Britain’s opposition Labour Party begins voting on Friday for a new leader in a contest to decide whether the party veers back towards its socialist roots ahead of a 2020 general election, or fights from a centre-left position.
Former leader Ed Miliband resigned in May after the party suffered its most crushing defeat in three decades at the hands of Prime Minister David Cameron’s centre-right Conservatives, prompting a four-way contest to lead Labour.
Ballot papers are sent out on Friday, with party supporters asked to make their choice and also to nominate a second pick, which will be taken into account if there isn’t a clear majority winner. The results will be announced on Sept. 12.
Andy Burnham – Burnham wants to reconnect Labour with its grassroots members on the left, many of whom are based in his native northern England, whilst also rebuilding relations with big business that were damaged under Miliband.
He has apologised for the fiscal deficits run under previous the Labour government, in which he served as a Treasury minister, but opposes the Conservatives’ plans to sharply reduce welfare spending.
Initially a favourite, Burnham has lost ground, but is seen by many as the most likely to top a poll when second preference votes are taken into account. Several large trade unions have recommended their members make Burnham, 45, their second choice.
Yvette Cooper – Pitching herself as a moderniser who will lead Labour into the next election by broadening its appeal, Cooper is aiming to win back voters from both the left and the right without a drastic change in the party’s overall direction.
Cooper, 46, a minister in previous Labour governments, is currently the party’s home affairs spokeswoman.
She is ranked third by bookmakers, but opinion polls have shown she could benefit from the ‘second preference’ votes which are likely to be needed to decide a winner.
Jeremy Corbyn – A veteran hard-left parliamentarian who is campaigning on an anti-austerity platform. Corbyn has mooted renationalising Britain’s railways and energy sectors and praises the work of ‘The Communist Manifesto’ author Karl Marx.
After initially struggling to win enough nominations to get on the ballot paper, Corbyn, 66, has risen from rank outsider to favourite with some bookmakers. He has been endorsed by several major trade unions, which are a crucial source of party funding.
His appeal to Labour’s grassroots activists has generated huge media coverage, although some experts question whether he will be able to sustain that momentum to meet the threshold for victory in the ballot.
Liz Kendall – The most centrist of the candidates, Kendall has warned Labour that unless it regains voters’ trust on the economy it could spend at least a decade out of power.
Kendall, 44, supports deficit reduction and says the country should run a surplus during times of economic strength. She has criticised the party’s lack of appeal to ‘aspirational’ voters during the 2010 election campaign.
Seen as following in the footsteps of centrist three-time election winning former leader Tony Blair, she has fallen to the back of the race to lead the party according to both opinion polls and bookmakers.
– The winner of an internal ballot will be announced on Sept. 12.
– Ballot papers will be sent out on Aug. 14 to party members and members of affiliated trade union. Non-members are also allowed to vote if they pay a 3 pound ($5) fee to register as a party supporter.
– Voting closes on Sept. 10.
– Supporters are asked to vote for their first and second preferences to lead the party.
– All supporters have equal voting rights. An electoral college system, used in the party’s 2010 leadership contest, was abandoned for the current election.
– To win, a candidate has to get over half of the first preference votes cast.
– If no candidates wins a majority on the first preference, the last-placed candidate is eliminated and the second preferences of those who voted for them are re-allocated. If this gives one candidate more than 50 percent, they are declared winner.
– If, by eliminating the last-placed candidate and reallocating their votes, there is still no clear winner, the process is repeated and the third-placed candidate is eliminated.