In March, I recommended a 6/1 bet on all three main party leaders losing their jobs by the end of the year. Two are gone, leaving Jeremy Corbyn as the final leg. Paddy Power now offer 12/5 (best priced with the best political betting sites) about a 2019 exit for the Labour leader.
Labour strategists must be very worried. Corbyn is historically unpopular and the party is tanking in the polls. Their nuanced compromise over Brexit looks opportunistic and convinces hardly anybody in this polarised environment. A recent poll of party members showed rising dissatisfaction.
With a general election looming, some will be desperate to change leader and - as I see it - vastly improve their chances. However with no indication of a leadership challenge, it seems Corbyn will get his second crack at becoming PM. Whilst current trends suggest he’ll fail, probably prompting resignation, one can also envisage him being PM by Christmas and therefore secure for several years.
Any bets on his successor must consider various scenarios. Not only identifying today’s front-runners but who might be in 2024. One way of having a bet that counts in either scenario is Ladbrokes market on their gender. Ladbrokes offer the same 10/11 odds about either male or female.
If it were held today, before an election or Brexit, the front-runners would likely mirror the bookmakers list. Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry are the obvious senior Shadow Cabinet members and led that poll of party members. But if the race takes place following an election defeat, many more could come into the argument.
Starmer is certainly a serious contender. I assume he would run. Why else would a knighted former Director of Public Prosecutions, described as the best lawyer of his generation, become an MP if he didn’t covet the highest level? On that basis, taking the 8/1 with Paddy Power is an excellent investment. Whenever this contest starts, he’ll trade shorter.
Beyond Starmer, though, few men appeal. Deputy leader Tom Watson’s friction with Corbyn has hurt him with the membership. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell does have a deep bond with the grassroots but is 67 years old, tied to Corbyn and would suffer similar backbench resistance.
When McDonnell said repeatedly at the last party conference that the next leader should be a woman, dissenting voices were few. The party has never been more committed to diversity so it is embarrassing that they’ve never elected a female leader - nearly half a century since Margaret Thatcher led the Tories.
That has never felt more pertinent following Jo Swinson’s appointment, as it meant Labour are now the only major UK party yet to elect a woman. I expect that will really help the Lib Dems and Swinson to steal Labour’s thunder at the next election. In the aftermath, that will be recognised and the demand for a woman will intensify. Several could come into the argument.
Whilst Thornberry (10/1 with Coral) is a prominent candidate, she could be outdone by a more left-wing, younger woman. In an interesting signal, the leadership substituted her at PMQs recently - previously Thornberry had ably deputised when Corbyn was away - for Rebecca Long Bailey (12/1 with Paddy Power). The Shadow Business Secretary is regarded a protege of McDonnell and has a very big future.
Likewise, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner (11/1 with Bet365) is loved by the grassroots. If a Corbyn ally is to succeed, they would be best served building alliances with his critics - remember around three quarters of his colleagues voted against him in 2016. Rayner was always a prominent loyalist, but has skilfully managed to steer clear of all the division.
Another very much on the Left, with a big following, is Laura Pidcock (33/1 with Paddy Power). Like Rayner before her, the North West Durham MP was a star speaker at the Durham Miners Gala. At 31, she's surely too young to lead right now but if we're thinking longer-term, she warrants consideration.
It may equally be that - following defeat and with Brexit dominating discourse - the Left of the party starts to retreat. The centre, that has been on the frontline for Remain, could regain power.
In my view, that faction already has a leader. I tipped Yvette Cooper earlier at 25/1 (now 20/1 with 888Sport) precisely for that reason and her parliamentary performances have won many an admirer. In the plausible scenario where a vast Remain coalition were needed and Corbyn unable to build it, Cooper would be very well placed. Among the MPs who will determine the shortlist of candidate to put before members, I reckon she’d finish first.
Two more women in the centre of the party worth mentioning are Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips. The former is definitely leadership material but her Brexit stance - she represents heavily-leave Wigan and is committed to the referendum result - is a huge negative. Phillips strikes me more of a TV pundit than leader but has attracted some bets at a general 66/1 in the political betting.
What other men could contend? Clive Lewis is prominent on the Left and will run for this one day. David Lammy, also tipped previously at 80/1, is one of the star Remainers, good on social media and I reckon ambitious enough to run for the top job.
Clearly, there are many more realistic options on the female side. My strong advice is to take the 10/11 about a woman leader with Ladbrokes, along with the 8/1 with Paddy Power about Starmer. It is hard to see that combo losing and, come the contest whenever that is, we'll be holding a very strong hand.
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