara Ali

MP for Bethnal Green and Bow since 2010, shadowed international development and education ministerial roles under Miliband, former civil servant at the Foreign Office and Home Office.

The first person of Bangladeshi origin to be elected to the House of Commons, Rushanara Ali resigned from the frontbench last year over Labour's support of airstrikes in Iraq. As ethnic minority voters are a focus, and she is from a working-class background, one of her key concerns is Labour losing votes to Ukip: "I’m used to rejection so I think I have something to offer . . . I know what it feels like to be an outsider trying to get in . . . I think a lot of our voters feel like that."

Strengths: A new voice, working-class roots, the only BME candidate in the leadership/deputy leadership race after Chuka Umunna dropped out.

Weaknesses: Not well-known, an unexpected candidate, announced her bid later than most of the other candidates.

Read Rushanara Ali's articles for the New Statesman hereRead my interview (for Total Politics) with her here.

 

Ruled out

Simon Danczuk - 20/5/15: Ruled himself out of the race

MP for Rochdale since 2010, working on the Westminster paedophile ring investigation.

Simon Danczuk, one of Ed Miliband’s fiercest critics throughout the past five years, says colleagues have approached him to run for the deputy leadership. As someone from a working-class background who has dealt with particularly gritty issues in his constituency of Rochdale regarding class, race and abuse, he would provide a voice for the party that many believes it has severely lacked.

Strengths: Authentic voice of working-class labour; his criticisms of the Miliband regime have been vindicated; tireless campaigner.

Weaknesses: His heart is in Rochdale; has he proved himself to be too disloyal for a senior party role?

Read Ashley Cowburn’s interview with him hereAnd my interview with him here.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Why the Liberal Democrats by-election surge is not all it seems

The Lib Dems chalked up impressive results in Stoke and Copeland. But just how much of a fight back is it?

By the now conventional post-Brexit logic, Stoke and Copeland ought to have been uniquely inhospitable for the Lib Dems. 

The party lost its deposit in both seats in 2015, and has no representation on either council. So too were the referendum odds stacked against it: in Stoke, the so-called Brexit capital of Britain, 70 per cent of voters backed Leave last June, as did 62 per cent in Copeland. And, as Stephen has written before, the Lib Dems’ mini-revival has so far been most pronounced in affluent, Conservative-leaning areas which swung for remain. 

So what explains the modest – but impressive – surges in their vote share in yesterday’s contests? In Stoke, where they finished fifth in 2015, the party won 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 5.7 percentage points. They also more than doubled their vote share in Copeland, where they beat Ukip for third with 7.3 per cent share of the vote.

The Brexit explanation is a tempting and not entirely invalid one. Each seat’s not insignificant pro-EU minority was more or less ignored by most of the national media, for whom the existence of remainers in what we’re now obliged to call “left-behind Britain” is often a nuance too far. With the Prime Minister Theresa May pushing for a hard Brexit and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn waving it through, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made the pro-EU narrative his own. As was the case for Charles Kennedy in the Iraq War years, this confers upon the Lib Dems a status and platform they were denied as the junior partners in coalition. 

While their stance on Europe is slowly but surely helping the Lib Dems rebuild their pre-2015 demographic core - students, graduates and middle-class professionals employed in the public sector – last night’s results, particularly in Stoke, also give them reason for mild disappointment. 

In Stoke, campaign staffers privately predicted they might manage to beat Ukip for second or third place. The party ran a full campaign for the first time in several years, and canvassing returns suggested significant numbers of Labour voters, mainly public sector workers disenchanted with Corbyn’s stance on Europe, were set to vote Lib Dem. Nor were they intimidated by the Brexit factor: recent council by-elections in Sunderland and Rotheram, which both voted decisively to leave, saw the Lib Dems win seats for the first time on massive swings. 

So it could well be argued that their candidate, local cardiologist Zulfiqar Ali, ought to have done better. Staffordshire University’s campus, which Tim Farron visited as part of a voter registration drive, falls within the seat’s boundaries. Ali, unlike his Labour competitor Gareth Snell and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, didn’t have his campaign derailed or disrupted by negative media attention. Unlike the Tory candidate Jack Brereton, he had the benefit of being older than 25. And, like 15 per cent of the electorate, he is of Kashmiri origin.  

In public and in private, Lib Dems say the fact that Stoke was a two-horse race between Labour and Ukip ultimately worked to their disadvantage. The prospect of Nuttall as their MP may well have been enough to convince a good number of the Labour waverers mentioned earlier to back Snell. 

With his party hovering at around 10 per cent in national polls, last night’s results give Farron cause for optimism – especially after their near-wipeout in 2015. But it’s easy to forget the bigger picture in all of this. The party have chalked up a string of impressive parliamentary by-election results – second in Witney, a spectacular win in Richmond Park, third in Sleaford and Copeland, and a strong fourth in Stoke. 

However, most of these results represent a reversion to, or indeed an underperformance compared to, the party’s pre-2015 norm. With the notable exception of Richmond’s Sarah Olney, who only joined the Lib Dems after the last general election, these candidates haven’t - or the Lib Dem vote - come from nowhere. Zulfiqar Ali previously sat on the council in Stoke and had fought the seat before, and Witney’s Liz Leffman and Sleaford’s Ross Pepper are both popular local councillors. And for all the excited commentary about Richmond, it was, of course, held by the Lib Dems for 13 years before Zac Goldsmith won it for the Tories in 2010. 

The EU referendum may have given the Lib Dems a new lease of life, but, as their #LibDemFightback trope suggests, they’re best understood as a revanchist, and not insurgent, force. Much has been said about Brexit realigning our politics, but, for now at least, the party’s new normal is looking quite a lot like the old one.