Amid the noise of the Labour leadership contest you could be forgiven for forgetting that there are two vacancies at the top of the party. Not only will a new captain be appointed to navigate the good ship Labour through the choppy waters of the 2020s, but a chief shipmate will join them on deck after Tom Watson’s pre-election resignation
The rules that govern the deputy leadership contest are the same as for the leadership. Candidates require nominations from 10 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs (22) and either 5 per cent of Constituency Labour Parties or three affiliated organisations (two of which must be trade unions).
Ian Murray (Labour’s sole Scottish MP), Conor McGinn, Richard Burgon and David Lammy have all previously hinted at running. But Rayner has now joined Dawn Butler and Khalid Mahmood in formally entering the contest.
In truth, the deputy election already resembles a one-horse race. Rayner launched her campaign in a Stockport community centre, near where she grew up, and a number of local MPs, including Jonathan Reynolds and Lucy Powell, attended the event.
Rayner’s early backers reflect the diversity of her support — Powell nominated Andy Burnham in 2015 (as did Rayner) and Reynolds backed Liz Kendall. Almost immediately after the launch, watching from afar, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth also tweeted his support — he endorsed Yvette Cooper four years ago.
What could yet hinder Rayner is her close relationship with her Corbynite flatmate Rebecca Long-Bailey (who endorsed Rayner for deputy in her recent Guardian piece). Should the latter’s leadership campaign flounder, the fall-out could have implications for the former.
However, at her launch, Rayner distanced herself from her close friend, making only a brief reference to Long-Bailey in her speech, and, when asked who she wanted to win the leadership contest, replying: “I’d work with any of them.” Rayner has laid solid foundations for a campaign that could withstand whatever tumult is thrown up by the leadership contest.