Next Labour leader: who would replace Keir Starmer?

Opposition chief vows to resign if he is fined by police over ‘Beergate’

Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner
Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner
(Image credit: Stefan Rousseau/Pool/Getty Images)

Keir Starmer has promised to step down if issued with a fixed penalty notice by police for having a curry and beer at a gathering in Durham last year.

The Labour leader took the “extraordinary step” yesterday, in a “major gamble on his political career”, said the London Evening Standard.

“I’m absolutely clear that no laws were broken,” he said in a statement about a Durham Police probe into whether he broke Covid lockdown rules. But “if the police decide to issue me with a fixed penalty notice, I would of course do the right thing and step down”, Starmer added.

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If he does fall on the sword, here are some of the key contenders to take his place.

Andy Burnham 4/1*

After two previous unsuccessful runs for the leadership, in 2010 and 2015, Burnham has been tipped to return to Westminster to try for third time lucky. The Greater Manchester mayor, who served as MP for Leigh for 16 years, told Sky News last year that he would consider running again despite his previous leadership losses, to Ed Miliband and then Jeremy Corbyn.

“In the distant future, if the party were ever to feel it needed me, well, I’m here and they should get in touch,” he said. However, in an interview weeks later with The New Statesman, Burnham insisted that “I ain't going back any time soon”.

All the same, “if he tried for the leadership, we would see a new Andy Burnham, one forged from his time as Labour’s King of the North”, wrote the news site’s Stephen Bush. The mayor won a loyal local following for defending his city in what the Manchester Evening News has described as “tense spats” with Boris Johnson.

But Burnham currently faces a major stumbling block: if a leadership contest were called in the coming months, Burnham would be unable to stand since he is no longer an MP.

Lisa Nandy 6/1

Shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy has called her party leader “Mr Rules” and insisted that he is “not somebody who goes around tearing up rules when it suits him”. But Nandy, “who ran against Sir Keir for leadership of the party in 2020, did not rule herself out for standing for leader if he were forced to resign”, noted The Telegraph.

She has previously served as a shadow minister for children, civil society, climate change and foreign affairs, and has been MP for Wigan since 2010. “Although, by no means a Corbynite, Nandy is nonetheless considered to be on the soft left of the Labour Party,” said

She is a “formidable media performer, who has shown herself quite capable of holding her own with the likes of Piers Morgan”, the site continued, and is “well-placed to become Labour‘s first woman leader in the future”.

Wes Streeting 6/1

The Ilford North MP is one of two shadow cabinet ministers accused of “quietly tapping up donors and drumming up support for a potential tilt at the top” amid Starmer’s so-called Beergate crisis, reported the Daily Mail. According to the paper, the “Labour heavyweight” is “drawing up plans for a future leadership contest”.

Streeting has previously said that “people shouldn’t underestimate my loyalty” to Starmer, who promoted him to shadow health secretary last November.

“Gay, Cambridge-educated and born of a single-parent family on an east London council estate, the party’s right has high hopes he can reconnect with the electorate, but he remains a bête noire among many members,” said Patrick Maguire, Red Box editor at The Times.

Rachel Reeves 7/1

According to the Mail, the shadow chancellor is also “sizing up” a leadership bid. Maguire at The Times called her the “best-known face of Starmer’s front bench”, after coming out of “a self-imposed stint in the wilderness under Corbyn”.

As a former Bank of England economist, Reeves has pitched a “pro-business” plan for the UK economy, promised to be “the first green chancellor” and has criticised the response from the government to the rapidly rising cost of living.

Adam Payne at PoliticsHome described her as one of Starmer’s “closest allies in politics. The Labour leader was “particularly buoyed” by polling that showed their partnership was trusted as much as that of Johnson and Rishi Sunak to manage public finances, “if not more so”, added Payne.

Angela Rayner 7/1

Rumours that Starmer’s deputy could be vying for the top job have been circulating for more than a year. An unnamed former minister told HuffPost last May that “everything she does seems to have one eye on life after Keir”.

Long-running tensions between the two Labour chiefs came to a head after Starmer sacked Rayner as party chair and national campaign coordinator following the poor local election results last year. But following a backlash from within the party, she was almost immediately handed a host of new briefs. The Guardian claimed at the time that she “is widely seen as a future challenger”.

Nevertheless, Rayner was also at the Durham event and has said that she too would resign if fined. Like her boss, Rayner has insisted that “no rules were broken”, but said that if the police thought differently, she “would do the decent thing and step down”.

*The latest odds from Betfair

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