what's this about?

That Labour leadership race you've been hearing about for weeks is over

Jeremy Corbyn romped home.

Britain Labour Leadership Labour leadership candidates (L-R) Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham AP Photo / Scott Heppell AP Photo / Scott Heppell / Scott Heppell

Updated 12.00pm

THE PAST FEW months has seen the British press gripped by the Labour party’s leadership race.

The four-way contest has been fought by MPs Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn.

The 66-year-old back bencher has come from being a 200/1 outside shot who only managed to enter the race at the last minute to being the outright favourite.

Yesterday evening he was announced as the new leader of the Labour party after taking 59% of members’ first preference votes.

So what exactly is this all about?

Who did he beat to win?

The race for the leadership started after the British General Election on 7 May this year.

Ed Miliband stood aside as the leader of the party after the Conservatives secured an overall majority in the House of Commons and Labour was decimated in Scotland, losing all but one of its seats to the SNP.

Leadership hopefuls were required to receive 35 nominations from their fellow MPs to stand in the race.

Andy Burnham emerged as the early favourite with polls in June putting him on a third of the vote.

Labour leadership contest Andy Burnham had been the early frontrunner in the race Isabel Infantes / Empics Entertainment Isabel Infantes / Empics Entertainment / Empics Entertainment

Over the course of his campaign he saw a decline in popularity, and in recent days has found himself caught up in a scandal by being secretly filmed by a reporter for The Sun saying a win for Corbyn would be a “disaster for the Labour party” and would indicate “Labour has given up on ever being a government again”.

Liz Kendell, a 44-year-old former policy researcher, struggled for support with an approach that she has described herself as possibly being “too blunt”.

She was however roundly praised for telling a Mail on Sunday journalist to “fuck off” when he asked about her weight.

Labour leadership contest Liz Kendall told a Mail on Sunday journalist to fuck off when they asked about her weight Yui Mok / PA Wire Yui Mok / PA Wire / PA Wire

Yvette Cooper, a MP since 1997, previously served in a Labour government under Gordon Brown between 2008 and 2010. Since 2010 she has been Britain’s shadow home secretary, a position which has boosted her profile in recent weeks due to the refugee crisis.

And that brings us to Jeremy Corbyn…

What’s all the fuss about Corbyn?

Corbyn made his way onto the Labour leadership ballot with a last minute rush of nine MPs in the final hour that nominations were open.

The London-based MP, who has been a member of the House of Commons since 1983, has drawn intense media scrutiny for his left-wing views and credibility as leader of the opposition.

Politics - Jeremy Corbyn MP Jeremy Corbyn pictured in 1984 PA ARCHIVE IMAGES PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

In his programme for government, he has said that he will bring about a “fundemental shift” in what the Labour party has been offering in recent years.

This would include reversing spending cuts introduced by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition since 2010; seeking political and not military solutions to foreign policy issues; scrapping university tuition fees and the introduction of rent controls.

His anti-austerity policies were given some credibility when last month they received the backing of 40 leading economists, including a former adviser to the Bank of England.

There has been a feeling that an some of the coverage of Corbyn has shown an unfair bias against him, with a number of examples of selective quoting being published by British satire magazine Private Eye and circulating on social media.  

What has been most remarkable about Jeremy Corbyn has been his huge growth in popularity among members of the public.

This has seemed to seem to stem from his straight-talking nature and alternative to the slick Blairite front that has been prevalent in the British Labour party since the late-1990s.

In an article last month in The Guardian, journalist Bridget Christie referred to herself as having her “Jeremy Corbyn moment” after watching a clip of him from 1984 in which he defends a decision to wear a jumper made by his mother despite derision from Tory MPs.

This seeming enthusiasm with those disaffected by politics has led to a swell of people joining the Labour party, with any of these new members allowed to vote in the contest as long as they pay £3 and sign a form saying that they share Labour’s values.

Jeremy Corbyn ballot

Despite his popularity, he has faced opposition both from within his party and from external detractors.

Throughout the campaign a major criticism from the Labour hierarchy is that his leadership would be regressive, and would not present a credible opposition to the Conservative party.

Writing last month, Tony Blair stated that, “If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader, the party won’t just face defeat but annihilation. Stop him before it’s too late.”

He has been criticised for a soft stance on foreign policy, with David Cameron describing him as unfit to lead the Labour party following his criticism of a British drone strike in Syria.

He faced further criticism from elements of the British press after Gerry Adams tweeted a picture of senior Sinn Féin members sitting with him at Portcullis House in Westminster.

So what now that he is leader? 

With Corbyn now in place as leader of the opposition, his next challenge will be to unite his party colleagues who have targeted him with much derision in the run-in to the leadership contest.

In the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s win a number of senior Labour party figures stood down from their positions, including shadow chancellor Chris Leslie and shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt.

And if he manages to get all his troops in line, his long-term challenge will be contending the 2020 General Election, something that two-thirds of people in a poll conducted by The Independent said he was likely to lose. 

Britain AP Photo / Alastair Grant AP Photo / Alastair Grant / Alastair Grant

While criticism of Corbyn as an outdated leftists is likely to contiue from the Conservative party, his credibility and popularity has grown as the leadership race has gone on.

One thing is for sure, his victory marks a new chapter in British politics.

- First published 13/09/2015

Read: Gerry Adams: Stormont walkout is a ‘contrived crisis’

Also: Tony Blair stuck his oar into the Labour leadership race – and some people are livid

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.