Who can lead Labour out of the doldrums?

10 May 2015

With the dust beginning to settle on an abysmal election night for the Labour Party, we take a look at some of the candidates jostling to take on Ed Miliband’s role as leader of the opposition.   Having received just 31% of votes last Thursday, the next Labour leader will have to start winning back support from the SNP up in Scotland, and the Conservatives south of the border.

Here is our take on Labour’s hopefuls.


Andy Burnham

Pros:  The Leigh MP has certainly has plenty of experience, having served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Culture Secretary and Health Secretary under Gordon Brown.  Under Ed Miliband, he represented both Education and Health in the Shadow Cabinet. 


Having been heckled at a Hillsborough memorial service in 2009, Burnham took it upon himself to start a brand new public enquiry into the disaster.  As a result, a judicial inquest is currently underway in Warrington.

He is a likable man, who would appeal to Labour’s increasingly disloyal fan base of working class voters.


Cons:  He has stood before to become Labour leader and lost heavily.  Back in 2010, he failed to gain much attention as the media chose to focus on the Miliband rivalry.  As a result he came fourth, with just over 8% of votes.

If he can’t beat Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, can he beat Cameron?

He was also Health Secretary during the Mid Staffs scandal - a record which could haunt him as leader.

Odds: 5/2

HUB rating: 7/10



Chuka Umunna

Pros: Umunna has had a relatively sound four years as Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary.  He chose to back Ed Miliband in 2010, and was rewarded for doing so.  At 36 years old, and with 4 years Shadow Cabinet experience, he has bags of potential.

Umunna’s questioning of Barclays boss Bob Diamond back in 2011 revealed the incredibly low amount of corporation tax the bank had paid the previous year.  Umunna clearly can stand up to corporations, without being labelled ‘anti-business’.

He is a smooth operator with a clear vision for the Labour Party.


Cons:  While his age is one hand a positive, it is also a negative.  At just 36 years old, Umunna can hardly boast of having the required amount of ‘life experience’ the electorate prefers their Prime Ministers to have.

Having been in politics since the age of 29, he is seen as a careerist.  Criticism of Umunna has also come from Scotland, where some Labour supporters believe he is perceived as a ‘London Politician’.

Odds: 2/1

HUB rating: 8/10



Yvette Cooper

Pros:  Without doubt Cooper is one of the most experienced options Labour has.  Under Gordon Brown she was Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Work and Pensions Secretary. 



Since 2011, Cooper has excelled in the role of Shadow Home Secretary, often embroiled in bruising House of Commons debates with Theresa May.  It would be interesting to see the pair go head to head in the battle for Number 10 in 2020.

Cooper would be one of Labour’s most reliable and competent operators in the next five years - two adjectives which rarely described the opposition years of Ed Miliband.


Cons:  Cooper carries serious baggage in the form of her husband; Ed Balls.  With Balls having lost his Morley and Outwood seat on Thursday, the childcare arrangements until 2020 are taken care of.  However, should Cooper stand to be PM - the public may be disgruntled that Balls be given the chance to enter Number 10 via the back door.

It is also difficult to gauge where she stands on the political spectrum.  She formed parts of Blair and Brown governments and promised to ‘get tough on immigration’, but also served as a key part in the more ‘left wing’ Miliband cabinet.  Party voters will need clarification on her ideology as soon as possible.

Odds: 7/2

HUB rating: 7/10



Tristram Hunt

Pros: Hunt has enjoyed a successful career outside of politics.  As a historian, he has presented programmes on the BBC, as well as written multiple bestselling books.  His specialist subject is urban Victorian history.  As well as this, he has been a lecturer at Queen Mary University.


He is fresh-faced and, at 40 years old, ready to enter the peak of his political life.  He is a leader who, unlike some of his challengers, would be able to cope well both mentally and physically with the exhausting day to that demands that the post requires over five years.


Cons: Hunt seems to be quite unpopular within the party.  He is the MP for Stoke Central, but is still seen as part of the ‘London elite’ brand.  However, he would probably lose out on capital support to some of his challengers.

No part of the country is overwhelmingly pro-Hunt.

He also had an error-prone term as Shadow Education Secretary, with gaffes ranging from criticising nuns on Question Time to waging war with Tom Watson over crossing a picket line.

Odds: 10/1

HUB rating: 5/10



Liz Kendall

Pros: A fresh face from Labour’s 2010 intake, Kendall is not obviously tarnished with ties to former grandees who don’t sit favourably with certain sections of the party. She’s had a career outside of politics, too, working as Director of the Ambulance Services Network, and the Maternity Alliance charity, as well as holding positions as a researcher for the King's Fund, and as an associate director for health, social care and children’s early years at the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank.


Cons: She’s seen as being excessively ‘Blairite’ in her outlook and politics, and many feel that she doesn’t have the kind of ‘strong leadership’ qualities that were so obviously lacking in Ed Miliband’s attempt to take the party to victory.

She’s also only held one relatively minor ministerial post, as Shadow Minister for Care and Older People – some may see her as inexperienced, and lacking in the ‘serving time’ necessary to be party leader.

Odds: 8/1

HUB rating: 5/10



Also keep your eyes on…

Stella Creasy - the tough tweeting progressive MP for Walthamstow (4/10), Rachel Reeves (3/10), Stephen Kinnock - married to the Danish PM and son of a former Labour leader but it may be too soon (2/10), Diane Abbott - it would be rude not to (1/10).

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