Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer dramatically entered the battle for Labour’s top job today by condemning Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous election strategy.
The shadow foreign secretary complained that allowing the election to happen was an ‘act of catastrophic political folly’, claiming she had warned against it privately.
Meanwhile, millionaire shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir highlighted his humble roots and denied he is middle class as he pitched to hardline Corbynistas.
And former Cabinet minister Yvette Cooper also suggested she will join the fray, vowing to reconnect the party with northern voters in the wake of the rout at the hands of the Tories.
Mrs Thornberry became the first contender formally to declare today, penning an article for the Guardian in which she desperately dismissed the idea her arch-Remainer status would be a barrier to resurrecting Labour after its rout in working-class Leave heartlands.
But she is already embroiled in damaging spat with ex-Labour MP Caroline Flint, who has accused her of branding Brexit voters ‘stupid’.
In 2014 Mrs Thornberry triggered a ‘snobbery’ row by tweeting an apparently mocking picture of a white van and England flag outside a house in Rochester.
The post-mortem on Labour’s dismal defeat – its worst showing since 1935 – continued apace today, with Tony Blair warning the party faces ‘oblivion’ unless it breaks the stranglehold of the hard Left.
Former Cabinet minister John Denham also delivered a damning verdict on Labour activists, saying most looked down on patriotism and viewed English people as ‘knuckle dragging Neo Nazis’.
Emily Thornberry (pictured at Labour conference this autumn) complained that allowing the election to happen had been an ‘act of catastrophic political folly’ by Jeremy Corbyn
Yvette Cooper (right), who was a shadow minister under Gordon Brown, also revealed today she is considering a run at the top job
Oxford-educated lawyer Sir Keir, who owns homes in London and Surrey worth more than £2million, revealed he is ‘seriously considering’ entering the leadership race that will take place in the New Near.
Distrusted by hard left fans of Mr Corbyn, the 57-year-old pitched himself as a unity candidate, attacking ‘factionalism’.
In an attempt to woo suspicious Corbynistas who blame the hardline Remainer for Labour’s muddled message on Brexit, he said he did not want the party to ‘over-steer’ to the right.
In her article this afternoon, Ms Thornberry wrote: ‘Listening to Labour colleagues on the media over the last week, I have repeatedly heard the refrain that the problem we faced last Thursday was that ‘this became the Brexit election’,’ she wrote.
Who is in the frame for the Labour leadership?
Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Kier Starmer was raised by socialist parents who named him after Keir Hardie, the Labour leader’s founder and a colossus of the socialist movement.
In Who’s Who he refers to his parents Rodney and Josephine Starmer as ‘Rod and Jo’.
The shadow Brexit secretary was an out-and-out Remainer who frequently clashed with Corbyn’s inner circle over his overt support for a second referendum.
The 57-year-old lawyer, a former director of public prosecutions, was kept largely out of sight during the election campaign as the party tried, unsuccessfully, to hold on to Leave seats in the north.
Distrusted by hard left fans of Mr Corbyn, the Holborn and St Pancras MP set out his stall to be a unity candidate, attacking ‘factionalism’ and saying the party needed to include both Momentum and fans of Tony Blair.
And he dangled a carrot in front of Corbynites, saying he did not want the party to move too far rightwards.
He said he did not want a return to the era of Tony Blair, telling the BBC this morning: ‘I don’t need someone else’s name tattooed on my head to make decisions.’
But he might face difficulty if he is seen as not left wing enough, or if the party feels it needs a northern voice to win back seats.
Emily Thornberry has been dogged by claims of snobbery towards working-class voters for years.
The shadow foreign secretary, whose Islington seat neighbours that of Jeremy Corbyn, was forced to resign from Ed Miliband’s front bench in 2014 after tweeting an apparently mocking image of a house in Rochester with a white van and England flags outside.
Labour came third in the by-election in the constituency, which was won by Ukip.
This week she was embroiled in a furious row with ex-minister Caroline Flint, who lost her Don Vallley seat to the Tories.
Ms Flint claimed Mrs Thornberry told a northern MP privately that Brexit voters were ‘stupid’.
Mrs Thornberry has angrily denied the allegation and threatened to sue Ms Flint.
A lively performer in Parliament, she has admirers among Labour’s clutch of metropolitan MPs.
Ms Thornberry’s London seat and vocal pro-Remain position could tell against her – although the membership is generally pro-EU.
