The Labour leadership candidates' first hustings. Photo: Getty
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Who are the MPs running to be Labour's next leader?

Who will succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader?

Ed Miliband resigned as leader of the Labour party following its election defeat. Which Labour figures are in the running to replace him? Nominations close on 15 June. Here are the contenders:
 

Andy Burnham

Shadow health secretary, MP for Leigh since 2001, former special adviser to Tessa Jowell. Health Secretary, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and other frontbench positions during New Labour years.

Burnham is the most likely to replace Ed Miliband, and has been manoeuvring for a while. When his speech received three standing ovations last party conference, an aide remarked to me: "A record for a non-leader!"

He’s the bookies’ favourite to replace Miliband.

In spite of remaining in his post as shadow health secretary, Burnham hasn’t been popular among the Miliband inner circle or the neo-Blairites. The former doesn’t matter any more now, and the latter is a symptom of how high his support is among the unions.

Strengths: Union support, northern working-class appeal, lovely eyelashes.

Weaknesses: Let private money into the NHS (he was health secretary under Gordon Brown); a little too similar to Miliband with his soft-left stance and New Labour background.

Read George Eaton’s interview with him here.

 

Yvette Cooper

Shadow home secretary, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford since 1997. Former Housing Minister, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Work and Pensions Secretary under Gordon Brown.

A senior figure, but nevertheless lacks a following in the parliamentary Labour party. Other than Harriet Harman, Cooper is the most senior woman in the party – and there is certainly an appetite among MPs and supporters to have a woman in charge.

It is unclear what she stands for, as she keeps her cards very close to her heart. She rarely does print interviews, in contrast to how well-known her husband’s colourful hinterland is.

Strengths: She could shore up the support of the Balls faction; she is a woman; she is a senior politician; she is known for her loyalty.

Weaknesses: People don’t know enough about her and what she stands for – she has a reputation as a bit of a dull character because of this.

Read Lucy Fisher’s interview with her here.

 

Liz Kendall

Shadow minister for care and older people, MP for Leicester West since 2010, former think tanker and ex-special adviser to Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt.

An arch-Blairite, popular among the Blairite faction. Dedicated to her role in the shadow health team, and has forged a lot of links in the party. Ambitious and hardworking, and someone who has made many connections since her time as a special adviser.

I hear she can be difficult to work with – and to work for – as her ambition can make her challenging to deal with. This might make some MPs think twice about making her their leader.

Strengths: Blairites in the party like her; her campaign would be fierce; competent media performer.

Weaknesses: Can be hard work; will the party want to so overtly revert to a New Labour leader?

Read Stephen Bush’s interview with her here.

 

Mary Creagh

Shadow secretary of state for international development, MP for Wakefield since 2005, formerly served as shadow transport secretary, and shadow environment secretary prior to that.

Despite not having the favour of Ed Miliband, Mary Creagh has done well even in unglamourous briefs, putting the government under pressure over the selling off of forests and handling the horsemeat scandal impressively as shadow environment secretary. She also eased some bruised feelings at Dfid, where many stakeholders have felt neglected by Miliband and her predecessor, Jim Murphy. An outsider in the leadership contest, Creagh hadn't previously been touted as a potential successor to Miliband, unlike her rivals. A local government background, Creagh's fixation with her constituency and various briefs belies a more overarching vision.

Strengths: A grafter, competent at switching to new briefs and landing hits on the government, the only candidate to have been a councillor and set up a trade union.

Weaknesses: Not a high-profile MP, will likely struggle to get enough MPs to support her bid.

Read my interview with her here.
 

Jeremy Corbyn

MP for Islington North since 1983, member of the Socialist Campaign Group, vice-chair of the CND, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, Morning Star columnist, five-time winner of Parliamentary Beard of the Year.

Jeremy Corbyn is an ardent socialist, and one of the Labour party’s most leftwing MPs.

As Labour has come increasingly under fire from members and some MPs for failing to field a leftwing candidate, Corbyn would provide an alternative voice in the contest. The others have variously been accused of reheated Blairism or being too associated with Labour's time in government to provide a fresh answer to the party's problems.

