What does Jon Lansman’s exit mean for the race to be Labour’s next general secretary?

To Formby or not to Formby remains the question. 

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Everything’s coming up Formby? Jon Lansman has withdrawn his application to be Labour’s general secretary, leaving Jennie Formby, a high-ranking Unite official and the preferred candidate of the leader’s office, a nailed-on certainty to take the post.

At least: that’s the conventional wisdom, but I’m not so sure. Fundamentally the mood among swing voters on Labour’s ruling national executive committee is that the next general secretary must be a woman and a woman who has impeccable Corbynite credentials. But there is a vital caveat: ideally, that woman should be someone other than Jennie Formby. (Formby’s difficulties are twofold: first she has made enemies over her long career at the top of the party, and secondly there is some concern that Unite has too much sway.)

Of course, crucially, you can’t beat owt with nowt and it was astute of Formby to declare publicly and early as it made it harder for another woman from the Labour left to apply. That said, everyone is ambitious so I wouldn’t be overly shocked if another woman, with the right politics and experience, has quietly applied for the job.

But the significance of Lansman’s tilt at the job was always the question of whether it created the space for another woman of the left to stand. If it has, Formby might lose out. If it hasn’t, she won’t.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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