The shadow business secretary is seen as the ‘continuity’ candidate, having been closely involved in Labour’s lurch to the Left.
Frequently deployed on media, the 40-year-old’s career has been pushed by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who has long tipped her as a future leader.
She is expected to portray herself as the torchbearer for Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy, and will be boosted if the pact with close friend Angela Rayner – potentially a rival – is confirmed.
Given Labour’s dire need to reconnect with its traditional heartlands, her northern constituency and accent will also be selling points.
The Wigan MP washed her hands of the Corbyn project some time ago – which could be a boon given its humiliating failure in the election.
But the 40-year-old has maintained a high media profile, and has strong left-wing credentials away without being marked on the extreme.
While the leadership desperately tried to stay neutral, she pushed hard for Labour to adopt a more Leave policy and accept the verdict of the referendum.
Ms Nandy was involved in unsuccessful talks to support Theresa May’s deal, but has indicated she would not support Boris Johnson’s harder Brexit.
However, some MPs complain that she is ‘lightweight’ and failed to make good on her rhetoric about allowing Brexit to happen.
The Birmingham Yeardley MP is a confident performer in the media and the House of Commons chamber.
Her straight-talking, no-nonsense manner and Brummie accent have won her many fans and she was one of the first names mentioned as a contender after Mr Corbyn announced he would step down.
But the 38-year-old’s willingness to criticise the leader has won her few friends among Corbynistas, with a groundswell of opposition to her taking over.
She has been the target of high levels of online abuse from people across the political spectrum, including death threats.
She also has no experience of the party’s front bench, something that could either count against her or for her, depending on the views of the members.
In March she said she would ‘be a good prime minister’. At a time when several moderate MPs had quit Labour she added: ‘I feel like I can’t leave the Labour Party without rolling the dice one more time. I owe it that. But it doesn’t own me. It’s nothing more than a logo if it doesn’t stand for something that I actually care about – it’s just a f***ing rose’.
A Cabinet minister under Gordon Brown, Ms Cooper is very much a survivor of the government years of Labour.
That is her Achilles heel in a party led by people who would rather forget it was ever in power under Blair and Brown.
Since being a minister, Ms Cooper has reinvented herself as the chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee, presiding over some forensic questioning of ministers over issues including the Windrush scandal.
Ms Cooper, who is married to former minister Ed Balls, told the BBC’s Today programme this morning she would decide over the Christmas break whether to run for the leadership.
‘I think we clearly do have to change because it hasn’t worked,’ she said.
Ms Cooper said she would probably take a different view from Tony Blair – who used a speech today to urge against a ‘whitewash’ of the party’s worst general election result since 1935 – and also a different view to the recent approach of the party.
The Norwich South MP, 48, has managed to ingratiate himself into the Corbyn machine despite a major falling out over Brexit.
In 2017 he quit as shadow business minister after he rebelled against Mr Corbyn to oppose triggering Brexit negotiations.
But he returned the following year to join shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s economic team.
A sexism scandal from 2017 could be a major hindrance in a ladership race likely to feature several female candidates. He was forced to apologise ‘unreservedly’ for telling an activist to ‘get on your knees b****’ at an event during Labour conference.
Footage of a Momentum event in Brighton showed Mr Lewis making the remark to a man on stage as the audience laughed.
The then backbencher admitted his language had been ‘offensive and unacceptable’ after facing a wave of condemnation from colleagues.
Ms Rayner has been MP for Ashton-under-Lyne since 2015, has drawn heavily on her time as a one-time struggling teenage mother – and proudly welcomed her own granddaughter at the age of just 37 with a tweet jokingly referring to herself as ‘Grangela’.
The married mother-of-three was just 16 when she had her first son, Ryan, and has told how becoming pregnant so young ‘saved’ her.
Her teenage relationship with Ryan’s father ended quickly and she has since married Unison official Mark Rayner.
She has been shadow education secretary since 2016 and quietly built up a fan base within the party.
While she has apparently made a pact to run as Ms Long-Bailey’s deputy she could still decide to have a punt at the top job itself.
But it would mean battling her London flatmate, which could make for difficult nights in.
The outspoken Tottenham MP would become the first black leader of a major UK political party if he won. But he is very much an outside bet.
Despite nominating Jeremy Corbyn for the leader’s ballot in 2015 he is very much a hardcore Remainer and last night attacked the ‘faith-based cult’ that has strung up at the head of the party.