Leaving it very late to run, weeks after his rivals, Corbyn has risked not giving himself enough time to collect 35 names. But here’s why it’s more likely he’ll make the ballot paper than you may think.

Strengths: Appeal to leftwingers and trade unions; very different from the other candidates.

Weaknesses: Seen by many as a socialist throwback; left his declaration too late.

Ruled out

Dan Jarvis - 10/5/15: Ruled himself out of the race due to his three young children

Shadow justice minister, won Barnsley Central by-election in 2011, formerly a soldier.

An unlikely bet – he doesn’t have a particularly strong following in the party. But he has a compelling back story, with his Army background. Hard to tell whether it would help or hinder him that he is so difficult to pigeonhole in the party  he's a member of Unison, Unite, the Fabian Society and the Co-operative Party, and Progress vice-chair.

Strengths: Experience of war; fluid political associations; background outside politics; neither linked to Labour's past nor really to Miliband

Weaknesses: No following in the party; fluid political associations.

Read Xan Rice’s interview with him here.

 

David Lammy - 11/5/15: Ruled himself out to run for the mayoralty

MP for Tottenham since 2000, has served as culture and BIS minister, London mayoral hopeful.

During an interview on BBC News following the general election, result, David Lammy was asked if he would run for Labour leader. "I might think about it," he replied, before adding that he was concentrating on the London mayoral race.

He says:

I've been in the Parliamentary Labour Party for fifteen years and certainly for people like me it's absolutely time to step up into a leadership role. Now, I have been thinking very, very carefully and indicating that I want to seek the Labour nomination for London mayor.

But actually, putting together that team, now that we have a proper race to lead the party, of course, me and others are looking very carefully at who is the best leader and if colleagues come to me over the coming days and say 'look, David, why don't you put your [hat in]?' I will look at it. 

While a good local MP and a vocal politician, Lammy stands little chance. Many in the party don't believe he has the skills to run London, so it is unlikely they can see him as their leader.

Strengths: Straight-talker; outside the party's inner circle; comes from a poor background.

Weaknesses: Isn't seen as having the skills required; hasn't achieved much seniority beyond a couple of ministerial positions; his heart lies in London.

Read Stephen Bush's interview with him here.

 

Chuka Umunna - 15/5/15: Ruled himself out due to heightened press intrusion he wasn't prepared for

Shadow business secretary, MP for Streatham since 2010, former city lawyer.

Another favourite for the leadership, Umunna is very much a brand. That brand is smooth, modern, even a bit sexy. He is a slick performer and impresses his colleagues as well as supporters. Yet his rise and rise has caused some to suggest that he has flown too close to the sun and his moment has passed.

Umunna is an interesting candidate politically in that he has Blairite credentials but came up through the party’s left flank, working for the leftwing think tank Compass – and was probably closer to Gordon Brown back then in his political outlook. He could use this to combine the best of Blue Labour with the best of New Labour, but some are suspicious about his politics being "all things to all men".

He has played the politics of opposition well, refusing to allow his shadow business secretary role to turn him into a business stooge. He’s also a passionate defender of immigration, which will please many on the party's left.

Strengths: A good media performer; well-known among the public; a new face to lead the Labour party – it has never had an ethnic minority leader.

Weaknesses: Too posh and smooth for a party that has attempted to shift leftwards; arrogance associated with the “British Obama” story; could get shafted by a more obvious Blairite candidate.

Read George Eaton’s interview with him here.

 

Tristram Hunt - 20/5/15: Ruled himself due to lack of MPs' support

Shadow education secretary, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central since 2010, historian and broadcaster.

“What has he actually done?” is a common refrain among Labour insiders that could scupper Hunt’s chances. Though a charming (and attractive) figure, Hunt hasn’t quite managed to own his shadow frontbench role, and he isn't seen as a conviction politician. He was notoriously parachuted into his Stoke-on-Trent seat by central office in 2010. He has a vaguely Blairite past in that he voted for David Miliband in the last leadership election, but this won't be strong enough when up against more obvious Blairite candidates.

Strengths: Telegenic  opposite of Ed Miliband in terms of appearance and manner.

Weaknesses: Is the Labour party ready for a privately-educated leader called Tristram?

Read Stephen Bush’s interview with him here.
 

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.