The 2020 Labour Party leadership election was triggered after Jeremy Corbyn announced his intention to resign as the leader of the Labour Party following the party's defeat at the 2019 general election. It was won by Keir Starmer, who received 56.2 per cent of the vote on the first round. It was held alongside the 2020 Labour Party deputy leadership election.
To qualify for the ballot, candidates needed nominations from 10 per cent (22) of the party's Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of European Parliament (MEPs), followed by support from either 5 per cent (33) of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), or from at least three affiliated groups, including two trade unions and representing at least 5 per cent of affiliated members. Five candidates (Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips, Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry) received sufficient nominations to proceed to the second round of nominations. Starmer had the most nominations from MPs and MEPs at 88, followed by Long-Bailey and Nandy with 33 and 31 nominations respectively. Phillips and Thornberry each received 23 nominations, one above the minimum threshold to proceed.
Three candidates, Long-Bailey, Nandy and Starmer, received sufficient combined support from affiliates and constituency parties to proceed to the final ballot. Starmer received the most nominations from both CLPs and affiliates having received nominations from 374 CLPs and 15 affiliates, followed by Long-Bailey with 164 CLPs and seven affiliates, and finally Nandy with 72 CLPs and four affiliates. The results were announced on 4 April 2020, with Starmer winning the election in the first round with 56.2 per cent of the vote, beating Long-Bailey and Nandy and taking over from Corbyn.
See also: Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour Party leader in a 2015 leadership election and re-elected leader in 2016 following a challenge from Owen Smith. While Labour gained 30 seats in the 2017 general election, it lost 60 seats in the 2019 election, resulting in the party having its lowest number of seats in the House of Commons since 1935. Corbyn subsequently announced that he would resign as Labour Party leader following a "process of reflection."
The election was conducted under a pure one member, one vote (OMOV) system, using the instant-runoff voting electoral system with preferential balloting to calculate the result. Votes were cast using postal ballots and online voting forms. Candidates were elected by members and registered and affiliated supporters, who all received a maximum of one vote, and all votes were weighted equally. This meant that, for example, members of Labour-affiliated trades unions needed to register as affiliated Labour supporters to vote. Members who joined before 20 January were eligible to vote.
To stand, candidates needed to be nominated by at least 10 per cent of the combined membership of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP), meaning 22 MPs and MEPs at the time. As a result, a maximum of nine candidates can stand. They also needed to be nominated by at least 5 per cent of Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), meaning at least 33 CLPs, or at least three party affiliates that consist of at least 5 per cent of affiliate members including at least two trades unions. Affiliates consist of affiliated trades unions and socialist societies.
The timetable for the election was set by the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) on 6 January 2020.
Nominations from the Parliamentary Labour Party and European Parliamentary Labour Party opened on 7 January and closed on 13 January. Between 15 January and 15 February, constituency parties and affiliate organisations could nominate their preferred candidate. Applications to become a registered supporter opened on 14 January and closed on 16 January. Voting in the membership ballot opened on 24 February and closed at midday on 2 April. The result of the leadership election was announced on 4 April. The special conference planned for the announcement of the election result was "scaled-back" on 12 March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Immediately following the 2019 general election, Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, was considered favourite to win the leadership election by the online gambling company Betfair. Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, was considered another front runner. Various other figures were considered as possible leadership candidates, including Lisa Nandy, the MP for Wigan, who said on 15 December 2019 that she was "seriously thinking" about standing for the leadership. On 29 December, Long-Bailey wrote an article for The Guardian declaring her interest in standing and laying out her strategy for a "progressive patriotism".
Some party figures, including the former MP Caroline Flint and the MP Wes Streeting, argued for a "clean break" from the previous leadership. However, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the Union, said that the next leader should "carry on the tradition", describing Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner as his preferred candidates. Party figures affiliated with Long-Bailey and MPs such as Corbyn, as well as centrist figures like Alastair Campbell, encouraged supporters of their preferred candidates to join the party to vote in the leadership election. Roy Hattersley, a former deputy leader of the party, wrote on 21 December that MPs should refuse to accept Long-Bailey if she were elected leader.
The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, was the first to announce, on 18 December, that she was standing for the leadership. She laid out her pitch in an article for The Guardian. She said that her first priority would be to deal with antisemitism in the party by implementing recommendations from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. She criticised Corbyn's senior advisers for overruling her as the shadow foreign secretary and for their strategic decisions in the 2019 general election.
