Never in UK politics has betting for the leadership of the two main parties been so wide-open. Not even close. However while the race to be Next Conservative Leader garners endless chatter, Next Labour Leader barely gets a mention nowadays.
This could be the opportune moment to pay attention. With Brexit threatening to unravel the party system, a possible election looming and Jeremy Corbyn polling terribly, 2019 could also be very dramatic for Labour. This political betting market was highly active during Corbyn’s first two years as leader and may be about to spike again.
Let’s recap. First Corbyn was dismissed as a 24/1 no-hoper to win the leadership. When challenged by Owen Smith in 2016, even money was available before an easy win. Written off as electoral poison before the 2017 election, Labour’s comeback confounded betting markets. At one point they hit 100-1 to get 35% before ending up with 40.
During each episode, various potential successors were backed off the boards. Beside Smith, best odds about Yvette Cooper, Keir Starmer and Clive Lewis all went below 4/1. Now, only Emily Thornberry is below 10/1. All four will likely remain contenders until the job becomes vacant - whenever that is.
Just as the earlier narrative regarding Corbyn’s imminent crash proved flawed, so is the post-election narrative that he is untouchable. His opponents - MPs are no less divided - have stayed quiet since last June, rather than alienate the membership. It won’t be like that forever. Their uneasy Brexit truce is liable to collapse any day, when Corbyn is forced to come off the fence.
Unlike the Tories. Brexit will not be definitive in Labour’s next contest. The primary focus of their electorate will be commitment to the broad range of socialist policies introduced by Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Anyone successfully branded a ‘Blairite’ need not apply.
Therein lies Cooper’s problem. If running, she’ll likely win the first round among MPs. She has become a heavyweight in parliament and, to be historically accurate, was a Brownite, in the centre of the party. Few remember such distinctions though, and she will be attacked by association, as when faring poorly in third behind Corbyn in 2015.
At the last conference, McDonnell declared that the next leader should be a woman, to much acclaim and little dissent. He understands that Labour’s chance depends upon women voters, who increasingly lean to the Left.
Rather than Cooper, the pair he probably had in mind are Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long Bailey. Available at 9/1 and 16/1 with bet365, both are top prospects. If Corbyn stays in post beyond 2020, their chances improve.
To win, endorsement by the major unions and Momentum will be priceless. Rayner and Bailey would be well placed to get it, as would Lewis. My current book is centred around this trio with Lewis - who served in Afghanistan - most appealing right now at 25/1 with bet365.
I’m not convinced, however, any of them are experienced enough yet or would run if the race were in 2019. If events suddenly force Corbyn out, a more established figure might be inevitable.
This is how Thornberry - evidently one of the senior and most recognisable Shadow Cabinet members - could win . By serving on the frontline for Corbyn, her New Labour past became ancient history. She’s better than him at PMQs and could be the unity candidate - reaching out to anti-Corbyn MPs yet maintaining the policies alongside McDonnell.
Sir Keir Starmer is another obvious replacement. Billed as the finest lawyer of his generation before becoming Director of Public Prosecutions, he has predictably risen quickly in parliament as Shadow Brexit Secretary. He’ll be at the centre of any looming spat over Brexit, pursuing the same cause as the members. He’s bound to be a contender for Labour over the next decade so 10/1 with Unibet is unlikely to get any bigger.
Finally, two from outside the Shadow Cabinet. Lisa Nandy is the leader I think Labour should pick. Highly respected in parliament and fluent on TV, her Centre for Towns is laser-focused on the constituencies Labour need to win power. She is on the Left and initially served Corbyn but her reputation with members was damaged when resigning to support Smith. That deters a confident bet at 25/1 with bet365 but don’t rule her out.
The playbook of hard right politicians worldwide. Whip up fear and hysteria about a fake immigration crisis - then cry when no one wants to pay for your made-up solution. No doubt Home Secretary @sajidjavid is furiously taking notes. https://t.co/XuxwWmbm6H— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) January 9, 2019
At 80-1 with bet365, David Lammy is the best outside bet. Relatively young yet experienced, he’s developed a high profile opposing Brexit and hammering the government over Windrush and Grenfell. He’s more fluent on conventional media than most rivals, while the above tweet is typically impressive use of social media. He was ambitious enough to run for Mayor so expect these odds to tumble.
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