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The U.K. Labour Party is looking for a new leader after its heavy defeat in last week’s general election and Jeremy Corbyn announced his plans to resign.
The process is expected to begin in January, with his successor tasked with trying to unite a party that has become bitterly divided over Corbyn’s socialist policies and accusations of antisemitism.
Despite Corbyn’s failure to win at a national level, his popularity within Labour will be tough to follow. Here are some of the people who could replace him:
Rebecca Long-Bailey, 40: The Chosen One
If you were going to build a new Labour leader from scratch, Rebecca Long-Bailey would probably tick most of the boxes: she is a young and media-savvy female hailing from a northern constituency with a safe majority. Crucially, she’s also loyal to the leadership, even standing in for Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions in June. With the Labour membership still remaining firmly to the left of the party’s MPs, this could prove crucial in gaining her the support needed to win the contest.
Long-Bailey is close friends with fellow leadership hopeful Angela Rayner, and there have been suggestions they could be the party’s next power duo, akin to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Angela Rayner, 39: The One With the Back Story
Rayner has been at the forefront of the party’s election campaign, regularly facing the cameras and leading rallies across the country. Known for her blunt, no-nonsense interview style, her supporters think she will appeal to traditional supporters Labour has lost in recent years. In her shadow cabinet role, she spearheaded Labour’s National Education Service, which was hoped to do for education what the National Health Service did for health. She also has a back story unlike almost any other British politician serving today, leaving school at the age of 16 while pregnant.
Given she’s on good terms with the leadership but also not a fully fledged member of the hard-left faction of the party, she might be a compromise candidate who can unite Labour’s ideological wings. However, there’s one factor that might deter Rayner from putting her hat in the ring: she’s a close friend and flatmate of fellow leadership front-runner Long-Bailey. Labour contests have a habit of tearing apart close friendships, and even family. Just ask the Miliband brothers, David and Ed.
Jess Phillips, 38: The Corbyn Critic
Known for her blunt and witty speeches, 38-year-old Jess Phillips has already said she may throw her hat in the ring. Despite sharing many of the same left-leaning views as Corbyn, she’s been a vocal critic of him, saying he’s not capable of winning a majority for Labour and repeatedly threatening to quit the party. For that reason she’s proved divisive — hated by many Corbyn supporters who see her as undermining his efforts to win power.
Phillips, from Birmingham in central England, is characteristically a lone wolf and something of a contrarian. While backing a second Brexit referendum, she declined to join the People’s Vote campaign, and she’s on friendly terms with Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Lisa Nandy: The Cheerleader for Towns
Lisa Nandy, 40, is emerging as one of the “soft-left” front-runners, telling the BBC on Sunday she’s “seriously” thinking about running because Labour’s “shattering defeat” left towns like Wigan, where she’s been the MP since 2010, feel like “the earth was quaking.”
A former charity worker, Nandy is media-friendly and her northern roots will be seen as an advantage as Labour seeks to re-engage with traditional voters who abandoned the party in the general election. She co-founded the Centre for Towns, a think tank that aims to revive smaller urban areas.
A Corbyn opponent, Nandy quit as energy spokeswoman in his front-bench team in 2016 to join an attempt to overthrow him, and served as co-chair in Owen Smith’s failed leadership campaign. She campaigned against Brexit in the 2016 referendum, but since then has argued the EU divorce must be delivered and voted for Johnson‘s deal in October.
Keir Starmer, 57: The Arch Remainer
Currently the bookies’ favorite, Corbyn’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer hasn’t always been loyal to the current leader — particularly when it comes to the question of the U.K.’s relationship with the European Union. Starmer backed Corbyn’s rivals in the 2015 and 2016 leadership contests and is one of the party’s most vocal Remainers.
While Starmer has faced accusations of being out of touch with working class Leave voters in northern England, he’s arguably closer to them than Corbyn, who was privately educated. To boot, he has an impressive career behind him. As a young lawyer, he advised two environmental activists in the long-running “McLibel” case after they distributed a factsheet critical of the McDonald’s burger chain. While McDonald’s won the suit, Starmer represented the activists in a subsequent successful case against the U.K. government in the European Court of Human Rights. He went on to be Director of Public Prosecutions.
Emily Thornberry, 59: Corbyn’s Neighbor
Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, is widely expected to toss her hat in the ring, especially after she refused to rule out a leadership bid in an interview with the New Statesman magazine in early December. A strong media performer with experience in both Ed Miliband’s and Corbyn’s senior leadership teams, Thornberry pushed hard for Labour to back holding a second referendum on Brexit.
Old gaffes may come to haunt her, though. She was forced to resign her shadow cabinet post in 2014 after tweeting a picture perceived to be mocking working-class voters. Given she represents Islington South, neighboring Corbyn’s own Islington North, members may question whether another Londoner is the right choice to get Labour winning again nationwide.
Sadiq Khan, 49: Mr. London
Sadiq Khan is one of Labour’s most recognizable faces thanks to his role as Mayor of London. He served in Gordon Brown’s government and was a senior figure in Ed Miliband’s opposition team, before moving his focus to forcing the Conservatives out of office in London in 2016.
But that hasn’t meant he’s kept quiet on issues of national (and international) importance. Khan has regularly clashed with Corbyn over Labour’s Brexit stance and electoral strategies. He’s also not backed down from a political feud with U.S. President Donald Trump. This willingness to fight his corner, as well as his track-record as leader of one of the world’s largest cities, makes him seem an ideal candidate to many.
The problem? He’s not an MP, meaning he can’t stand for leader. While then-Mayor of London Boris Johnson became a Tory MP in 2015 in preparation for his leadership ambitions, Khan made no such move in this election. Indeed, he went as far as to rule out a return to Parliament to make a leadership bid in an interview with Bloomberg TV earlier this month. Still, it’s not unthinkable that the lure of becoming national leader may become too much for Khan to resist.
Yvette Cooper, 50: The Inquisitor
After Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader in 2015, Yvette Cooper stepped back from front-line politics for the first time in nearly 17 years. But the decision didn’t keep her away from the spotlight, she won a vote of MPs and became chairwoman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, where her forensic scrutiny gained her plaudits from both sides of the aisle.
In the chamber, too, Cooper has distinguished herself with eloquent contributions testing the government. She tabled what became known as the “Cooper Amendment” in January, depriving the Treasury of tools in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and inflicting an embarrassing defeat on Theresa May’s government.
One of the many Labour MPs who arrived in Westminster after the party’s 1997 victory, she held senior positions in the governments of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. But a record of experience is a record to scrutinize, and members may see Cooper as being too aligned with the ‘New Labour’ period of the party’s history, which Corbyn railed against. Having unsuccessfully ran against him in the 2015 leadership race, and backed his challenger Owen Smith in 2016, she would face an uphill struggle to convince the membership a radically different path is needed.
(Corrects to show activists won damages from U.K. government, not McDonald’s, in 14th paragraph)
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