Clive Lewis, the shadow minister for sustainable economics, announced on 19 December that he would stand. He said that as leader, he would give more democratic power in the party to its members. He argued that the party should work more with other political parties on the left, and proposed constitutional reforms including supporting proportional representation and reform of the House of Lords. In January 2020, he proposed a referendum about the future of the British royal family. He was criticised for his response to claims against him of sexual harassment, for which he had been cleared by a disciplinary body within Labour, which "seemed unapologetic".
Jess Phillips announced her candidacy in Grimsby on 3 January 2020. She criticised the party's approach to Brexit and Scottish independence, saying that she was opposed to a second referendum on Scottish independence. She said that she would be open to arguing for the UK to rejoin the European Union. Criticising the party's manifesto at the 2019 general election, Phillips said that she would support nationalising railways but would not prioritise further nationalisation.
Nandy announced that she would stand in a letter to the Wigan Post on the same day as Phillips. She argued that the party needed a "bridge" to join areas in northern England where the party was losing seats and metropolitan areas where the party was gaining support.
Starmer, who a poll had indicated was the most popular potential candidate heading into the leadership election, announced his candidacy with a video posted to social media on 4 January followed by a launch in Stevenage.
Long-Bailey announced that she would stand in an article for Tribune magazine on 6 January. Long-Bailey was seen by many observers and party colleagues as the continuity candidate, who would have continued to take the party in the same direction as Corbyn. While she disputed the description, her campaign stressed ideological continuity with Corbyn. She attracted attention for rating Corbyn "ten out of ten" as a politician, and called for constitutional reform to spread power more evenly across the country, including abolishing the House of Lords.
Candidates first needed to receive nominations from at least 5 per cent of the party's MPs and MEPs to progress to the second round of nominations. Starmer won the support of enough MPs and MEPs to progress to the next round of nominations on 8 January, when he was also endorsed by the trade union Unison. The following day, Long-Bailey, Nandy and Phillips got enough MP and MEP nominations to progress.
The deadline for PLP and EPLP nominations was 2.30 pm on 13 January. Lewis, with only five nominations including himself, withdrew from the contest shortly before the deadline. Thornberry was also short of the required nominations at the beginning of the day, but managed to obtain enough to qualify less than ten minutes before the deadline, helped by MPs who had formerly nominated Lewis. After the close of nominations, the party announced that Long-Bailey, Nandy, Phillips, Starmer and Thornberry would proceed to the next stage of the election. Starmer received 88 nominations, more than any other candidate, followed by Long-Bailey with 33 and Nandy with 31. Phillips and Thornberry were each nominated by 23 MPs and MEPs, one more than the minimum requirement of 22. Shortly after these nominations were published, Starmer was heavily favoured in the betting odds.
Corbyn-supporting group Momentum balloted its members on a proposal that the group endorse Long-Bailey (alongside Angela Rayner for deputy). Of the 7,395 respondents 70 per cent backed Long-Bailey, but the organisation was criticised by commentators and by some Momentum members for not giving the option to endorse other candidates.
Starmer became the first candidate to qualify for the ballot on 20 January with his third affiliate nomination, from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers; by that point, he was also leading in nominations from Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs). Phillips withdrew from the election on 21 January, saying that she was unable to unite the party. Nandy became the second candidate to quality for the ballot on 22 January, having received backing from the GMB and National Union of Mineworkers unions and the Chinese for Labour socialist society. Long-Bailey was the third candidate to qualify, following further trade union support.
However, Thornberry failed to achieve enough nominations, falling just short of the required number of constituency party nominations and being eliminated on 15 February 2020.
The Labour Party reported two members of Starmer's campaign to the Information Commissioner's Office on 6 February of hacking into the party's membership database. The campaign described the complaint as "utter nonsense". The campaign chair, Jenny Chapman, suggested that the allegations were a result of the Starmer team alerting party officials the week before to a possible data breach by Long-Bailey's campaign, though there is no evidence that this occurred.
The first public hustings to feature the final three candidates was held in Glasgow, Scotland on 15 February.
