Labour's new leader next year could be ...

Should Labour lose the election next year, there is a chance a surprise candidate may take the leadership

Share

However marvellous Ed Miliband may be, there is still a 42 per cent chance that he will lose the election next year, according to the betting markets. Which is why it is odd that there is so little interest in who could be the new Labour leader in a year and a half’s time.

If Labour loses, Miliband would not get a second chance, despite recent attempts to shore up his base, and the contest to replace him would probably be between two women, and the winner would be … But, no, I am getting ahead of myself. Before we get to that part, we have to ask: under what rules would the leadership election be held? Then we can assess the possible candidates. What is surprising, though, is how wide open the contest still is, at what might be this late stage.

First, the rules. One of the best and bravest things that Miliband has done is to say that the Labour Party needs to make its link with trade unions even more democratic, so that union members make a positive decision to support the party and have the chance to take part in its activities directly, rather than through executive committees and general secretaries.

To this end, there will be a Labour Party special conference on 1 March, which will be asked to agree historic rule changes. I understand that Lord Collins, the former assistant general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union who is in charge of the reform, has done the business. Some union leaders don’t like what he has come up with, and it is time for Miliband to insist that what he said last July, he meant.

The big change is that no union members should pay money to Labour “unless they have deliberately chosen to do so”. Members will have to “opt in” to paying part of their union subs to the party rather than just having the chance to opt out, as now. Once they have opted in, however, they will have a direct link with Labour, either as members or as registered supporters (this hasn’t been decided yet).

The significance of this is that these new Labourites would be able to vote in selections of Labour candidates – and for Labour leader. I am told that the plan is to abolish the electoral college for leadership elections, in which MPs, party members and union members have one third of the vote each. Instead Labour MPs would vote to choose two candidates to put to a ballot of all members, including union members who have opted in: one person, one vote.

The crucial point is that the opted-in union members would be registered with the Labour Party. The party would send out ballot papers and allow both candidates access to the lists. This is huge. This is Ed Miliband’s admission that the way he was elected, though it was just about within the rules at the time, was wrong. He beat his brother because the leaders of Unite and the GMB used their control of members’ information to send out “Vote Ed” flyers with the ballot papers and to use phone banks to canvass for him.

Much else follows. It means that the 50 per cent trade union block vote at Labour conferences would have to go, as Labour-supporting union members would be represented directly. No longer would a Labour leader have to negotiate his party’s policies with union general secretaries on late-night university campuses. And the union money, through a higher Labour affiliation fee, would be channelled through the choices of union members rather than wielded as an influence-buying cheque by a union boss. These consequential changes are not going to happen straight away: the precise timetable is a measure of Miliband’s squishiness.

But, if the special conference votes for them, the new leadership election rules would come into effect on 1 March. So that is how Miliband’s successor would be chosen. And that means, in turn, that the first hurdle would be the voting among Labour MPs.

The last time they voted in a popularity contest among themselves was the shadow cabinet election of October 2010, which had been an annual event when the party was in opposition, until Ed Miliband abolished it. Anyway, Yvette Cooper, now shadow Home Secretary, topped the poll. Ninety per cent of her colleagues voted for her. If she, rather than her husband, had stood for the leadership a few months earlier, I think she would be leader now. And, with the Balls-Brown machine faction behind her, I think she would be one of the candidates if there were a vacancy next year.

The other candidate might well be one of the 2010 intake. It could be Chuka Umunna, Rachel Reeves, Stella Creasy or Tristram Hunt. All clever, with a bit of TV star quality, but each a little short of easy popularity among other MPs. That is why I think Gloria De Piero, shadow minister for Women and Equalities, might be the surprise candidate. She is well-liked, seems more modest than some of the others, and she is northern, as are most Labour MPs.

And she has visited many local Labour parties for her “Why do people hate me?” campaign to understand why voters are so fed up with politics, building up reserves of good will at the grass roots.

I think she could win.

twitter.com/@JohnRentoul

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible