PB’s “Labour insider”, Henry G Manson, marks your card for the next leadership contest

PB’s “Labour insider”, Henry G Manson, marks your card for the next leadership contest


Jarvis & Nandy are now the value choices for next leader

Last Saturday at the annual Fabian Conference the headline speaker was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. However one of the more interesting debates at the event was Dan Jarvis, Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer speaking alongside each other. There’s a high chance that one of those three will be the next leader of the Labour Party and the Fabians knew it.

I first picked out Lisa Nandy in September 2010 in a piece for PB on four future leader prospects among the newly elected MPs. (I never for a moment thought the next leader would have been first elected in 1983.) In subsequent years under Ed Miliband, Chuka Umunna, Rachel Reeves and Stella Creasy made big advances while Lisa Nandy progressed to the more modest Shadow Charities Minister. Stella finished second in the deputy contest, Chuka stood and withdrew for leader and Rachel is on the backbenches having been Shadow Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions and living to fight another day. Lisa Nandy may be the one to win the crown.

As Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change she has a brief that is topical, and of interest to many Labour members. Nandy is increasingly used by the party for unflappable media performances in tricky situations in the way John Reid was in his heyday and handled the live resignation of Stephen Doughty on the Daily Politics show admirably. While other Shadow Cabinet ministers keep their heads down, Nandy will go out to bat for the party.

In 2010 I said she had every chance of being Labour’s first female leader and the odds suggest she does. Nandy is 9/1 to be the next leader with William Hill and the only woman to feature in the top 12 shortest prices for possible candidates. Every leadership election I wonder if this will be the time Labour chooses a female leader. It’s now 40 years since Thatcher became Conservative leader. One day Labour might go for the idea. What makes Lisa Nandy value is that she is probably the most leftish candidate who would get onto the ballot in the next contest and will go towards a membership that went for Corbyn in a big way. None of the hard-core Corbyn supporting MPs stand a chance of mustering the number of MPs needed and there will not be any charitable nominations for a long, long time so she starts with an advantage.

At a time when the Labour Party is increasingly fractured between its members and its MPs, Nandy is probably the only potential candidate that could attempt to unite the party. Of the party’s ‘soft left’ but with respect from a good number on the party’s centre-right she could heal wounds and get people working together.

She told Sophie Ridge (who tipped her to be next leader) “some of my best friends in Labour are people who have different instincts to me. I’m interested in consensus building.” Consensus is in short supply right now in the Labour Party. She’s tougher than Ed Miliband but more modern than Jeremy Corbyn. I’d probably make her closer to 3/1 or 7/2 to be the next leader.

The bookies’ joint favourite is former paratrooper Dan Jarvis. What’s left of New Labour wing is coalescing around the Barnsley MP and he’s fundraising to boost his office and coffers for when the moment to strike emerges. The more Corbyn suffers through ludicrous positions on the Falklands, defence and disrespect to the monarchy the case for Jarvis becomes more appealing.

However, with the current membership of the Labour Party as left as it has been for a generation, I can’t see a particularly easy path to victory no matter how much money he has to spend unless the party membership changes again through mass resignations of Corbyn supporters. The will to win is apparent and that will get him a reasonably long way down the track. Most don’t yet know what he stands for on a number issues outside defence and they are gaps he will need to plug in the coming months and from the backbenches he has the freedom to do that. 9/2 has some value too.

The next Labour leadership contest will probably only have two or three candidates as MPs will aim to ensure whoever wins has a sizeable amount of proven support on the green benches. Jarvis and Nandy look best placed and if back both candidates and I’m sure you’ll be holding a winning ticket. What we don’t know is when Corbyn will go and how. My instinct is that 2017 offers good value at 5/1 in the William Hill leadership exit date market. I can’t see this unlikely leader wanting to fight a general election but there will be those around him who won’t want him to relinquish their stranglehold of the party machinery in a hurry so it’s hard to be certain. We’re in unchartered political waters.

Henry G Manson


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