The following individuals were nominated by the necessary number of Labour MPs and MEPs as well as receiving backing from the required number of constituency parties or affiliated organisations to proceed to the final ballot before members.
|22 September 1979
Old Trafford, Greater Manchester
|Shadow business secretary (2017–2020)
MP for Salford and Eccles (2015–present)
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury (2016–2017)
Shadow Treasury minister (2015–2016)
|6 January 2020||29 January 2020|
|9 August 1979
|MP for Wigan (2010–present)
Shadow energy secretary (2015–2016)
|3 January 2020||22 January 2020|
|2 September 1962
|Shadow Brexit secretary (2016–2020)
MP for Holborn and St Pancras (2015–present)
Shadow immigration minister (2015–2016)
|4 January 2020||20 January 2020|
Emily Thornberry failed to receive backing from the required number of constituency parties and affiliated organisations.
|27 July 1960
|Shadow First Secretary of State (2017–2020)
Shadow foreign secretary (2016–2020)
MP for Islington South and Finsbury (2005–present)
Shadow Brexit secretary (2016)
Shadow defence secretary (2016)
Shadow employment minister (2015–2016)
Shadow Attorney General (2011–2014)
|18 December 2019||15 February 2020|
The following candidates withdrew either during the process to receive nominations from MPs and MEPs or during the process to receive nominations from constituency parties or affiliated organisations.
|11 September 1971
|Shadow treasury minister (2018–2020)
MP for Norwich South (2015–present)
Shadow business secretary (2016–2017)
Shadow defence secretary (2016)
|19 December 2019||13 January 2020|
|9 October 1981
|MP for Birmingham Yardley (2015–present)||
|3 January 2020||21 January 2020|
The following individuals were discussed in the media as potential leadership candidates, but chose not to stand:
Main article: Nominations in the 2020 Labour Party leadership election
Candidates first needed to be nominated by at least 10 per cent (22) of current Labour MPs and MEPs, who comprise the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP). Candidates who passed this threshold then need nominations from at least 5 per cent (33) Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), or at least three affiliates including at least two trades unions that together represent at least 5 per cent of affiliated members.
The table below shows the number of nominations achieved by each candidate. A green background indicates that the candidate met the nomination requirements. A pink background indicates that the candidate withdrew from the contest.
Labour MPs and MEPs
|Constituency Labour Parties||Affiliates|
88 / 212[a]
374 / 648
15 / 32
34 / 212
164 / 648[b]
7 / 32
31 / 212
72 / 648
4 / 32
|Emily Thornberry (eliminated)||
23 / 212
31 / 648
0 / 32
|Jess Phillips (withdrawn)||
23 / 212
0 / 648
0 / 32
|Clive Lewis (withdrawn)||
5 / 212
198 / 212[c]
641 / 648[d]
26 / 32
|Nominated, on the membership ballot|
|Eliminated during the nominations stage|
|Withdrew from the election|
|Corbyn announces his resignation|
|Nominations from the PLP and EPLP close|
|First leadership hustings|
|Nominations from CLPs and affiliates close|
|Membership ballot opens|
|Membership ballot closes|
The result of the election as well as the corresponding contest for deputy leader was announced at 10:45 am (BST) on 4 April 2020. The announcement was originally due to take place at a special conference in London, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was cancelled in favour of a "scaled-back event".
Keir Starmer won the Labour leadership election in the first round of voting.
|Candidate||Party members||Registered supporters||Affiliated supporters||Total|
Turnout was 62.6 per cent. There were 490,731 returned ballots, from a total of 784,181 eligible voters. 136 ballot papers were spoiled.
Long-Bailey created a four-point plan titled "Aspirational socialism"; empower the movement and raise trade union membership; a "Democratic Revolution" and; a "Green Industrial Revolution". Long-Bailey promised that she would continue to develop the "Green New Deal" policies that she had introduced to the party's 2019 election manifesto. On democratic reform, Long-Bailey called for constitutional reform to spread power more evenly across the country, including abolishing the House of Lords.
Long-Bailey stated that if she were to win the leadership election the Labour Party would maintain its commitment to bring energy, water, rail and mail back into public ownership. She has also supported open selection as a process of selection for Labour MPs.
Long-Bailey and her platform were described by the media as "continuity Corbyn" because of her closeness to Corbyn, Momentum and the left of the Labour party, although she rejected the label.
In response to the release of U.S. President Donald Trump's peace plan to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Long-Bailey criticised the proposals, stating that they would "only perpetuate conflict" and "undermine rights of the Palestinian people".
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Long-Bailey made several recommendations to the government. She advocated the government look at a universal basic income for all people in the United Kingdom regardless of wealth, and to eliminate the five-week waiting time before claimants can receive Universal Credit. Later in March, she advocated a National Food Service, where workers from Royal Mail deliver basic goods like food, medicine and toiletries to households to reduce pressure on supermarkets. In an article, Long-Bailey advocated that the government should buy shares in key industries and put these shares into a "social wealth fund". She stated that: "This crisis should make us realise that we’re all connected – that the chief executive relies on the refuse worker, the corporate lawyer on the supermarket worker, and the politician on the nurse. And this realisation should power how we rebuild our economy when the crisis is over."
