Henry G Manson on the chances of Corbyn’s successor being a woman
The Democrats have become the first party in the USA to choose a female Presidential candidate. At 4/11 to become the next President, Clinton has a good chance to be the first female leader of the Free World. Others might shrug about how ground-breaking it is to have a Hillary Rodham Clinton return to the White House – but it is significant. 44 out of 44 of country’s Presidents have been male and a Clinton win would also make it easier for other women to follow in future at home and possibly abroad.
Of course in the UK we elected our first female Prime Minister 37 years ago. The fact Labour has never elected a female leader will become more noticeable to members and MPs in the months ahead. While Clinton is campaigning against Trump in the months ahead, some on the Labour side should be thinking about what it would take for their party to achieve some history of their own.
Looking through the betting the best priced women to succeed Jeremy Corbyn are Lisa Nandy 13/2, Angela Eagle 16/1, Heidi Alexander 25/1, Rachel Reeves 33/1 and Caroline Flint at 40/1. While Angela Eagle does have some admirers among the Parliamentary Labour Party, her deputy leadership campaign last year was underwhelming that she finished 4th out of 5. Having backed the war in Iraq, voted for tuition fees and an array of other policies as a minister in the New Labour era, she will find it hard to have a winning campaign with the current membership and post-Chilcot – despite serving in Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. For the same reason Caroline Flint who finished in 3rdplace for the deputy contest will find it difficult, even more so given she is allied to the Progress wing on the right of the party.
Rachel Reeves may well have a big political future ahead of her, but the time looks rotten for her now and 40/1 does not appeal. Heidi Alexander on the other hand was elected in 2010 which and has handled the Shadow Health brief well during the junior doctor strike. At 25/1 she is certainly worth a small interest.
As far as likely future female leaders of Labour are concerned, the best placed chance is the current second favourite in the betting market Lisa Nandy, who is currently Corbyn’s Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. She is certainly a touch more to the left than other female candidates, but is not factional and has a broad pool of support particularly among the last two intakes of MPs and the trade unions. In the event of a leadership vacancy she won’t be scrabbling around for the required parliamentary nominations.
The real question is will Labour go out of their way to actively want a female leader to succeed Jeremy Corbyn? Yvette Cooper stood last time and finished a disappointing third with 17%. While some will ask the Democrats ‘what took you so long?’ the Labour Party should pause for a moment and take a good hard look in the mirror. For a party so committed to equality, it does not look great that they’ve never yet chosen a woman to lead them.