Labour leadership race: who's had a good week – and who hasn't

Sir Keir Starmer has consolidated his lead among MPs, while Emily Thornberry looks to be struggling

Good week

Sir Keir Starmer

The shadow Brexit secretary has forged an enviable lead with a series of solid media performances and a promotional video that tried to put to bed the impression that he is a soft, plummy-voiced southerner who might struggle to win northern seats. Following a declaration of support from Unison, the MP for St Pancras and Holborn is tantalisingly close to guaranteeing his position in the one member, one vote runoff.

Nominations so far: 68

Notable supporters: Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison; Labour’s veteran chief whip Nick Brown, who served under Blair, Brown and Corbyn; former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett.

Rebecca Long-Bailey

The shadow business secretary was supposed to be a shoo-in as the leftist candidate but has struggled amid rumours that some union leaders and MPs see her as uninspiring. She launched her campaign on Tuesday with an article supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist policies but which failed to mention Brexit or antisemitism. Said to have delivered a lacklustre performance at the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) hustings on Tuesday, which one leftwing MP described as “boring – like watching paint dry”. But she has made the threshold of 22 MPs and is expected to find the unions and party members easier to win over.

Nominations so far: 26

Notable supporters: Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott; shadow chancellor John McDonnell; deputy leadership hopeful (and flatmate) Angela Rayner.

Lisa Nandy

The soft-left MP, who has championed the needs of Britain’s towns, announced her decision to run in a letter to constituents in the Wigan Post. She began with a discouraging YouGov poll showing she commanded just 6% support among members. But she won over the PLP with a speech condemning Corbyn’s aides for allowing “factions and friends of the leader to determine where resources go” during the election campaign. She has swiftly become an unexpectedly meme-friendly candidate as her speeches about towns and bus routes are remixed with music by the Vengaboys, Taylor Swift and Toto.

Nominations so far: 24

Notable supporters: Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth; former union leader Jack Dromey; shadow police minister Louise Haigh.

Jess Phillips.
Jess Phillips has made it to the next stage of the leadership race. Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

Jess Phillips

While the Birmingham Yardley MP remains an outside bet, she has now definitely made it to the next stage of the process, passing the crucial barrier of 22 parliamentary nominations on Thursday. Phillips had won praise from some of her fellow MPs following a hustings event for candidates on Tuesday, with some saying she and Nandy had been the most open about the need for fundamental changes within Labour under a new leader, and was a constant presence in the media.

Nominations so far: 22

Notable supporters: Former ministers Chris Bryant, Liz Kendall and Margaret Hodge.

Bad week

Clive Lewis

In some ways, the Norwich South MP has achieved quite a lot, and has arguably generated more policy ideas than the rest of the field combined. In a speech on Friday he called for a radical reshaping of Labour based around electoral reform and collaboration with other parties – not to mention a referendum on the monarchy. But there was one glaring problem: a lack of support from fellow Labour MPs or MEPs. Barring a mini-miracle, Lewis seems unlikely to reach the 22 nominations needed to proceed.

Nominations so far: four

Notable supporters: Clive Lewis. Among MPs, Rachael Maskell and new entrant Nadia Whittome have also backed him.

Emily Thornberry

Emily Thornberry.
Emily Thornberry. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Reuters

Not the campaign week the shadow foreign secretary would have envisaged. Thornberry has not lacked attention, for example for the comment piece in Jewish News in which she accused Jeremy Corbyn’s aides of trying to remove criticism of Palestinian actions from December’s manifesto. She was similarly blunt in telling Sky that Corbyn merited a 10/10 for energising Labour, but 0/10 for election success. But at the end of it all, she only had ten nominations, and looks set to be eliminated.

Nominations so far: 10

Notable supporters: public accounts committee chair Meg Hillier, shadow defence minister Nia Griffith, former shadow minister Catherine West.

• This article was amended on 13 January 2020 because an earlier version referred, in one instance, to Thornberry having nine nominations, when the correct number, as given in another instance, was ten.


Rajeev Syal and Peter Walker

The GuardianTramp

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