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Tue, 27 October 2020

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ANALYSIS: Why it’s been a good day for Lisa Nandy (and Emily Thornberry) in the Labour leadership race

ANALYSIS: Why it’s been a good day for Lisa Nandy (and Emily Thornberry) in the Labour leadership race
3 min read

While Jess Phillips has seen her path to the nomination for Labour leader shut off, the way ahead has opened up for the two other second-tier candidates.


The endorsement on Tuesday of the GMB for Lisa Nandy makes it almost inevitable she will end up on the final ballot, and the way she has achieved it leaves behind a gap in the contest making it easier for Emily Thornberry to follow her onto the stage too.

Nandy will also benefit from the exit of Phillips and her outsized media platform, and by consolidating her third-place position she will hope to get more exposure and more airtime to help her overtake those in front of her.

The backing of the third-largest union, who praised the Wigan MP as a “breath of fresh air” has turned a potentially two-horse race into a final four showdown.

If the GMB had fallen in behind Sir Keir Starmer as some predicted, it would have effectively blocked off one of the routes to the ballot for any candidate other than him or Rebecca Long-Bailey, who seems almost certain to get the nod from the two major unions yet to come out for a candidate - Unite and the CWU.

That would have locked the two frontrunners into pole position, with Nandy and Thornberry having to instead look to local party branches to get the support they need.

After making it past the first round, candidates have two routes. Route one is to secure the backing three Labour affiliates, including two unions, which account for more than 5% of delegates sent to party conference.

With the GMB to add to her earlier endorsement from the National Union of Mineworkers, Nandy just needs one affiliate group or union, however small, to get her over the line.

Without GMB she would have needed to take the second route - getting 5% of CLPs to back her. Given that so far Nandy has no local parties on side, she and her team will be relieved that she will be released from having to take the other route to the ballot: chasing down the support of 33 local Labour parties.

Thornberry is now the only person left in the contest who actually needs local branches behind her.

If any of them that wants to broaden the field of candidates, members can endorse her and propel her onto the ballot.

There was a hint that this process may already be in action after she picked up two nominations on Monday night.

Alongside Thornberry for leader, the Newbury branch chose to endorse Rosena Allin-Khan for deputy, while Horsham CLP picked Dawn Butler - both of whom are outsiders for the race. Those endorsements look like an attempt to help more candidates stay in the contest.

Whether there are 31 more willing to do the same for the shadow foreign secretary, remains to be seen and it is still early days with fewer than 20 out of more than 600 local parties declaring their backing for candidates. Opinion polling of members has meanwhile not been favourable to Thornberry.

But whatever the case, Tuesday's move by the GMB has certainly livened up a competition which looked like it was careering to a long and not particurlarly exciting one-on-one run-off.

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