Frontrunners to become UK opposition leader

11th May 2015, Comments 0 comments

Ed Miliband's resignation as Labour leader following his centre-left party's general election defeat has triggered a lengthy process to nominate a new head of Britain's opposition.

Miliband, who remains a member of parliament, will be temporarily replaced by deputy leader Harriet Harman, who is not seeking the role permanently.

When Miliband was elected head of the party in 2010 following Labour prime minister Gordon Brown's defeat it took four months for him to be elected in a bitter contest with his own brother, David Miliband.

Here are five of the frontrunners to take over:

-- YVETTE COOPER: Cooper is one half of Labour's former power couple as the wife of Ed Balls, hitherto the party's finance spokesman who was voted out in Thursday's election in a shock defeat.

She served as a minister under Brown after a stint working in the United States for Bill Clinton and was appointed shadow interior minister by Ed Miliband in 2011.

The 46-year-old frequently locked horns with Home Secretary Theresa May over immigration during the last parliament, with some observers predicting that the battles could be replayed one day with both women as leaders of their parties.

-- CHUKA UMUNNA: One of the party's brightest hopes, the urbane 36-year-old former lawyer has been described by a Labour MP as "the most natural communicator I've seen since Tony Blair", but has been dismissed by the governing Conservatives as "pretty average".

He hit the headlines in 2013 after it emerged a Wikipedia entry calling him the "UK's Barack Obama" had been made from a computer at a law firm where he worked, but he denies any personal involvement.

The choice of those hoping to bring the party back towards the centre, he blamed Labour's rout on "allowing the impression to arise that we were not on the side of those who are doing well." He is the bookmakers' favourite, despite his lack of experience.

-- ANDY BURNHAM: The 45-year-old health spokesman, elected in 2001, has maintained a high profile in challenging the government over the National Health Service.

His Liverpool background would play well with those concerned that party has neglected its northern heartland and become too London-orientated.

A former health and culture minister, he has more government experience than most of his potential rivals, but that could count against him if the party decides to break with the past.

He finished fourth in the 2010 leadership contest behind the Milibands and Balls.

-- TRISTRAM HUNT: The 40-year-old historian and broadcaster, who entered parliament in 2010, is the party's education spokesman.

He was a strident critic of the coalition's education policies, but his posh accent and background in academia could alienate voters in northern England, who have responded to the blunt right-wing messages of the UK Independence Party, making them runners-up in many of Labour's traditional seats.

-- LIZ KENDALL: The only one of the five who has declared her intention to stand, Kendall was appointed a junior health spokeswoman on becoming became an MP in 2010.

The 43-year-old is a former special adviser to Harman and is seen as a supporter of the policies of controversial former Labour prime minister Blair, having argued for reform of public services.

© 2015 AFP

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