Since the crushing defeat of Labour in the May 2015 General Election, the party’s leadership have been licking their wounds while crises in the Eurozone and at home continue to escalate.
The race, so far, has been dry, dull and lacking of much distinguishing debate or character. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the race for the White House is becoming increasingly uncertain with Bernie Sanders closing in on Hillary Clinton’s previously unreachable lead in the polls, as well as filling out a football stadium with 10,000 supporters at a recent rally in Wisconsin; numbers David Cameron could only dream of – especially with Barngate.
The Labour leadership race will continue to build pace over the summer, with the final result to be announced at the Labour Party Conference (27-29 September) in Brighton. Four candidates are standing for office; Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham.
Harriet Harman is currently acting Leader, in light of Ed Milliband’s resignation after the May Election defeat.
Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, is currently the front-runner in the race. Burnham, a career politician with his first taste of politics back in 1994-97, when he worked as a researcher for Tessa Jowell – the potential future Labour Mayor of London. Burnham has a lot of experience working with and alongside the NHS in a variety of roles and this is a key feature of his manifesto. Burnham is no stranger to scandal however, as seen in the controversial fallout following the Stafford Hospital scandal. Burnham also, more recently, made headlines again after he was identified to have charged the taxpayer £17,000 to rent a London flat, although he owned a property closer to Parliament that should be the sole property paid for by the taxpayer.
Burnham has been recently been branded, as being of similar politics and policies to his predecessor, by none other than Labour leadership opponent Liz Kendall. Burnham, according to They Work For You, appears to be rather a moderate candidate, only taking a strong opposition stance on removing housing benefits for social tenants as well as strongly for an increase in welfare benefits in line with inflation.
Liz Kendall, a candidate consistently floating a ‘change everything’ agenda for the Labour Party, is the other frontrunner in the leadership race. Kendall, currently the Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, recently announced plans to end the pay freeze in the care industry if elected. Kendall would push Labour to become more progressive and left-wing to be sure. Kendall has, according to TWFU, voted in the following ways; very strongly against the rise to £9,000 university undergraduate fees, similarly for removal of hereditary peers from the House of Lords. On the UK’s membership to the EU, she remains undecided however – Kendall has voted both for and against a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. She has been the recipient of support from Labour heavyweights such as Tristram Hunt, Chukka Ummuna and the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge.
Then comes Jeremy Corbyn. A Labour MP for Islington North since 1983, Corbyn is the only candidate with some old, but steadfast, Labour blood. According to TWFU, Corbyn has a consistent voting history; strongly against welfare benefit cuts, removal of hereditary peers from the House of Lords – similar to Liz Kendall – and also very strongly against reducing central governmental funding for local councils. Political commentators such as Owen Jones, have praised Corbyn for his politics and policies and, he seems to be igniting the debate surrounding the issue of what is next for Labour after suffering two consecutive General Election defeats. Corbyn is a strong proponent of free education, voting both against the initial introduction of tuition fees – under Labour in 1998 – and the rise of fees to £9,000 in 2010.
Last, but by no means least, is Yvette Cooper. The Shadow Home Secretary, Cooper has impressive academic roots, from studying an undergraduate degree at Balliol College, Oxford to then studying at LSE and Harvard University – also then going on to advise the Clinton campaign of 1992. Cooper, in 2008, the first ever woman to become the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and is currently married to Ed Balls – the former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Cooper, according to TWFU, has voted strongly to raise welfare benefits in line with inflation and in 2004 voted for the introduction of tuition fees, but went on to vote against the rise of the cap to £9,000 in 2010.
So, a great deal to think about over the coming months. Can Labour afford to rest on its laurels and return to Blairite politics, or should the Party, in an attempt to rekindle its worker and union roots, reignite the left? Expect a lot of hot air over the next 3 months.
To find out more about the way in which the Labour Leadership candidates vote, please visit the following:
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