How will the Labour leadership election work?

Labour is looking to elect a new leader. What’s the process?

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Who is running to be leader?

Liz Kendall has declared, David Lammy has said he could be interested, Yvette Cooper's aides have secured a domain name for her campaign site, but all the other likely candidates have merely made interventions so far, stopping short of declaring their intentions to run. Read up on the runners and riders here. Tom Watson will be running for deputy leader.

What will happen in the meantime?

Harriet Harman, deputy Labour leader, will be acting leader. But she will resign her position as deputy leader once a successor to that position is chosen.

And how does it work?

Using a system called One Member One Vote (OMOV). This means candidates will be elected by members and registered and affiliated supporters – each has a maximum of one vote.

It didn’t used to be like that, did it?

No, it used to be a different system, with three electoral colleges (party members, MPs and MEPs, and trade unions and affiliated societies) being given equal weight. So now, if you’re a Labour-affiliated trade union member and you want to vote, you have to register as a Labour supporter (rather than automatically being affiliated).

When did it change?

It was part of the Collins Report’s proposals for party reform in 2014.

Why did it change?

Partly the Falkirk row, when the union Unite was accused of rigging the selection, and partly a long-term need to reform Labour’s complex relationship with the trade unions. It’s somewhat ironic that it was Ed Miliband who pushed OMOV through– he benefited from the union vote during the 2010 leadership election.

So what do candidates need to be able to stand?

They need to be nominated by at least 15 per cent of Labour MPs. Looking at the current number of seats Labour has (232), that’s 35 MPs. That means a maximum of six candidates can run.

And what’s the voting system?

Alternative vote (AV), like previous Labour leadership elections.

What about choosing a deputy?

The same rules apply.

Does it have to be a female/male duo for leader and deputy?


How long will it take?

The new system outlined in the Collins Report maps out a quicker leadership election than took place in 2010, but Labour’s National Executive Committee has now voted on a timetable. Here it is:

Friday 15 May                             Election Period Opens
Monday 8 June                            PLP Nomination Hustings for Leader
Tuesday 9 June                           PLP Nomination Hustings for Deputy Leader
Tuesday 9 June                           PLP Nominations Open
12 noon Monday 15 June              PLP Nominations (Leader) Close
12 noon Wednesday 17 June         PLP Nominations (Deputy Leader) Close
Wednesday 17 June                     Hustings period opens
12 noon Friday 31 July                 Supporting Nominations Close
12 noon Wednesday 12 August      Last date to join as member, affiliated supporter, or registered supporter
Friday 14 August                         Ballot mailing despatched
12 noon Thursday 10 September   Ballot closes
Saturday 12 September                       Special conference to announce result

Many party figures think it should take its time to ensure it chooses the right leader. National Executive Committee member Jon Ashworth MP has been pushing for a long leadership election, with candidates making speeches to party conference ahead of the ballot, for a leadership contest “that tests all contenders”. Alastair Campbell has even been advocating Harman staying acting leader “for a year or so” to allow an in-depth debate about the future. And 

Others warn that it was a lengthy leadership race last time that allowed the Tories to capture the narrative on the economy (the line that Labour “crashed the car”), because there was no leader in place to counter it, and the party was distracted by the leadership contest.

Who would a swifter race have benefited?

Probably Andy Burnham. Popular with the members and the unions, a well-known figure, and an impressive performer. Other candidates, perhaps those from a fresher generation of Labour politicians (like Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt or Chuka Umunna), would need a longer time to build a support base and become familiar faces.

What happens next?

MPs will begin endorsing candidates, and each candidate will set out their stall for the leadership.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics.

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