The guide to political party leadership elections you didn’t know you needed

Party leadership contests are sort of like dreams – despite being full of significance, no one really ever wants to hear about them. But if politics is showbiz for ugly people, this is essentially the Oscars. Labour, the Lib Dems and the Scottish Conservatives, we've got them all

UK Labour Leadership

Never a party to keep debate over its strategy internal, Labour’s contest will run until April 4 to give candidates as much time for falling out in public as possible.

There are now five candidates in the running to replace Jeremy Corbyn, after Clive Lewis failed to reach the required number of nominations and Barry Gardiner didn’t have enough support to even try. Well, it’s not a popularity contest – wait, no sorry, that’s exactly what it is.

Round one: Candidates have to gain the nominations of 22 MP and MEP colleagues.

Round two: To reach the final shortlist they also need to gain nominations from at least 33 constituency Labour parties or three affiliates (two of these must be trade unions), representing at least five per cent of affiliate membership. If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is.

Round three: Party members, trade union members, members of affiliated societies and registered supporters vote on the winner (one vote each), ranking them in terms of preference. Voting takes place between February 21 and April 2.

If there is no winner after the vote then, in true socialist style, votes will be redistributed and candidates kicked out, until someone hits more than 50 per cent.

Lisa Nandy Labour leadership 1393

Lisa Nandy: Centre-left Brexit supporter

Nandy’s pitch is based in winning back Brexit supporters and investing in the UK’s towns. In fact, the co-founder of the Centre for Towns, Nandy loves towns so much she has started generating memes on them. A northern MP, whether she can broaden her appeal to take in cities, villages and hermits is unclear.

Keir Starmer Labour Leadership 1393

Sir Keir Starmer: Pro-European, centre of Labour

Starmer faced questions over whether he was “too middle class” to be leader, possibly because he looks like the sort of person you’d cast as PM in a TV drama. The son of a toolmaker and a nurse, the attack may seem odd given the party enjoyed some success under Fettes-educated Tony Blair. Joint favourite with Long-Bailey.

Rebecca Long-Bailey Labour Leadership 1393

Rebecca Long-Bailey: Left of Labour

A close ally of Jeremy Corbyn and, as a result, one of the favourites for the leadership, Long-Bailey recently ended months of speculation by confirming there is indeed a hyphen in her name. Could this be the sort of bold leadership needed to win back power? Possibly. 

Emily Thornberry Labour leadership 1393

Emily Thornberry: Pro-European, Labour centre

Thornberry promised to step down if it looked like Labour couldn’t win – this usually happens anyway – and more recently gave Jeremy Corbyn “0 out of 10” for his performance during the general election. Given he is stepping down, her system seems to work.

UK Labour Deputy Leadership

Ian Murray Labour Leadership 1393

Ian Murray: Scottish Labour’s only MP

Murray recently described himself as “the cockroach after the nuclear holocaust” at the Labour deputy leadership hustings, and, although it may not be the most flattering comparison, given how badly things have been going, his skills in political survival could certainly come in useful in future.

Dawn Butler Labour leadership 1393

Dawn Butler: Corbyn ally, left of Labour

Butler faced criticism from giraffe biologists after claiming “90 per cent of giraffes are gay” at an after-dinner speech. Still, more effective as a politician than a zoologist, she gained publicity following some assured performances alongside Jeremy Corbyn. But is she head and shoulders above her rivals? Who knows.

Angela Rayner Labour leadership 1393

Angela Rayner: Centre left

The favourite in round one, Rayner got a boost with Rebecca Long-Bailey’s decision to back her for deputy – possibly because she is seen as having cross-party appeal, or possibly just because, given the two are flatmates, it would be very, very awkward at home if she hadn’t.

Richard Burgon Labour Leadership 1393

Richard Burgon: Corbyn ally, left of Labour

Burgon rose quickly in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, though in fairness that was largely because most of the people above him quit in a mass resignation. From the socialist wing of the party, supporters will worry he splits Dawn Butler’s vote.

Rosena Allin-Khan Labour leadership 1393

Rosena Allin-Khan: Elected in 2016 and toed party line

A&E doctor Allin-Khan went viral before the general election with a Love Actually-themed campaign video, before Boris Johnson saw it, liked it and stole it for his own campaign. She may be an outside bet to win the love of the party, but then so was Jeremy Corbyn…

UK Liberal Democrats Leadership

Under party rules, a leadership contest was triggered the moment then-leader Jo Swinson lost her seat in December’s general election. 

The good news for her successor is that with Boris Johnson winning a comfortable majority there is unlikely to be another election for a few years, which means they should be able to at least hold on to the position longer than Swinson did.

In previous contests, candidates had to be an MP and have the backing of at least 10 per cent of the Parliamentary party – though given there are only 11 of them, it should be pretty easy to get one other person’s backing. They also need support from at least 200 members spread across at least 20 different local parties. The contest will take place some time this year, and no one really knows who will run. It will use the alternative vote system – the one the UK had a referendum on, back when referendums were boring.

Sir Ed Davey Liberal Democrats leadership

Sir Ed Davey: Liberal and democratic

Already rejected by Lib Dem members who went with Jo Swinson last time round, the question is whether he would take on the leadership if the party comes grovelling. Of course it’s not a particularly difficult question, because he almost certainly would.

Layla Moran Lib Dem leadership 1393

Layla Moran: Attracting attention 

Moran was elected in 2017 before becoming a rising star in the Lib Dems – though it’s worth keeping in mind that, with 12 MPs, she didn’t have to rise that far. Her recent announcement that she is pansexual and that Parliament is a “weird, backward place” has certainly got her noticed. 

Scottish Conservatives Leadership

Delayed because of the general election, the Scottish Tory leadership contest is essentially a two-horse race, except instead of horses they are Tory MSPs.

Under party rules, contestants – sorry, candidates – need to be nominated by 100 members who have been paid-up supporters for at least three months.

If there is only one candidate they are the new leader. Congratulations!

If there are two candidates who each win at least 100 votes, then members will vote in a secret ballot to choose. 

Candidate spending is limited to just £20,000.

Jackson Carlaw Scottish Conservatives 1393

Jackson Carlaw: Centre-right, pro-BoJo

Despite approaching public speaking with the air of a best man whose speech has bombed, Carlaw’s time as interim leader gave him the chance to show he could also do the serious stuff. A series of strong performances in FMQs helped the Eastwood MSP bolster his reputation. The clear favourite.

Michelle Ballantyne Scottish Conservatives leadership 1393

Michelle Ballantyne: Economically and socially conservative

Former nurse Ballantyne loves Thatcher and thinks poor people on benefits need to realise they “cannot have as many children as they like”. This may not sound like a particularly good way to win friends, but then keep in mind the people voting are Tories.