Everything You Need To Know About The Labour Leadership Candidates

Five MPs have put their names in the ring to become the next leader of the Labour party
Andrew Aitchison/In Pictures/Getty Images

Labour's leadership contest is still up in the air, but one thing that's becoming clear is the MPs who are in the running. Six politicians have put themselves forward to be the next head of the party with the first knockout stage set to take place next week. Until then, here's the lowdown on all the confirmed Labour leadership candidates, including their professional histories and personal passions.

The current names in the ring consist of four women and two men: Jess Phillips, Emily Thornberry, Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, Clive Lewis, and Rebecca Long Bailey. Currently, reports the Guardian, Thornberry and Lewis are trailing behind the others. Each candidate must be nominated by a sufficient number of Labour MPs to move forward; the deadline for nominations is Monday, Jan. 13.

Per the Guardian, the leadership contest will last for three months with results announced on Saturday, April 4. Registered members of the Labour party will have to pay £25 to vote, the paper understands, and will only have 48 hours to sign up to do so. The sign-up date is yet to be confirmed.

Jeremy Corbyn announced he would be stepping down in December, per the Independent, after Labour suffered what many called a "catastrophic" election defeat. As each leadership candidate prepares to put together their official stance, here's a little background knowledge to prepare you for the upcoming vote.


Jess Phillips

Nicola Tree/Getty Images News/Getty Images

First elected in 2015 as an MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips has quickly become one of the Labour party's most prominent female voices. A previous employee of domestic violence charity Women's Aid, Phillips has used her time in Parliament to advocate for gender equality and against female-targeted violence.

She hasn't gone without criticism. As gal-dem writes, her brand of feminism is viewed to have a "whiteness" about it. In the past, Phillips has been accused of failing to centre marginalised groups in her politics and even claimed to have told fellow MP Diane Abbott to "f*ck off" in a parliamentary meeting. Abbott later said this wasn't true, per the Guardian.

In terms of voting records, Phillips has consistently voted for human rights and equality-based laws, such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland, and called on the government to ensure women weren't being disproportionately affected by tax and benefit changes.

Renowned for her straight-talking speeches and community activism, she recently wrote in the Guardian: "I’m not so arrogant that I believe my personality alone will transform our fortunes. And I know that sometimes my passion gets the better of me. But who you are, where you come from and what you care about matters." Her campaign slogan? "Speak truth. Win power."


Lisa Nandy

Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Lisa Nandy grew up surrounded by politics. The grandfather of the Wigan MP was a Liberal Party politician in the 1940s, per the Wigan Post. Following her grandfather's footsteps, she was first elected in 2010 after working at homelessness charity Centrepoint and The Children's Society, reports the paper.

"I went into politics to change the world, and that flame has never dimmed," she wrote in the Guardian. "The belief that this country can be better drives me forward. Bring back universal child benefit, end the benefit cap and build a system that gives people dignity ... Bring investment to places that have lacked so much for so long to deliver good jobs, not charity. Find the courage to tackle the social care crisis — no longer can we abandon people to die in poverty after a lifetime of work."

One of her most important beliefs is that the Labour Party should focus its efforts outside of London by allowing regional offices to make decisions, notes the Evening Standard. She has consistently voted for gay rights and also voted to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland as well as to rebuild the economy so it works for the many, not the few.


Emily Thornberry

NurPhoto/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Emily Thornberry is the most experienced politician in the running for Labour leader, per New Statesman. Her political career began in 2005 when she was first elected as MP for Islington South and Finsbury.

An open supporter of the Remain campaign, she became the first person to announce a leadership bid after Corbyn stepped down. (She is also set to sue former Labour MP Caroline Flint, per iNews, after Flint alleged Thornberry had labelled Brexit voters "stupid." Thornberry denies the claim.)

In an article for LabourList, she stated climate change is "the most important issue for anyone who wants to lead a country," adding: "Just as [Labour] led the world in the first industrial revolution, we can lead it in the green industrial revolution, ensuring that every country has the capacity to use the natural resources best available to them — whether that’s tidal, solar, or wind power, to convert to a zero-carbon economy."

Thornberry has also campaigned for more affordable housing and for a revamp of the Equality Act so that the gender pay gap can finally close. She has consistently voted for equal gay rights, including same-sex marriage, and generally votes in favour of climate change prevention measures.


Keir Starmer

Aaron Chown - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images

Sir Keir Starmer, as he is officially titled, worked as a human rights lawyer before turning to politics, per the Sun. Lending his efforts to the eradication of the death penalty in Africa among other issues, he became the director of public prosecutions in 2008. Seven years later, Starmer was elected as MP for Holborn and St Pancras.

Eventually named as shadow Brexit secretary, he made his Remain position crystal clear, openly stating his belief in a second referendum, notes the BBC. In 2016, Starmer called for immigration to be reduced post-Brexit, per the Guardian.

He appeared to backtrack at the beginning of 2019 on Newsnight, suggesting a softer approach and a deeper look into what "a principled, effective, and fair immigration policy looks like." Most recently, he has turned his back on the idea of a second referendum, telling Reuters: "This election blew away [that] argument."

Like his fellow contenders, Starmer voted to legalise abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland and has consistently voted for the promotion of human rights and equality. He has also always voted for climate change prevention measures, however, there were four votes on the topic from which he was absent.


Clive Lewis

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Politics isn't the only sector Clive Lewis has experience in. Before winning the Norwich South election in 2015, he worked as a BBC reporter and did a three-month tour in Afghanistan as part of the Territorial Army. Since becoming an MP, he has held a number of shadow cabinet positions, including shadow defence secretary, shadow business secretary, and, now, shadow treasury minister.

In 2017, he briefly quit the cabinet, per the Guardian, in response to Labour's decision to direct its MPs to vote for the triggering of Article 50. The same year, he was accused of groping a woman at Labour's conference. Lewis denied the allegation and was later cleared, reports the Times.

His voting record shows he has almost always voted for laws promoting equality and human rights (except for one vote in which he was absent). Similarly, he has always been in favour of climate change prevention, including setting decarbonisation targets and introducing a green industrial revolution.

In his leadership bid announcement, published in the Guardian, he wrote that "two forces will shape our future, and the context of the next general election: the climate crisis and the ongoing technological revolution ... [Labour's] job, in the words of Raymond Williams, is 'to make hope possible, not despair convincing.' Labour can and must offer hope: not the falsehood that it will do everything, but the real promise that it can help us help each other."


Rebecca Long Bailey

Anthony Devlin/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The last to enter the leadership race, Rebecca Long Bailey is viewed as a loyal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, per the Telegraph. At university, she studied politics and sociology before becoming a solicitor. She was elected as MP for Salford and Eccles in 2015 and has held several cabinet positions, including shadow chief secretary to the treasure and her current role of shadow business secretary.

Writing for Tribune magazine, Long Bailey said Labour needs a socialist leader. She explained how she highly supports, and had a part in writing, the party's Green New Deal which she describes as "the most ambitious agenda for tackling climate change of any major political party."

"I’m not your typical politician. I’m not a millionaire or a landlord, and I didn’t go to a posh school," the candidate continued. "Instead I’m a lifelong socialist, dedicated to our movement and determined to do my bit. You’re as likely to see me on a picket line as you are at the dispatch box, and you can trust me to fight the establishment tooth and nail."

Her voting record shows she has consistently voted in favour of measures to promote equality and human rights, including legalising abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. Plus, she has almost always voted for the prevention of climate change.