Long-Bailey was the first candidate to publish a list of donors to her campaign, with primary funding coming from trade unions Unite (£215,000) and the Communication Workers Union (£52,000), plus small individual donations solicited from members of left-wing organisation Momentum (£120,000).
In January, Nandy accused the Blair and Brown governments of continuing the "consensus that Thatcher built". She criticised New Labour for being "as tight as the Tories". She called for "a modern, empowering welfare state for the 21st century". She praised Corbyn for shifting party policy towards a position that opposes austerity and stated her intention to abolish Universal Credit.
During the party hustings held in Bristol, Nandy argued that the honours system should have references to the British Empire removed and replaced with 'Excellence'.
Nandy defended free movement within the European Union, while also arguing that concerns about its flaws should not be simply dismissed as "racist anti-immigrant rhetoric".
Nandy is opposed to Scottish independence and argued that Labour should "look to Catalonia and Quebec" as examples for dealing with "divisive nationalism", later clarifying that the party can learn from the Socialist Party in Spain that has show how "the cause of social justice has beaten divisive nationalism". She has said she wants Scottish Labour to be represented in the shadow cabinet and has also pledged not to interfere in devolved policymaking, allowing Scottish Labour to decide their own approach to independence. She also stated that British federalism would not resolve the political division between England and Scotland.
In February, deputy leadership candidate Richard Burgon proposed a "Peace Pledge" to ensure that the party would not support future military action unless its members vote in favour of such a policy. Nandy voiced her strong disapproval of the pledge. She argued that civilians in war zones could not afford to wait for such a ballot to pass and it was irresponsible to share such classified information.
In an interview with The Jewish Chronicle, Nandy acknowledged that the party had lost the trust of the British Jewish community as a result of its "failure of leadership" and poor handling of antisemitism in the Party. She also said that she believed that the word 'Zionism' had become "horribly distorted and weaponised" by some in the party; Nandy denounced those who questioned Israel's right to exist and reiterated her view that advocating the rights of Palestinians does not contradict support for Israel. She has chaired Labour Friends of Palestine since 2018.
When she spoke to the Evening Standard in January, Nandy called on party general secretary Jennie Formby to publish the evidence that had been submitted to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as part of the commission's investigation into institutional antisemitism in the party. She added that openness and transparency would necessary to rebuild trust with the British Jewish community.
Nandy said that she would conduct a "fair recruitment process" for parliamentary candidates and end the practice of "parachuting" those favoured by the leadership. She criticised the centralised approach taken during the 2019 general election, in which a number of candidates were "imposed" by Corbyn and his allies. Nandy has also stated that she would end the practice of nominating peers to the House of Lords. This announcement came after the Labour Party controversially nominated John Bercow, former Commons Speaker, and Karie Murphy, Corbyn's former chief of staff.
During a speech in Bassetlaw, one of the "red wall" constituencies gained by the Conservatives in 2019, Nandy announced that a future shadow cabinet led by her would involve the representation of local Labour councillors, giving a seat to the elected Leader of the Local Government Association Labour Group. She also pledged that she would give councillors the right to nominate candidates in future leadership elections, just as MPs and MEPs had during the previous month.
Nandy expressed opposition to open selection and in favour of the current method for selection of Labour MPs.
Nandy released a list of donors to her leadership campaign, which was principally supported by the GMB trade union and featured four private donations of over £10,000 from individuals including her husband Andrew Collis, businessmen Jason Stockwood and Tom Shutes, and Hope Not Hate chair Simon Tuttle.
Starmer positioned himself in opposition to austerity, stating that Corbyn was "right" to position Labour as the "party of anti-austerity". Starmer indicated he will continue with the Labour policy of scrapping tuition fees. He also pledged "common ownership" of rail, mail, energy and water companies and called for ending outsourcing in the NHS, local governments and the justice system.
In February 2020, Starmer announced that he would continue the policy introduced under Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to raise taxes on the top five per cent of earners with incomes of more than £80,000.
Starmer has argued that the party should propose the reintroduction of free movement within the European Union.
In response to the release of Trump's peace plan to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Starmer described the proposals as "inconsistent with international law and human rights protections".
Starmer has said he is "not against the principle" of open selection but has not indicated clear support or opposition to it.
Starmer's leadership campaign gained funding from trade union Unison, and donations from several individuals, including £100,000 and £5,000 respectively from barristers Robert Latham and Richard Hermer, as well as hotel bills totalling £2,500 from a company linked to Labour donor Farah Sassoon.
