Labour is supposed to be reflecting, but a leadership race has begun

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The Labour leadership election has unofficially begun. Some members of the party’s ruling body, the national executive committee, have been worrying about being cut out from the process. A special NEC officers meeting – which now consists of just six people – was called to take place today but an ordinary full NEC meeting had not been.

Jennie Formby has now clarified the situation: the body in full will convene for its own special meeting, likely on January 6th, and will set the timetable for the contest. The general secretary revealed that they aim to conclude the race by the end of March, and that is when Jeremy Corbyn would stand down. But Corbynsceptic groups and reelected Labour MPs aren’t happy: they are calling for the Labour leader to make way for an interim leadership team immediately. It doesn’t look like that is going to happen, but fireworks are expected in the first PLP meeting.

Corbyn has declared instead that there will be a “period of reflection”. Unfortunately, Labour members – at least online – are doing a lot of fighting and perhaps not enough reflecting. For the analysis of the disastrous result last week to be conducted along factional lines is deeply regrettable, I believe, but inevitable to some extent when leadership bids are popping up all over the place already.

So far, we’ve had Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips, and Clive Lewis confirm that they are thinking about throwing their hat in the ring. It is assumed that Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, David Lammy and Yvette Cooper will be among the next figures to declare an interest, while Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long-Bailey have kept quiet so far but already received high-profile backing. Dawn Butler, Ian Lavery, Barry Gardiner and Richard Burgon are thought to be eyeing the deputy leadership role.

Interestingly, RLB is the only ‘true Corbynite’ in the running for the top job, and many on the Leave-sympathetic left seem Nandy-curious while Corbynsceptics are largely happy with the idea that Rayner could take over. Will new dividing lines be drawn for this contest, or will it settle into the factional splits we’ve seen over the last few years? Brexit is certainly on track to influence the result in a way we didn’t see in 2015 and 2016.

Don’t forget to take our new survey on the future leadership and next steps, closing this afternoon at 3pm.

Sienna @siennamarla

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