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Who is running in the Labour Leadership Election and how will the new leader be chosen?

Background to the contest

Labour’s General Election result was worst the party had experienced since 1935. With just 202 seats, Labour lost 60 seats from the 2017 General Election. Many of these seats that the Conservatives won from Labour were in the traditional Labour heartlands.

The 2019 Election saw Labour’s ‘Red Wall’ in the North decimated by the Conservatives.

Many seats that voted Conservative in the 2019 election did so for the very first in generations, these included:

Rother Valley – A Labour seat since 1918.

Don Valley – A Labour seat since 1922.

Sedgefield – Tony Blair’s former seat, which had been held by Labour since 1935 (although it was abolished between 1974 and 1983).

It was immediately clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s position as leader was untenable and it was announced that a leadership contest would take place.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the party’s position on Brexit have been cited a the two main reasons for the electoral disaster of the 12th December 2019.

The Rules for nomination

To stand in the election candidates need to receive the support of at least 10% of the Parliamentary Labour Party (Labour MPs) and Parliamentary European Labour Party (Labour’s MEPs). In addition, they needed to be nominated by either:

5% of Constituency Labour Parties


Three Affiliate Organisations (like Trade Unions) whose total membership includes at least 5% of party membership.

Who are the contenders?

The candidates who have passed the nomination threshold and have announced their candidacy are:

Rebecca Long-Bailey – Long-Bailey is seen by Corbynites as the heir to Jeremy Corbyn. She served under Corybn as Shadow Business Secretary and stood in for Corbyn at Leadership Debates in the General Election. She has the support of senior Corbyn supporters like Diane Abbot and John McDonnell and the left-wing faction Momentum. She can rely on Momentum launching a huge push on social media for her candidacy.

Emily Thornberry – Thornberry has served as Shadow Foreign Secretary since 2016. She has been publicly loyal to Jeremy Corbyn, but has long been suspected on having private doubts over his leadership and his ability to deliver an electoral victory. Thornberry has focused on her ability to take on Boris Johnson when she shadowed him when he was Foreign Secretary and has presented herself as the voice of experience in the campaign.

Keir Starmer – Starmer is a Barrister by profession and was Director of Public Prosecutions between 2008 and 2013. It was always envisaged that Starmer might run for the leadership one day. His biggest problem might be that he is largely responsible for the parties disastrous position on Brexit during the 2019 Election. He will have to work hard to convince Labour Leave Voters that he is the right man to lead the party.

Lisa Nandy – Nandy has been MP for Wigan since 2010. She has been very critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and believes the Labour Party has become to London-centric. Nandy had been tipped to run for the leadership in 2015, however, she had a young son and was not able to do this. Nandy is far more centrist than the party has moved under Jeremy Corbyn.

Jess Phillips – Phillips has become one of the Labour Party’s most recognisable backbench MPs. She is currently the MP for Birmingham Yardly and has been a passionate campaigner in his constituency. For example, she has strongly supported Parkfield Community Primary School in Birmingham which has been inundated with protests for introducing an LGBT+ program. Phillips has been extremely critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, particularly over the issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

The Election Process

The election will take place on a One Member, One Vote (OMOV) basis. The voting system used will be the Alternative Vote, whereby voters can vote by preference. This means that the votes of the lowest ranked candidate (who is eliminated after each round) can be reassigned. Importantly, the Alternative Vote means that a candidate will only be declared when they have a majority of votes.

The electorate in the Labour Party Elections is made up of the following groups:

  • Members of the Labour Party
  • Members of Labour Affiliated Groups (e.g the Unite Trade Union)
  • Registered Supporters of the Labour Party

Importantly, this is a major change from former Labour Leadership elections. Before 2015, and Electoral College chose the leader, with each college (group) given a third of the weight. The groups were:

  • The Parliamentary Labour Party and European Parliamentary Labour Party
  • Labour Party Members
  • Affiliated Groups (Trade Unions)

This system was criticised for being somewhat undemocratic because it gave too much power to Trade Unions and the Parliamentary Party, who were much smaller in number than Labour Party Members. 

