Labour Leadership Election – who are the candidates?
On Monday, nominations for Labour leadership closed. Each candidate had to receive 35 nominations to be on the ballot. Jeremy Corbyn, a late entrant to the race, received his 35th nomination with seconds to spare. He joins Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall on the ballot. But who are these candidates? What do they stand for? Even if you are not a Labour Party member, the outcome of this election should still matter to you. The future of the major opposition is crucial to our democracy and Labour’s future depends heavily upon who leads it; will Labour move more to the right or to the left?
First, Andy Burnham, MP for Leigh. He was born in Liverpool to a receptionist mother and an engineer father. He received a comprehensive education before going on to read English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He stood for leadership in 2010, the only one of the candidates to do so. Miliband made him Shadow Education Secretary but then moved him to Shadow Health, where Burnham’s background is. This could turn out to be either a vulnerability or a strength.
What does he stand for? Essentially, unity. He wants the achievement of the aspirations of all, rather than focusing on a single group. He wants to re-unite the party and notes that we need to focus on the best aspects of Blair and Miliband’s time as leader. He has gained support from a range of MPs such as Blairities Hilary Benn and Jamie Reed, former Deputy PM Lord Prescott and a newcomer to Parliament Kier Starmer, only elected this May. Finally, he wants to appeal to all regions and nations across Britain.
Second, Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford. She was born in Inverness, Scotland. Her father was the General Secretary of Prospect Union and also a government adviser on Energy Advisory panel. Cooper was educated at a comprehensive school and then a sixth form college before reading PPE at Balliol College, Oxford. She has been in Parliament for eighteen years and a minister for eleven. She has been Shadow Home Secretary under Miliband – you have probably caught glimpses of her battles with Theresa May in Parliament. We mustn’t forget about her husband, the recently unemployed, stay-at-home-Dad, Ed Balls.
Her personal and professional life aside, what is her electoral platform? The family; looking towards the future rather than the past. So she wants a Scandinavian style system of universal free childcare, extra help for working parents, to tackle child poverty and promote women’s rights. She believes that Labour lost the election because it failed to combat Tory and UKIP scaremongering primarily about a potential Labour-SNP coalition by convincing voters that could help them achieve ambitions. Cooper is adamant that Labour needs to be more connected to the realities of day-to-day life rather than caught up in labelling left or right, she is presenting herself as a centrist candidate.
Third, Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North. He was born in Chippenham and attended a Grammar School in Shropshire, but now opposed grammar schooling. He has been an MP for 32 years and has an enormous majority in his constituency, 21,000 in May 2015. He is one of the most left-wing Labour MPs being a member of the Socialist Campaign Group. He has voted against the introduction of tuition fees (and against their increase), opposed academies, supports renationalisation of railways, a higher minimum wage and a higher tax bracket for the wealthiest. He was one of the fiercest opponents to the Iraq War. He has never held public or even a shadow office. So it pretty safe to say that he stands far apart from the other candidates.
He is standing on an anti-austerity platform, running to offer members a proper range of candidates and a voice in the debate on the future of the party, as Diane Abbott and John McDonnell have done in the past.
Finally, Liz Kendall, MP for Leicester West. She was born in Hertfordshire to a Senior Bank official and Liberal councillor and a primary school teacher. Kendall attended Watford Grammar School for Girls, alongside Gerri Halliwell, and went on to read History at Queens’ College, Cambridge. She worked as a special adviser to Harriet Harman before she even considered standing for election. She was unsuccessful in selection for PPC of Chesterfield for the 2001 general election. She became a MP in 2010. She has held a few shadow ministerial positions under Miliband, the most recent one meant she was an attending member of the shadow cabinet. She is regarded as on the right of the party, arguing for more privatisation of the NHS.
Her focus is on setting on a positive alternative future, so appealing to Conservative Party supporters. This begins with a stronger economy and improving Labour’s reputation on that issue. She believes that fundamental reform is the only way to ensure the survival of the Labour Party and this needs to go in the direction of the free market rather than Corbyn’s collectivism.
The results will be announced on 12th September at the Party’s annual conference, so watch this space! If you are a Labour Party member, make sure you vote: this is our future leader and hopefully Prime Minister in 2020!