He is also outspoken on race politics. In April he likened members of the Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs to the Nazis and ‘white supremacists’
He also had a war of words with presenter Stacey Dooley over a Comic Relief trip to Africa, accusing her of using Instagram to make herself look like a ‘heroine’ trying to save ‘victim’ black children in Uganda.
Last year he led criticisms of the Government for threatening to deport migrants who have spent nearly their entire lives in the UK.
But the London-born politician then received an abusive letter branding him ‘vile’ and telling him to ‘go back to the country of your forbears’.
‘To which I can only say I look forward to their tweets of shock when next Wednesday’s lunch features turkey and Brussels sprouts …
‘I wrote to the leader’s office warning it would be ‘an act of catastrophic political folly’ to vote for the election, and set out a lengthy draft narrative explaining why we should not go along with it.
‘I argued that the single issue of Brexit should not be enough to give Johnson a five-year mandate to enact his agenda on every issue. Instead, I said we should insist on a referendum on his proposed deal, to get the issue of Brexit out of the way before any general election.’
Ms Thornberry, whose constituency is next to Mr Corbyn’s in Islington, denied that her staunchly pro-Remainer stance on Brexit should rule her out of the leadership.
‘The first question shouldn’t be about their position on Brexit, or where they live in our country,’ she said.
‘The first question should instead be: what’s your plan for taking on Boris Johnson over the next five years? And do you have the political nous and strategic vision to reunite our party, rebuild our machine, gain the trust of the public, give hope to our declining towns and smaller cities, and never again waste the opportunity to take back power?’
Sir Keir tried to distance himself from the era of Tony Blair, telling the BBC this morning the party could not afford to go back to ‘some bygone age’.
Asked whether a knighted lawyer can reach out to working class voters the party lost to the Tories in last week;s election, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘As for the sort of middle-class thrust, as you know, my dad worked in a factory, he was a toolmaker, and my mum was a nurse, and she contracted a very rare disease early in her life that meant she was constantly in need of NHS care.
‘So, actually, my background isn’t what people think it is.
‘I know what it’s like. I actually never had been in any workplace other than a factory until I left home for university. I’d never been in an office.
‘So the idea that somehow I personally don’t know what it’s like for people across the country in all sorts of different circumstances is just not borne out.’
It comes as centrists and Corbynites alike fight over the soul of the party in the wake of last week’s car crash election result.
Ms Cooper, who was a shadow minister under Gordon Brown, also revealed today she is considering a run at the top job.
But she is likely to face widespread opposition from the left of the party because of her link with the party’s period in government.
The bookies’ favourite, Sir Keir is yet to formally announce his candidacy, but opened up on where Labour went wrong in the election and what they must do to overturn their heavy defeat.
He told the BBC this morning he had been sidelined in the campaign because party leaders felt ‘it was better we had Leave voices out there’.
‘I think we need to reflect. There are people who say ‘well it’s the media’, he said.
‘The media was hostile but it’s been hostile in the past and it’ll probably be hostile in the future, so we can’t rest there.
‘Brexit did, of course, come up on the doorstep. What really came up was this slogan ‘get Brexit done’.
‘And we didn’t knock it back, we didn’t knock it down and neutralise it hard enough, because it clearly wasn’t going to happen.
‘We put too much in the manifesto, you couldn’t see the wood for the trees. It was really good stuff in there.
‘And we carried, I think, too much baggage into the election, and anti-Semitism is an example of that because it was about values and about competence.’
But his comments on Brexit brought immediate criticism from former Labour MPs who lost their seats last week.
Former Stoke MP Gareth Snell tweeted: ‘Those of us in Leave seats with small majorities in towns and small cities *begged* Keir Starmer to listen to us and our constituents when we told him that the party’s brexit policy was losing us votes.
‘He wouldn’t listen and we lost.’
And former Bassetlaw MP John Mann branded Sir Keir a ‘coward’ for failing to stand up to Mr Corbyn, saying: ‘How dare you even consider standing as a ”leader”.’
Sir Keir also praised Mr Corbyn, saying: ‘What [he] brought to the Labour Party in 2015 was a change in emphasis that was really important, a radicalism that matters, and the rejection of anti-austerity.
‘And we need to build on that, rather than simply say ”Well, let’s now oversteer and go back to some bygone age”.’
It was put to Sir Keir that he was suggesting ‘Corbynism without Corbyn’, but he rejected that suggestion.