However, one problem of the change was that it led to accusations that people were able to ‘buy a vote’. In the 2015 Leadership Election, when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, it cost just £3 to register as a support of the party and therefore vote. The Party was therefore flooded with left-wing supporters, keen to ensure a Jeremy Corbyn victory. At this election, it costs £25, rather than £3, to become a party supporter and be able to vote.

Those that joined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn are largely still members and will vote in the Labour leadership election.

Voting in the election opens on 21st February and closes on the 2nd April. The winner will be elected on 4th April.

Who are the likely winners?

Keir Starmer comfortably secured the most nominations with 88 MP/MEP nominations, 2 affiliates and 10 constituency Labour Parties. However, the legacy of the 2015 campaign overhangs this election. That campaign, and the influx of members it bought, moved the Labour Party heavily to the left. The Labour Party currently has around 520k members, many of whom joined in the 2015 influx. Therefore, whilst Starmer is clearly the preferred candidate of parliamentarians, a recent poll by Survation places Rebecca Long-Bailey on 42% with party members, whilst Starmer is on 37%. The challenge for Starmer is how far left on the political spectrum he presents himself in the election.

It is hard to see beyond Starmer and Long-Bailey in the contest. However, in third place in current polls is Lisa Nandy. She has the advantage of not having been part of the Shadow Cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn during the election campaign (she resigned in protest at Corybyn’s leadership in 2016). In addition, she is a northern MP (Wigan) who strongly opposed the ‘Second Referendum’ position of the Labour Party. Nandy consistently warned that this served to alienate Northern Labour voters who were key to the Leave victory  in June 2016. Nandy is likely to be a strong runner in the election.

No party has overturned a majority of 80 in a single election. The process of trying to return the Labour Party is likely to be a two election process. However, the start of that process will be on April 4th, when the new Labour Leader begins to shape its direction.

What is election Purdah and why does it exist? Moo

  • General Elections in the UK are strictly regulated. For example, there are restrictions on spending, with each campaign able to spend a limited amount depending on the number of candidates they are putting forward. These rules and regulations are set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) and are monitored and enforced by the Electoral Commission, an independent body that exists to ensure elections are transparent and fair.
  • Another important part of the election process in the UK is the existence of a period of Purdah. This means that during the official election campaign (which by law must last for at least six weeks) certain rules are put in place to ensure the Government is not able to take advantage of its incumbency. For example:

    ⁃ The Government are expected not to enact any new initiatives that might well be considered to be of political benefit to them.

    ⁃ Public funds cannot be used for any form of political campaigning.

    ⁃ Civil Servants must not answer questions about the potential implementation of party manifestos.

    ⁃ The Civil Service (who are required to be politically impartial anyway) monitor and ensure they Purdah is enforced throughout the different Government departments.

    Civil Servants, like Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill, are expected to enforce Purdah across the Government.

    Last week the Government announced that the Benefits Freeze (the freeze on the amount paid for different welfare claimants) would end in 2020. Announcing this clearly may have a positive influence on the electoral prospects of the Conservatives. It is a good example, therefore, of something that could not have been announced after the 6th November when

    Purdah does not end automatically following an election, instead it ends when a Government is formed. This is important in the event of there being a ‘hung parliament’ and different parties considering options for coalition. This was evident in 2010 when the Conservatives were the largest party but did not have a majority. Gordon Brown therefore remained a temporary Prime Minister until a Government could be formed. Insiders to the Brown camp after the 2010 election describe him as being desperate to do something proactive, but being reminded by the Civil Service of his responsibilities under Purdah. On this occasion, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrat’s agreed a Coalition Agreement and ended up in Coalition Government for five years.

    Trump, Trade Wars and China

    This post was kindly submitted by a Sixth-Form Student at St. George’s College, Weybridge.

