Voting opens for Labour party leadership contest
Nearly 650,000 Labour members are eligible to vote in the election, which has pitted current leader Corbyn against challenger Owen Smith after Corbyn lost a no-confidence vote moved by his party’s MPs in June. The deadline for the ballot papers to be returned is September 21 and the winner of the battle will be declared on September 24 at special conference in Liverpool.
The Labour party said its voters are made up of around 350,000 members, 129,000 people who paid 25 pounds each to be registered supporters, and 168,000 from unions and other organisations.
Britain’s vote on June 23 to leave the EU provided the catalyst for the leadership challenge, with a series of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet team resigning in criticism of his failure to convince Labour supporters to vote against Brexit.
Corbyn, however, remains the favourite as the 67-year-old retains the backing of most trade unions and many grassroots supporters who signed up last year to ensure his victory. He has released a list of four key pledges, including replacing the House of Lords with an elected upper chamber of Parliament and introducing mandatory collective bargaining for companies with over 250 employees.
“Labour under my leadership will listen to ideas from the bottom up – and take radical action to transform and rebuild our country so that no-one and no community is left behind,” Corbyn said. His challenger Smith, 46, former member of Corbyn's shadow cabinet, is also targeting voters to the left of the party.
“Not some misty-eyed, romantic notion of a revolution where we are going to overthrow capitalism and return to a socialist nirvana... but a cold-eyed, practical socialist revolution where we build a better Britain,” he said recently.
The campaign has thrown up divisions within the party, with London mayor Sadiq Khan becoming the latest high-profile Labour leader to come out in support of Smith.
“Jeremy’s personal ratings are the worst of any Opposition leader on record and the Labour Party is suffering as a result. He has lost the confidence of over 80% of Labour MPs in Parliament and I am afraid we simply cannot afford to go on like this,” Khan wrote in ‘The Observer’.