Voting closed in the Labour leadership contest today as the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn finally came to a close.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is widely tipped to become the 24th leader of the Labour Party, beating rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy.
Mr Corbyn announced he was quitting after leading the party to its worst election showing since the 1930s in December’s snap general election – leaving the Tories with an 80-strong majority.
The winner of the deputy leadership race to take over from Tom Watson, expected to be shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, will be announced at the same time.
Front-runner Mr Starmer thanked his rivals for showing “positivity and unity” as ballots closed in the three-month long contest.
In a video message to his supporters, he said: “It’s been a long campaign and it’s ending in circumstances that none of us could have predicted”.
He added that the race had demonstrated “to our party, to our movement and hopefully to the country that real good can come out of this election”.
The latest survey from pollsters YouGov showed that Mr Starmer had a commanding lead over his rivals and could win on first preference votes among more than 500,000 members, affiliates and supporters.
Among those casting their votes were 114,000 new members who had joined since Labour’s catastrophic general election defeat.
The new Labour leader would then immediately turn all the Opposition’s energy on helping tackle the coronavirus crisis.
His supporters hope that his serious and forensic style will help hold the Government to account.
But allies have ruled out him joining a national unity government – suggesting that Boris Johnson would only offer if he wanted to pin some of the fall-out from the coronavirus crisis onto Labour.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, who has been Labour’s key voice during the pandemic, would be expected to be kept in post.
If Mr Starmer wins the contest he is likely to unveil his shadow cabinet team this weekend.
Shadow policing minister Lou Haigh is tipped for a top job, along with Treasury frontbencher Annaliese Dodds and Oldham MP Jim McMahon, who are understood to have impressed the frontrunner.
The campaign saw shadow business secretary Ms Long-Bailey branded the “continuity Corbyn” candidate.
Wigan MP Ms Nandy won plaudits for listening to the voters that Labour lost at the election.
Mr Starner struck a more centrist approach, but also tried to appeal to the Left of the party.
Ms Nandy also released a video thanking supporters, saying: “In every nation and region of the UK, we stood up, came together and chose the brave, not the easy path.
“And we have shown Labour to be a party that has both humility and self-confidence. Honest about the scale of the challenge and ambitious about the future.
“That goes out with courage and conviction to make and win the argument – especially when it’s hard. That will be how Labour wins again.”
On February 21 the ballot opened, with voting papers sent out to party members, members of affiliated trade unions and groups and 14,700 “registered supporters” who paid £25 to take part on a one-off basis.