Deadline for Britain's Labour leadership contenders

15th June 2015, Comments 0 comments

Nominations for the leadership of Britain's main opposition Labour Party close on Monday, with up to four runners expected to battle it out over the coming months.

The nominations close at midday (1100 GMT), with a three-month contest to follow, during which the candidates should thrash out ideas for returning the centre-left party to power after a second crushing general election defeat.

Out of power since 1979, Labour won three straight general elections under prime minister Tony Blair (1997, 2001 and 2005) before losing office under prime minister Gordon Brown in 2010.

Leadership candidates need to secure nominations from 15 percent of Labour lawmakers.

Health spokesman Andy Burnham, home affairs spokeswoman Yvette Cooper and care and older people spokeswoman Liz Kendall have secured at least the 35 nominations required. Of them, Kendall is considered the most centrist, Burnham the most to the left.

Jeremy Corbyn, a left-wing backbencher, was struggling to reach the 35 mark, but some MPs may back him simply to broaden the contest.

Bookmakers have Burnham as the 4/5 odds-on favourite, followed by Kendall at 9/4 then Cooper at 3/1. Corbyn is 66/1.

Ed Miliband quit as Labour leader following their defeat at the May 7 general election, when Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives, against the opinion polls, won enough extra seats to form a majority government alone.

Labour needs to work out where to go after suffering catastrophic losses in Scotland to left-wing nationalists, while crucial middle-class English voters swung even further behind the Conservatives.

Meanwhile in Labour's post-industrial English heartlands, support haemorrhaged to the populist UK Independence Party.

Ballot papers will be sent out on August 14, while the ballot closes on September 10.

A one member, one vote system is now used, with members ranking the candidates by preference. They are knocked out one by one until one candidate has a majority.

The result will be announced at a special conference on September 12.

Two candidates, international development spokeswoman Mary Creagh and business spokesman Chuka Umunna both pulled out of the leadership race.

Deputy leader Harriet Harman, the longest-serving woman in parliament after more than 32 years in the house, is currently in charge of the party.

She is stepping down from the deputy leadership and six candidates are seeking to replace her, in a simultaneous election.

© 2015 AFP

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