    US trade policy in the Trump era is defined by one word: protectionism. Essentially, this ideology argues against free trade and, to a larger extent, globalism. It is the trade aspect of his all-round America First approach. In practice, it is the economic policy of restricting imports from other countries through methods such as tariffs. In the US, protectionism has taken the form of tariffs against China. However, before Trump picked a fight with China, he had a bigger enemy – Mexico.

    An image that clearly summaries Trump’s protectionism

    While campaigning in 2015 and 2016, a common phrase heard from Trump was ‘Mexico is taking our jobs!’ This is how his protectionism was formed. His base is largely made up of white, working class men in exurban areas who had lost their jobs as companies moved to countries with cheaper labour or began to automate. So Trump fought against the loss of American jobs more than any traditional, free-market Republican. That’s not to say he wasn’t thinking about China before his presidency, but his was focus was on jobs and not trade.

    After becoming the President, one of Trump’s goals was to renegotiate NAFTA, and end the large trade deficits that the US has been running for so many years. A businessman at heart, not a politician or economist, he saw these deficits as losing. There is a logic to this – running a deficit means you are buying more from a country than selling to them, which in turn means they are getting more money from you than you are getting from them. His other complaints of China were accusations of intellectual property, and earlier this year, the administration officially named them a currency manipulator. So in March 2018, Trump laid the first set of tariffs on China, in an attempt to rebalance. The tariffs were 25% on $50billion dollars of Chinese goods, mostly on steel and aluminum. China consequently announced tariffs on approximately the same value of goods. They have been increasing the tariffs ever since, while remaining in negotiations.

    The most interesting aspect of Trump’s protectionism is how badly it fits with most right-wing ideology. When farmers in Middle America were suffering badly due to tariffs on their soybeans, the Trump administration gave them $100bn in aid. Essentially, this is government bailout due to failed market intervention – two things that Republicans never traditionally support. The ‘America First’ philosophy has inverted the traditional debates. Whereas Democrats used to be wary of free-trade, eager to protect blue-collar jobs, Republicans lived by it, preaching the invisible hand of the market would produce the outcome.

    On an international scale, the trade war has led to widespread fears of a global economic slowdown in the next two years among economists. The rest of the world is fearful of Trump’s tactics but wary to get involved. At this year’s G7 summit, the European Council President Donald Tusk said “trade wars will lead to recession.” The fact that most tariffs are on basic goods (steel, aluminum, etc.) means that the world’s whole manufacturing sector is struggling as a result of the higher prices. Germany, a manufacturing-based economy, is already in a recession.

    Tariffs were a key part of discussions at August’s G7 meeting in France.

    In the first week of October 2019, Trump has also added $6 billion worth of tariffs onto the EU, mostly as a response to the large subsidies that the EU gives Airbus, Boeing’s competitor. The Brussels-based EU executive consequently proposed tariffs worth £15 billion on US goods.  This new fight is creating tensions between the EU and US. France urged the EU to respond ‘firmly’ against the US if the tariffs come into force in the coming weeks. Juncker, the European Commission’s president, said: ‘Trade wars are easy to start but escalate quickly and usually end badly. Whoever starts a trade war will end badly in his own camp. Europe will always defend free and fair trade, based on a level-playing field and reciprocity.’ This additional tension will undoubtedly continue to build, and could lead to long-lasting damage to the EU-US relationship. It is unclear on the impact that this could have on Britain’s own special relationship with the US.

    Why is the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia so complicated?

    The Middle-East is dominated by two regional powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    Saudi Arabia and Iran are separated by Iraq and by the Persian Gulf.

    On the face of it, the two states are not dissimilar. Both are Islamic theocracies where Islamic teaching is fundamental to all aspects of government and wider life. Both are also authoritarian states where there is little political opposition to the government. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy and has been governed by the House of Saud since 1932. Iran is led by the Supreme Leader, currently Ali Khamenei, who the main institutions of the state, such as the Armed Forces, are directly subject to.

