Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020

British election: Who will replace Corbyn as UK Labour leader?

LONDON (AFP) – After suffering two defeats in his bid to become Britain’s prime minister, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he would not lead the party at the next election.

Here are the candidates currently tipped to replace him:

MR KEIR STARMER

The narrow favourite in the race would represent a shift back towards the centre ground for the party after its move to the left under the veteran socialist Corbyn.

Mr Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions in England and Wales, became an MP in 2015 and has served as shadow Brexit minister for three years, using his legal expertise to hold the government to account over its plans.

He is popular among the anti-Brexit and centrist factions of his party, but is less liked among those new members attracted to the party by Mr Corbyn’s radicalism.

The 57-year-old would likely face a highly charged ideological battle to win over enough members.

MS REBECCA LONG-BAILEY

Mr Starmer’s biggest threat appears to be 40-year-old Rebecca Long-Bailey, a Corbyn loyalist who has long been seen as his natural successor.

The daughter of a docker from Manchester, north-west England, Ms Long-Bailey has the credentials to win back disaffected voters in the party’s traditional working-class heartlands, while maintaining the backing of Mr Corbyn’s supporters.

“If he could step aside and he knew that he’d be handing over to a Rebecca Long-Bailey or to somebody else that would be kind of a continuity ‘Corbynite’, then I think he probably might,” University of Nottingham professor Steven Fielding told AFP.

Ms Long-Bailey has also deputised for Mr Corbyn at the weekly prime minister’s questions in Parliament.

But given the waning star of the veteran leftist, it is unclear how much influence he will have over the process.

Much could depend on whether the trade unions that prop up the party decide they want it to move towards the centre in a bid to beat the Tories after such a crushing defeat.

MS ANGELA RAYNER

The combative 39-year-old served in Mr Corbyn’s top team for three years after being elected in 2015, and describes herself as being part of Labour’s “soft-left” wing.

Her back story has won admirers: She left school at 16, pregnant and without any qualifications, but worked her way up to become a senior trade union official.

“People underestimate me,” Ms Rayner told the Guardian in 2012. “I’m a pretty young woman, lots of red hair, and everyone expects me to be stupid when I walk into a meeting for the first time.”

MS EMILY THORNBERRY

Mr Corbyn’s foreign affairs spokesman for two years, the outspoken MP previously courted controversy but could be a popular choice among the party’s “Remain” majority, having been a vocal proponent of stopping Brexit.

Ms Thornberry, 59, first appeared on the national stage in 2014 after tweeting a photograph of a house in a working-class constituency adorned with three England flags.

Then party leader Ed Miliband said the apparently mocking tweet showed a “lack of respect”, and the incident, over which she resigned, could still hinder her in her efforts to win working class support.

MS JESS PHILLIPS

The 38-year-old was elected to Parliament in 2015 after a career working with refugees and victims of domestic violence.

She soon became one of its most recognisable voices, with passionate and energetic performances delivered in her distinctive West Midlands accent.

She is no friend of Mr Corbyn, having once joked she would “stab him in the front”, and would be an outsider to replace him.

But she is a canny media operator, being one of the party’s most visible MPs on Twitter and earning glowing profiles in newspapers from across the political spectrum.

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