Labour leadership: these three female MPs are still in the running

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Hollie Richardson
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Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Emily Thornberry

Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Emily Thornberry are all hopefuls for the Labour leadership, which means that the party could get its first ever female leader this year.

To describe the state of UK politics in 2019 as “chaotic” would be an understatement. Theresa May stepped down as Prime Minister, leaving controversial politician Boris Johnson to fulfil the position. Brexit continued to divide the whole country, overshadowing vital issues such as domestic abuse, austerity and the climate crisis. And yet another general election was called. The result of this – a Tory win – then led to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that he will no longer lead the party. This ended the year on a huge cliff-hanger: who will be the Labour Party leader in 2020?

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Considering that Labour has never had a female party leader, it would be a historical moment if a woman takes the position. 

After Jess Phillips dropped out of the running with a heartfelt video message, Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Emily Thornberry are still in the running for leader, alongside front-runner Sir Keir Starmer.

To make it onto the final members’ ballot, candidates need the support of three unions and affiliate groups, or 33 local branches.

Nandy, the Wigan MP, has already secured that level ahead of the 14 February deadline, along with Sir Keir.

However, the shadow Brexit secretary cancelled campaign events this weekend after his mother-in-law was injured in a serious accident, leaving her in a critical condition.

The shadow business secretary, Long-Bailey, was already nominated by the bakers’ union BFAWU, and on Friday won the support of the Unite trade union, leaving her one short.

Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, has not yet received any union or affiliate backing. With only three local branches supporting her, she is seen as the least likely candidate to replace Corbyn.

And over in the deputy leadership race, Rosena Allin-Khan, Dawn Butler and Angela Rayner have are running for the position, alongside Richard Burgon (backed by Unite) and Ian Murray. 

Let’s take a look at the female politicians who are running to be the new Labour leader.

Lisa Nandy

Lisa Nandy has been the MP for Wigan since 2010. She was also the shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change, but resigned from Corbyn’s frontbench after the Brexit referendum. 

The 40-year-old previously worked for charities Centrepoint and The Children’s Society.

She was the second candidate to clinch the ballot when she won the backing of the affiliate group Chinese for Labour, adding to her nominations from the GMB union and the National Union of Mineworkers.

Writing in a letter published in Wigan Today, Nandy told her constituency: “I wanted to tell you first that I’m standing to be leader of the Labour Party because after a decade of having the privilege to represent you, I have a deeper understanding of what has gone awry in our discredited political system. 

“I’m standing because I know too many people in places like Wigan no longer feel they have a voice in our national story. So many of you have told me you believe many leaders are not interested in what you have to say and are unable - or unwilling - to understand your lives. I believe you are right.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey 

Rebecca Long-Bailey has been the MP for Salford and Eccles since 2015. She is also the shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy.

She received the second-highest number of nominations, with 33 MPs and MEPs rushing to back her, and has just been supported by the Unite trade union, one of Labour’s most important donors. The 40-year-old is seen as the favourite of Corbyn and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.

Long-Bailey wrote in The Tribune: “Many candidates in the leadership election say they will not return to the triangulation and Tory-lite policies that held our party back before Jeremy. But we need a leader that can be trusted with our socialist agenda. A leader who is totally committed to the policies and has the political backbone to defend them. 

“We need a proud socialist to lead the Labour Party, driven by their principles and an unwavering determination to see democratic socialism in our lifetime. For all of these reasons and more, I have decided to stand for election to become the next leader of our Party.”

Emily Thornberry

Emily Thornberry has been the Labour MP for Islington and Finsbury since 2005. She is also the shadow secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs and shadow first secretary of state. Thornberry deputised Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions but was replaced after publicly calling for Labour to back another EU referendum.

She has not yet received any union or affiliate backing, and only three local branches has endorsed her, putting her last in the leadership race.

In an opinion piece for the Mirror, Thornberry wrote: “I know I have flaws. I know I’ve made mistakes in the past and paid a price for them. I know I’ll need to work tirelessly to persuade people to vote for me, and I believe I can do that.”

Updated on: 25 January

Keir Starmer

Despite a groundswell of support for a female Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer is still the favourite in most polls.

The shadow Brexit secretary has been MP for Holborn and St Pancras since 2015, and before that was director of Public Prosecutions and head of the CPS until 2013.

The 57-year-old received the most backing from colleagues, securing 88 nominations from MPs and MEPs. He also has support from three trade unions or affiliate groups: Unison, Udsaw and the Socialist Environment and Resources Association (Sera).

Sir Keir wrote in the Sunday Mirror: “Britain desperately needs a Labour Government. We need a Labour Government that will offer people hope of a better future. However, that is only going to happen if Labour listens to people about what needs to change and how we can restore trust in our party as a force for good.

“Now is not the time to be meek. Boris Johnson needs to be challenged, with passion, heart and precision. We need to recognise that politics has changed in a fundamental way by electing a different kind of leader. More of the same will lead to more of the same result.”

How and when will a new Labour Party leader be elected?

The new leader and deputy leader will be announced on 4 April.

Each candidate MP needs the backing of 10% of Labour MPs and MEPs. They also need nominations from trade unions or 5% of Labour’s constituency parties. Labour Party members, registered and affiliated supporters then get one vote each. If there is no overall winner, votes are redistributed and candidates eliminated until one reaches more than 50%. You can read about the full process on the BBC website.

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With more female MPs in the running than male MPs, there’s still a chance that Labour could have a woman leading the party in 2020.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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