    In addition, both countries have enormous economic potential, largely due to their oil reserves. Today, there are estimated to be 268 billion barrels of oil in Saudi Arabia and Iran is estimated to have around 158 Billion barrels.

    However, there are clear dissimilarities too. Saudi Arabia is a majority Sunni state, with up to 85% of the population being Sunni. Iran, however, is a predominantly Shia state, with 95% of the population identifying as Shia.

    The Saudi’s had always claimed to be the leaders of the Muslim world. Notably, because both Medina (the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad) and Mecca (the holy city of Islam) are within its borders. However, at the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the country has claimed to be the true beholder of the Muslim Faith.

    Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have actively sought to extend their influence in the Middle-East. Iran and Saudi Arabia have never gone to war with each other. Instead, they have supported different sides during the various wars that have taken place in the Middle-East. This is known as fighting a ‘war by proxy’. For example, in two prominent wars taking place in the Middle East at present they support opposing sides:

    Yemen – A Civil War has been ongoing since 2015 between the Yemeni Government and Houthi Rebels. The Yemeni Government is supported by a Saudi-led coalition. Iran supports the Houthi rebels. The conflict is further deepened by the presence of terror groups in the region, including Al-Qaeda and ISIL.

    Syria – The Syrian Civil War has taken place since march 2011. The Government forces of President Assad are supported by Iran, whilst the Syrian rebels are supported by Saudi Arabia.

    An estimated 550,000 people have died in the Syrian Civil War.

    Both sides want to ensure their influence in the region and support the sides that they do in order to do this. This was the same process that American and the Soviet Union engaged in during the Cold War, not directly engaging each other militarily, but supporting different sides in conflicts (like the Korean War) in order to preserve and extend their influence in the region.

    The relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia is complicated by the involvement of the world’s major powers in the region. Since 1951 the United States of America and Saudi Arabia have been actively allied on many fronts. The USA has traditionally sort influence in the Middle East to protect oil exports, a decline of which could seriously damage the global economy. The US supplies military hardware to Saudi Arabia. In 2017 Saudi Arabia and the USA signed an arms deal that would see the US sell $350 Billion Dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia over the course of a decade. In addition, the US retains active military basis in the country, with around 5,000 US military personnel based there.

    Saudi Arabia also have close relationships with other western countries. The UK’s largest ever arms trade deal is with Saudi Arabia. Most recently, the UK have sold 72 Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia. This was heavily criticised by the Labour and Green Party who criticised the decision of the government to sell arms to a country with an extremely questionable record on Human Rights.

    Britain has supplied modern Eurofigther Typhoons to the Saudi Government.

    The close relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is not mirrored in the US relationship with Iran. Since 1980 the US and Iran have had diplomatic relationship and the US have imposed a trade embargo on Iran since 1995. In 2015, relations appeared to be getting better when Barack Obama’s government negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran that guaranteed that the US would lift sanctions when Iran dismantled its nuclear facilities. However, in 2018 the Trump Government reimposed sanctions, something he had promised right from the start of his presidential campaign.

    However, Iran is supported by two major powers – Russia and China. Since sanctions have been placed on Iran by the West, Russia have provided Iran with a lifeline. Russia have supported the Iranian military, including planes and advanced artillery systems. In addition, the two countries have an extensive trading relationship, including a $20 billion dollar trade deal in 2014.

    China have been a key buyer of Iranian Oil for a number of years and Chinese companies have been given drilling rights in Iran.

    What has happened recently?

    Tensions in the region have ratcheted up greatly in the last week. On Saturday 14th September an attack was mounted on one of Saudi Arabia’s most important oilfields and one owned by the government. The fires that erupted after the attack lasted for many hours and the chaos that it created resulted in a 5% drop in global oil production.

    The aftermaths of the attack seen from the air.

    Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Houthi, a rebel group fighting against Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The attack was carried out using advanced drone technology – this is technology that is almost certain that Iran has supplied.

