Labour has been rocked by the resignation of seven MPs, piling even more pressure on Jeremy Corbyn as he seeks to hold the party together.
A split has been on the cards for some time, but it appears the combined failure to tackle anti-Semitism, quash bullying and present a coherent Brexit policy has finally pushed rebels to take the nuclear option and resign their membership.
Corbyn’s position, for now at least, appears secure, but the odds of him being replaced this year shortened dramatically following today’s announcement.
“While Corbyn supporters may be happy to see some of his critics within the party leaving, others will be worried about what this means for the party and for Corbyn’s leadership as well,” said a Betfair spokeswoman.
The online betting giant slashed the odds of Corbyn being replaced as Labour leader in 2019 from 2/1 to 5/4, once again sparking debate about who could succeed him.
There is a growing strand of thought within the party that the next Labour leader should be a woman, but with Brexit proving divisive and a battle still raging for the party’s ideological soul, the field remains wide open.
Here are the frontrunners to replace Corbyn, and the latest odds for each:
Emily Thornberry 5/1
The shadow foreign secretary has won praise for her performances filling in for Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions, as well as for her straight-talking media appearances. A Corbyn loyalist, she has emerged as his de facto No. 2 and enjoys strong support from more left-wing party members and, importantly, many of the unions.
However she hails from a similar north London constituency to Corbyn and campaigned heavily for Remain, which could make it harder for her to connect with working-class voters. Her infamous tweet during the Rochester and Strood by-election campaign in 2014, in which she appeared to mock a terraced house draped with an English flag and a white van parked outside it, might come back to haunt her too.
Sir Keir Starmer 8/1
As Labour’s Brexit spokesman, Starmer has become one of the most visible figures in Corbyn’s top team. A former director of public prosecutions, he has been credited with navigating the party through the Brexit minefield while holding the Government to account over its handling of the negotiations.
Unlike many of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, though, Starmer does not have a history on the hard-left. Some see him as a political opportunist and may believe he would drag the party back to the centre. He has long held aspirations for the top job, but Labour may not be in the mood for a knighted, middle-class, Oxbridge-educated white man.
Angela Rayner 9/1
A long-time Corbyn devotee rather than recent convert, Rayner shares her mentor’s radical position on many issues, endearing her to the Labour members whose support will be crucial in a leadership race.
Outspoken yet loyal, she has led the charge against sexism and bullying in the party and has a gripping life story: she was pregnant when she left school at 16, before rising up the Labour party ranks.
Once seen as Corbyn’s preferred successor, she has “fallen out of favour after describing the party’s economic plans for big increases in state spending as a high-risk ‘shit-or-bust strategy’”, says the Daily Express.
John McDonnell 14/1
The steely shadow chancellor is viewed as the power behind the Labour leader’s throne, and as a life-long friend would be likely to get an endorsement from Corbyn were he to stand.
Combined with his impeccable left-wing credentials and accomplished media performances this would make him a formidable leadership candidate.
Yet he does also have both personal and political liabilities that could count against him. His hardline approach and lack of natural charisma could prove off-putting to the wider electorate, as could his north-west London constituency.
Occasional missteps, such as throwing a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book at then-chancellor George Osborne in the House of Commons, have also provoked fears his new-found willingness to listen to dissenting opinions may just be a front aimed at hiding his more radical tendencies.
Rebecca Long-Bailey 14/1
Member of Parliament for Salford and Eccles, the shadow business secretary ticks many of the boxes to be the next Labour leader. Like Rayner, she is in her late 30s, female and from a northern constituency with a huge majority.
She is also remarkably loyal to the Labour leader and, therefore, aligned with the majority of party members. Amid talk of a split in the party she was one of a number of senior shadow frontbenchers, along with McDonnell and Rayner, to sign an online “loyalty pledge”.
Long-Bailey was long-rumoured to be Corbyn’s preferred successor but her star has waned somewhat over the past year, with some thinking she lacks the necessary experience to lead the party at this difficult time and may instead be one to watch for the future.
Clive Lewis 16/1
The former Army officer-turned politician was regarded as a contender before resigning as shadow business secretary in 2017 for refusing to obey the party’s three-line whip and vote for the bill allowing Theresa May to trigger Article 50, the formal process for leaving the European Union.
He was also cleared of accusations of sexual harassment the same year. Neither the investigation nor his resignation appear to have seriously dented his standing with grassroots members or his chances in a future leadership election.
Yvette Cooper 16/1
The former cabinet minister and leadership contender has a wealth of experience in frontline British politics. She has won praise for her Commons performances during the Brexit debates and was reportedly being lined up to replace Corbyn after the general election in 2017.
She retains strong support from MPs but is regarded as one of the more centrist contenders for the leadership and may be too closely associated with the Blair and Brown eras.
Sadiq Khan 18/1
The London Mayor and former Tooting MP is one of the few Labour politicians to hold power.
As the son of a London bus driver, the community lawyer-turned politician has a strong personal story, but he has been accused of political expediency in his run for the London mayor’s job, tracking left to secure the nominations before tracking right to win the wider vote. He also clashed repeatedly with Corbyn before the 2017 general election, leading some to suggest he was trying to position himself to take over when his term finishes in 2020.
And the outsider… Laura Pidcock 33/1
The Labour firebrand was only elected in 2017 but has impressed Corbyn’s team with her attacks on Conservative welfare policies and was promoted to shadow minister for labour after less than a year as an MP.
According to the Express in December last year, Labour party insiders hailed Pidcock, still only 30, as “the new chosen one” as members groomed her to take over from Corbyn should he stand down.
The sources added that Corbyn may quit if the right candidate can “secure his legacy”.
“Jeremy’s people have gone off Rebecca Long-Bailey,” another member of the shadow cabinet told The Sunday Times. “That’s why they’re promoting Pidcock. She’s the new chosen one. She’s getting a lot of support from the leader’s office and they’re promoting her on social media.”