‘What I’m saying is that the desperate needs of millions of people for change – people in poverty, people who are homeless – the moral case for change is still there, just as it was last Thursday,’ he said.
Ms Cooper told the BBC’s Today programme this morning she would decide over the Christmas break whether to run for the leadership.
‘I think we clearly do have to change because it hasn’t worked,’ she said.
‘We’ve got the fewest Labour MPs since 1935 and a big drop in working-class support with low-income voters choosing the Conservatives even though they didn’t want to, and people felt let down by the choice that we give them, so we have to show some humility, because we got things wrong.’
Ms Cooper said she would probably take a different view from Tony Blair – who used a speech today to urge against a ‘whitewash’ of the party’s worst general election result since 1935 – and also a different view to the recent approach of the party, adding: ‘There are three things that we are going to have to do now.
‘And one of those is about recognising we cannot just become a party that is concentrated in cities with our support increasingly concentrated in diverse young fast-moving areas while older voters in towns think we aren’t listening to them.
‘And that is not a left/right issue, and this is where both the Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Blair challenge comes in, because both the left and the right of our party are seen as internationalist, not patriotic, at the moment.
‘And that might not be fair, but it is how they are seen. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Blair are seen as internationalist, not patriots, and we should be able to be both patriotic and outward looking because that’s what we were in 1945.’
Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner have already been tipped to run for leader and deputy leader on a double ticket.
It was revealed yesterday that the London flatmates have formed a pact. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell had previously named Long Bailey as his favorite to replace Mr Corbyn.
Salford & Eccles MP Ms Long-Bailey, a married mother-of-one, is believed to have the backing of Mr Corbyn and is viewed by many in the party as the continuity candidate who would carry on along the same policy lines as the outgoing leader.
Ms Rayner, who is also married with three sons and became a grandmother at the tender age of 37, had been talked of as a potential contender for the top job too.
But the pact between the two shadow cabinet ministers have agreed a pact it could boost their chances of winning by consolidating support on the left of the party.
However, Ms Long-Bailey and Ms Rayner are likely to face a bruising battle for the roles with numerous contenders expected to emerge in the coming days for each position.
Clive Lewis, a former shadow minister, has broken cover to say that he is considering a tilt at the leadership, joining Lisa Nandy who said yesterday she is weighing up whether to run.
Mr Lewis told the BBC‘s Victoria Derbyshire programme: ‘I am thinking about it.
‘We will see if I stand.’
Asked what he could offer, Mr Lewis said: ‘I think one of the things you are going to need to be able to do is to reach out to both sides of this discussion, both sides of this argument.
‘We have got Remainers and Leavers still as part of the electorate and my seat was a 60/40 split and I came back.’
Labour suffered heavy losses to the Tories in the party’s former heartlands last week.
Mr Lewis said he did not believe that could be blamed purely on Brexit or on concerns about the Labour leadership.
He said: ‘If you just look at what happened in those seats on Thursday night, this has been 40 years in the making… look at a lot of those constituencies, after New Labour had finished many of those constituencies were still in a bad state, still had terrible unemployment, still had poor resources, poor services that were there for them.
‘They had never been invested in. Do we really think that simply pointing a finger at the fact that some people thought that leaving the European Union and not having a second referendum was the sole reason… we cannot say that it was one single, simple answer.’
Ms Rayner could face competition for the deputy role – vacated by Tom Watson who stood down at the election last week – from shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner who is also reportedly weighing up a bid.
The apparent alliance between Ms Long-Bailey and Ms Rayner echoes the famous ‘Granita pact’ between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in 1994.
The pair were close friends and, after Labour leader John Smith died, met at an Islington restaurant to thrash out a deal in which Mr Blair would stand as leader with Mr Brown becoming Chancellor in the event of a Labour victory.
If Ms Long-Bailey wins, she will be the first female leader of the Labour Party.
Margaret Beckett and Harriet Harman were both acting leaders, but did not take the top job.
Laura Pidcock, another Left-wing favourite, lost her North West Durham seat to the Tories last week.
Mary Creagh, the former Labour MP for Wakefield, also collared Mr Corbyn outside Parliament, blasting him for his election performance and telling him to stand down immediately, while adding that every day he stays as leader is damaging to the party.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves told Mr Corbyn that he was to blame for the election humiliation, describing his manifesto as ‘economically illiterate’ and saying the party needed radical change and a leader that ‘actually wants to win’.
