And then there were five

Labour's leadership field takes shape

Who in their right mind would want to lead the Labour Party at the moment? Judging by the announcements since last Friday, a surprisingly large number of people. Yesterday two of the dwindling number of big beasts from the New Labour era – Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham – declared their intention to stand. They join three prominent members of the 2010 intake – Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall and Tristram Hunt – in vying for Ed Miliband’s crown.

Cooper and Burnham’s entrance into the race came as Labour finalised the timetable for its leadership contest. The announcement of the new leader will be made on 12th September. In choosing this date, Labour’s National Executive has enabled the new leader to be in place immediately after Parliament’s summer recess. It has also given affiliated trade unions – many of which were blindsided by Miliband’s defeat – the chance to register their members under a new voting system.

While Labour’s leadership race will be more bruising than of 2010, it will resemble a garden party compared to the emerging dispute over UKIP’s leadership. Today the party’s economics spokesman Patrick O’Flynn lobbed a hand grenade at Nigel Farage, calling him “snarling” and “thin-skinned”. The farcical nature of Farage’s non-resignation and mounting tensions within UKIP threaten to sideline the party just as its most cherished goal – an EU referendum - moves closer to becoming a reality.      


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