Beergate, could it be the end? Keir Starmer told the public on Monday evening that, if he is fined by the police for breaching Covid rules, he will resign his leadership. The party seems pretty confident that it can prove the Labour leader’s beer and curry were part of a long working day by providing evidence (by way of WhatsApp messages etc) to show that he continued working afterwards. This would place the gathering under the exemption in the Covid legislation, that meetings were permissible if “reasonably necessary” for work purposes.
But, nevertheless, let’s have a look at who could replace Starmer in the event that he does have to resign. A notable absence from this list is current deputy leader Angela Rayner. This is because if Starmer is fined it is likely that she would be too, or at the very least would be political damaged by having attended the gathering.
Lisa Nandy finished third in the 2020 Labour leadership contest behind Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey. As a strong media performer and a northern woman from so-called ‘Red Wall’ territory she is someone the Conservatives consider dangerous. She recently refused to rule out standing for leadership, but said on Sunday that “there is absolutely no question in my mind that we can’t muck around with internal debates”.
The Shadow Levelling Up Secretary has been the MP for Wigan since 2010. Prior to taking on her current role, Nandy was the Shadow Foreign Secretary. She also previously held the role of Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, a position she resigned from in 2016 in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. She subsequently co-chaired Owen Smith’s unsuccessful leadership challenge. Beyond parliament, Nandy co-founded the Centre for Towns think tank. She also previously worked for the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint and children’s charity The Children’s Society.
Seen as something of a rising star, Wes Streeting sat on the backbenches under Jeremy Corbyn but has risen up the ranks since Keir Starmer took the helm. First elected in 2015 and currently the Shadow Health Secretary, he has also served as Shadow Child Poverty Secretary and shadow schools minister. He nominated Jess Phillips in her 2020 run at the leadership, and served as the chair of her campaign. Asked this week about whether he aspires to the Labour leadership, Streeting said: “No. I am sure that by the time there is a leadership election I will be too old… because after three terms of Keir Starmer being the Prime Minister of our country, people will be looking for a new generation.”
Raised in a single-parent household on a council estate in Tower Hamlets, and the first person in his family to go to university, the hope would be that he could connect with the electorate in a way that other candidates might not be able to. Streeting is vice president of the Local Government Association and a patron of LGBT Labour and would be the first gay Labour leader if elected. Before entering parliament, he served as deputy leader of Redbridge council as well as working for a number of voluntary and private sector organisations focused on tackling educational disadvantage. He is also a former president of the National Union of Students.
David Lammy was first elected to represent Tottenham in 2000. He currently holds the role of Shadow Foreign Secretary and was previously Shadow Justice Secretary in Starmer’s shadow cabinet. He previously stood to be the Labour candidate for mayor of London, and said he was ‘thinking of throwing his hat in the ring‘ before the 2020 leadership contest.
Lammy was a minister under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, serving as a junior minister in the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as well as minister for higher education and intellectual property. Lammy nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership in 2015, despite not being considered to be on the left of the party, and backed Starmer in 2020. He was born and raised in Tottenham. He worked as a barrister before becoming a MP and was the first Black Briton to study for a Masters in Law at Harvard Law School.
Yvette Cooper has been the MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford since 1997 and currently holds the role of Shadow Home Secretary. She held junior government roles under Tony Blair, before becoming Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Gordon Brown and subsequently Work and Pensions Secretary. In Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet, she held the positions of Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Home Secretary. She contested the Labour leadership in 2015, losing out to Jeremy Corbyn who she strongly criticised during the campaign. In 2016, she was elected chair of the home affairs select committee, a position she held until 2021 when she took on her current role in the shadow cabinet.
Asked in an interview with The House last month if she would stand for the Labour leadership again, Cooper said: “I want to be Home Secretary,” but added that Angela Rayner is “right” to maintain that “people should be ready to go for different jobs and so on in the future”.
Rachel Reeves was first elected to represent Leeds West in 2010. She was appointed Shadow Chancellor in May 2021, having previously served in Starmer’s shadow cabinet as Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. She is considered to be on the right of the Labour Party. Under Ed Miliband, Reeves held roles including Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. A frequent critic of Corbyn, Reeves was never part of his shadow cabinet and supported Owen Smith’s leadership challenge. She chaired the business select committee from 2017 to 2020. Prior to entering parliament, she was an economist working for the Bank of England, the British Embassy in Washington and Halifax.
Something of a wild card, Barry Gardiner is thought to be likely to run for leader should the opportunity come up. He has been the MP for Brent North since 1997, serving as Shadow International Trade Secretary and Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn. In 2020, he ditched a bid to be Labour leader 24 hours after it emerged he was thinking about running, saying he had left it too late to get the required 22 nominations. Gardiner served in the last Labour government, holding roles including under-secretary of state for Northern Ireland and under-secretary of state for biodiversity. Before entering parliament, he was a city councillor in Cambridge between 1988 and 1994 and was the city’s youngest ever mayor. He also ran a company of international maritime arbitrators.
More recently, he has been a prominent campaigner against the ‘fire and rehire‘ practice, where workers are issued notices of redundancy so that employers can then rehire them on worse pay and conditions. 22 unions backed the campaign and he has been vocal on his concerns about the party’s relationship with the unions. LabourList interviewed him last month.