    Iran has denied any responsibility for the attacks. However, Saudi Arabia, in addition to the UK and US have clearly indicated that they believe Iran to be firmly responsible.

    Both Britain and the US have suggested taking action against Iran in response to the attacks.

    Any direct war between Iran and Saudi Arabia would be bloody. Iran has far bigger armed forces, whilst Saudi Arabia, with the support of Britain and the US, have far more modern forces:

    It is clear than Iran is seen by many as a force of instability in the region. Saudi Arabia, and its allies, will not shy away from checking the growth of its influence. The significance of the recent attacks should not be understated.

    Why is today’s Supreme Court judgement significant?

    The UK Supreme Court is the highest court across the whole of the United Kingdom.

    The UK Supreme Court have made a judgement on Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament – and it is not a good one for the Prime Minister.

    The Supreme Court is the highest court in the UK for both criminal and civil issues. In this role, they uphold the function of Judicial Review, whereby the Supreme Court can consider decisions made by Parliament and the Government and rule whether or not they are Ultra Vires (beyond their power/authority).

    Unlike the the US, Britain does not have a codified constitution. Therefore, there is no constitutional framework against which to adjudge parliamentary and executive decisions. In the US, the Supreme Court has found a number of things to be unconstitutional and has been able to strike them down (overturn them). For example, in 2013 a Supreme Court case called Obergefell vs Hodges ruled that the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution guaranteed the rights of same-sex couples to marry in the United States. Since then, Same-Sex Marriage has been a protected right across the United States.

    The Justices of the US Supreme Court are significantly more powerful than their UK counterparts.

    In the UK, Parliament is sovereign. This means that although the Supreme Court may find something Ultra Vires, they cannot enforce a change of government policy or reverse a law passed by Parliament. However, a ruling by the Supreme Court is extremely difficult politically for the Government to ignore. This is why, for example, the Government listened to the Supreme Court’s judgement in Miller vs Brexit Secretary.

    Gina Miller has twice taken the Government to court and was successful in Miller vs Brexit whereby the Government was forced to seek parliamentary approval before triggering Article 50.

    The case heard at the UK Supreme Court was an amalgamation of appeals for two separate cases, one in Scotland and one in England.

    In Scotland, the Court of Session ruled that the prorogation was unlawful. They found that Boris Johnson’s “true reason” for advising the Queen to prorogued Parliament was to limit Parliament’s ability to scrutinise Brexit. They said that because parliamentary scrutiny is essential to upholding democracy and the rule of law, the prorogation was unlawful. The government appealed this case and this has now been heard in the Supreme Court.

    A question mark has been raised over whether Boris Johnson misled the Queen.

    In England, the High Court dismissed the case led by Gina Miller in ruling that the decision on whether to prorogue Parliament was a political rather than a legal decision and therefore the court had no place to make judgment on it. Gina Miller’s team appealed the case and now, alongside the Scottish case, it is has been heard in the Supreme Court.

    The ruling of the Supreme Court today found that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament had been unlawful. Importantly, they stressed that the motives for the Government’s actions were not central to the issue. They said that the fact that prorogation had stifled parliamentary debate meant that “the effect on the fundamentals of democracy was extreme”. The unanimous judgement given by the court was that:

    ” The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability to Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification”

    The Speaker of the House of Commons, Jon Bercow, immediately announced that he was preparing for a resumption of the parliamentary session on Wednesday 25th September. The Government has said that it is considering their response.

    One potential avenue open to the PM appeared to be re-proroguing Parliament. However, the fact that the court have said that it is the action itself, rather than the motive, that is illegal, this appears difficult.

    This is the most significant intervention in the political process that the Supreme Court have made since it started sitting in 2009. Miller vs Brexit Secretary was a case about where legal power resided over the triggering of Article 50. This case, however, is directly about the limits of the prerogative powers of the Prime Minister. Its precedential effects on the UK’s unwritten constitution could be significant.