Farewell to Gardiner and Mahmood, as candidates look ahead to next steps

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Bringing a bizarre 24-hour-long potential candidacy to a close, Barry Gardiner has confirmed that he is not, in fact, standing to be the next Labour leader. After assuring us he could win an election, the Brent MP admitted last night that he could not secure enough nominations from his colleagues – which probably wasn’t helped by the fact that he declared five days late. The leadership debates will be a quieter affair without his flair – who can forget that time he took down a Tory minister over a bowl of cornflakes?

Four candidates have now secured their spot in the next stage of the process in the leadership race. Keir Starmer did so first and is way out in front with 63 nominations; Rebecca Long-Bailey currently has 26; Lisa Nandy is close behind with 24; and Jess Phillips has just achieved the requisite 22. But it’s not looking good for leadership hopefuls Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis, who are behind with the backing of just nine and four MPs respectively.

Lewis has been busy laying out his policy priorities as leader: he started churning out the policy ideas just after the election with this article for LabourList, in which he called for constitutional reform. He described his pluralist vision for the party to colleagues ahead of hustings, invited the Greens to do a bit of cross-party working, said that Scotland should have the right to decide again on independence, and argued for electoral reform as highlighted by Charter 88 campaigner Anthony Barnett in LabourList today. All of these ideas and more will be set out in a speech in Brixton that I am attending later this morning as Lewis attempts to secure more nominations before the deadline on Monday – or at least shape the debate before he goes.

Over in the deputy leadership contest, Angela Rayner has pulled away from the rest with 71 nominations from Labour colleagues so far. The next closest candidate – and as yet the only other person who has won enough support to get on the ballot – is Corbyn-opposed Scottish MP Ian Murray with 29. Richard Burgon has 18, Rosena Allin-Khan 16, and Dawn Butler is on 14. Khalid Mahmood dropped out. Calls have been made for MPs to now nominate tactically in order to diversify the debate and get some of the others through to the next stage. LabourList understands that Rayner has been privately talking to MPs who want to do just that, and we’ll likely see similar tweets to those of Preet Gill and Alex Sobel before the deadline of 2.30pm on Monday.

For those with at least 22 nominations, they can now look to the next hurdle. The candidates need to secure the backing of 5% of constituency Labour parties (CLPs), or three affiliated groups – two of which must be unions – that between them represent 5% of affiliated members. Starmer has already secured the backing of UNISON, as has Rayner, but other unions are yet to declare. Their choices will mostly be made in the second half of the month. We can be fairly certain that Starmer and Long-Bailey will fly through this next stage, probably via both the local party and affiliate routes, but it will prove more challenging for the other candidates.

Starmer has taken a definite lead, yet there is nearly three months to go and a lot can change in that time. Also, remember 2015? MP nominations aren’t reflective of the wider selectorate. Long-Bailey will still be seen as the Corbynite candidate by many members, and thus the safest pair of hands for those who want to see the current party’s policies taken forward. It’s also worth noting that Momentum is set to decide if and how they will be backing a leadership candidate in a meeting on Saturday. Will it be an all-member ballot, or a direct Long-Bailey endorsement? The decision could have significant consequences for how party members cast their votes – check LabourList tomorrow for news on that key moment.

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