Three options, three futures, one Labour

The Labour leadership contest is heating up, but with just three candidates likely to be on the ballot paper will it be a true battle of ideas?


After Labour’s abysmal defeat in May’s general election, the party is searching for a new leader. A post-election leadership debate is meant to be an opportunity for a party to breathe, take some time, and think about its actions. Past and present.

Labour’s contest is well underway. It is a battle of ideas, but in a restricted arena.

Four candidates are standing for leadership, following Mary Creagh’s withdrawal (as reported by the Guardian). The four remaining candidates are Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn has a very low chance of winning. William Hill has the odds of him winning at 80/1, well behind the other three.

It is clear that the winner will be one of the other three, but the lack of Creagh and the slim chance that Corbyn has gives the leadership election very limited breathing space. Three candidates is a battle of ideas, but not a very diverse one.

Why? It’s party because of the system Labour uses to elect its leader. To be on the ballot and MP needs 35 MPs backing them. This restricts the contest significantly, as it limits the field to a maximum of six candidates in this parliament. Furthermore, if one candidate gets more than the 35 required nominations then he/she is taking potential backers from other candidates, resultantly drowning out the voices of the minor candidates.

For example, Burnham already has 66 backers, Cooper has 56 and Kendall has 40. Meanwhile Corbyn has just 18. This is as reported by the New Statesman.

In terms of the much needed debate about Labour’s future the party is limited to three futures. Four if one includes Corbyn, but a Corbyn victory is highly unlikely. In fact at just 18 nominations it is possible that Corbyn may fail to even make it onto the ballot paper. The system suffocates debate and arguably needs changed.

The party has three futures but under a fairer system, one that would allow for much-needed debate, it could have many many more. Even Labour’s London Mayoral race has more candidates. A Labour with a vast multitude of futures could possibly give the party more opportunities to win in 2020.

And if Labour do not wish to be out of power until 2025 then they better start creating opportunities.


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