Rebellious MPs also dismissed Mr Corbyn’s claims that the defeat – the party’s worst since 1935 – was down to Brexit and media hostility.
Mr Corbyn apologised to the fractious meeting, but failed to win them over, with veteran critic Dame Margaret Hodge describing the meeting as ‘on the whole it was fury, despair, miserable’.
Later today Tony Blair will also speak on the election result and say: ‘Labour needs not just a different driver, but a different bus.
‘This election was no ordinary defeat for Labour. It marks a moment in history. The choice for Labour is to renew itself as the serious, progressive, non-Conservative competitor for power in British politics – or retreat from such an ambition, in which case over time it will be replaced.’
In a two-hour meeting, MPs also said the leadership contest should focus on who could win over the country, rather than party members.
Only a handful of ultra loyalists attempted to defend the party leader, who has already announced he will quit in the new year.
Speaking to reporters later outside Ms Reeves added: ‘I said to Jeremy you can make all the excuses in the world… but the big drag on support in the election was him and his leadership.’
It came after Jeremy Corbyn was cornered by one of his former MPs yesterday who tore into him after seeing him casually posing for selfies in Parliament despite overseeing Labour’s catastrophic election humiliation.
Ex-Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said she confronted the outgoing Labour leader and told to ‘apologise for what he’d done’, after spotting him in parliament while in the building to clear out her office.
She described giving him the ‘hairdryer’ after spotting him in Portcullis House posing for selfies with young people, she told the Times, telling him ‘he shouldn’t be having his photo taken with young people because he had betrayed their future’.
Speaking to Channel 4, she added: ‘We have in Jeremy a man without honour and without shame – and a type of preening narcissism that means he thinks he’s still got something left to offer the Labour movement.’
The former MP, who saw her 2,000 majority overturned to lose Wakefield by more than 3,000 votes, said she told Mr Corbyn he had run a disastrous and chaotic election campaign, overseen a ‘joke’ manifesto and alienated Labour’s natural supporters.
She demanded that he step down immediately, saying it was wrong for him to stay in his job while she had been forced to make her Commons staff redundant.
‘I told him it was his sole decision to call the election without even consulting the Shadow Cabinet and as a result of that decision he has delivered the hardest possible Brexit,’ she said.
Who will the Labour leadership election work?
The exact rules of the Labour leadership election will be set by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee but the contest is likely to work like this:
In order to make it onto the ballot paper, would-be leaders will need to do two things.
Firstly they will need to secure the backing of 10 per cent of the party’s MPs and MEPs – so at least 22 signatures will be required.
Secondly, candidates will also need nominations from either five per cent of constituency Labour parties or at least three affiliates – with at least two of those from the trade unions – representing at least five per cent of affiliated membership.
That means candidates will likely need the backing of about 33 CLPs to progress.
Once the slate of candidates has been set there will then follow a one-member-one-vote ballot process.
Labour party members, affiliated supporters (trade union members) and registered supporters (people who pay a one-off fee so they can vote in the leadership battle) will all be able to vote.
The contest will be conducted using an alternative vote system which will see people effectively asked to rank candidates in order of preference.
The winning candidate will need to secure more than 50 per cent of the vote.
If they are unable to do that in the first round of counting, the last-placed candidate will have all of their second-placed votes redistributed and so on until the 50 per cent threshold is reached.
Jeremy Corbyn secured 59.5 per cent of votes in the first round in 2015 so there was no need for votes to be redistributed.
The whole election process is expected to last for at least five weeks. Decisions on timing and other issues will be taken by the NEC on January 6.
- Key Jeremy Corbyn ally reportedly says Labour’s anti-Semitism scandal was invented by ‘Jewish Trump fanatics’
- Jeremy Corbyn faces Common probes after refusing to apologise for Tunisia wreath trip honouring dead terrorists
- Labour MP refuses to say Jeremy Corbyn is fit to be PM SIX TIMES and hints he could be ousted as leader next month
- ‘Sexist’ Jeremy Corbyn calls Theresa May a ‘stupid woman’ during fiery Prime Minister’s Questions clash
- What is anti-Semitism, what has Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn said and what happened at the crunch NEC talks?
- Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn elected with huge mandate
- Jeremy Corbyn vows to help underpaid and overworked nurses
- Jeremy Corbyn pledges to consider more federalised UK
- Press gang up on Jeremy Corbyn in election day coverage
- Tory deletes ‘spy’ tweet about Jeremy Corbyn after legal threat