Several hustings events took place throughout the campaign, for both leadership and deputy leadership candidates. Labour-organised hustings took place on weekends throughout January and February 2020, at 11 locations in Great Britain. No hustings were held in Northern Ireland.
|18 January 2020||Labour Party||Liam Thorp
(Political Editor, Liverpool Echo)
|Arena and Convention Centre,
|25 January 2020
|Labour Party||—||Royal Armouries,|
|26 January 2020[a]||Open Labour||Rachel Shabi
(journalist and author)
|Nottingham Trent University,|
|1 February 2020||Labour Party||Doina Cornell
(Leader of Stroud District Council)
|Ashton Gate Stadium,|
|2 February 2020||Labour Party||Ruth Mosalski
(Political Editor, Wales Online)
|8 February 2020[b]||LGA Labour Group||Nick Forbes
(Leader of Newcastle City Council)
|University of Nottingham,|
|13 February 2020||Jewish Labour Movement||Robert Peston
(Political Editor, ITV News)
|Liberal Jewish Synagogue,|
St John's Wood
|15 February 2020||Labour Party||Cara Hilton
(Chair of the Scottish Labour Party)
|16 February 2020||Co-operative Party||Chanté Joseph
|Business Design Centre,|
|16 February 2020
|National Education Union||Kevin Courtney
(General Secretary of the NEU)
|University College London,|
|18 February 2020||LGBT+ Labour||Benjamin Cohen
(Chief Executive, PinkNews)
|22 February 2020||Labour Party||Stephen Bush
(Political Editor, New Statesman)
|22 February 2020||Labour Party||Vaughan West
(Chair of Labour East)
|23 February 2020||Labour Party||David Anderson,
(former MP for Blaydon)
|Radisson Blu Hotel,|
|25 February 2020||The Guardian||Anushka Asthana,
(Editor-at-large, The Guardian)
|29 February 2020||Labour Party||Fatima Manji,
(presenter, Channel 4 News)
|Grand Brighton Hotel,|
|4 March 2020||Labour Women's Network||Jacqui Smith,
(former Home Secretary)
|Seven Dials Club,|
|8 March 2020||Daily Mirror||Alison Phillips
(Editor, Daily Mirror)
The locations sparked criticism from some candidates because of lack of geographic spread. After the backlash, two new events in Leeds and Brighton were later added by Labour's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), although the one in Leeds was subsequently cancelled after Starmer dropped out due to his mother-in-law being critically ill. The Guardian also announced that it would host a hustings in Manchester on 22 February, chaired by journalist Anushka Asthana. Starmer's mother-in-law passed away on 9 February, resulting in the postponement of the Dudley hustings scheduled for that day, which later took place on 8 March 2020 as the final hustings.
On 12 February, a debate took place on Newsnight, moderated by presenter Katie Razzall and broadcast on BBC Two. A second debate was held the following day, moderated by Victoria Derbyshire on her programme, followed by a third one chaired by Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 News.
|No.||Date and time||Location||Programme||Broadcaster||Presenter(s)||Viewers
|P Participant A Absent invitee O Out of race (eliminated or withdrawn) N No debate||Long-Bailey||Nandy||Starmer||Thornberry|
|Before the close of nominations|
|1||12 February 2020; 22:30||Broadcasting House,
|Labour Leadership 2020: A Newsnight Special||BBC Two||Katie Razzall||TBA||P||P||P||P|
|2||13 February 2020; 09:30||Broadcasting House,
|Victoria Derbyshire: Labour Leader Special||BBC Two||Victoria Derbyshire||TBA||P||P||P||P|
|After the close of nominations|
|3||17 February 2020; 20:00||Town Hall,
|Live: The Labour Leadership Debate||Channel 4||Krishnan Guru-Murthy||TBA||P||P||P||O|
|4||27 February 2020; 20:00||Town Hall,
|The Labour Debate: Live with Sophy Ridge||Sky News||Sophy Ridge||TBA||P||P||P||O|
|2015 leadership election • Endorsements|
|2016 leadership election • Endorsements|
|2020 leadership election • Endorsements|
Candidates and potential candidates received the support of organisations, publications, and of notable individuals. This list does not include official parliamentary, constituency or affiliate nominations.
Clive Lewis was endorsed by the journalist and broadcaster Paul Mason before he withdrew. Before she withdrew, Jess Phillips was endorsed by the journalist and former Spectator editor Matthew d'Ancona, Labour MP Margaret Hodge, the Labour peer Philip Hunt and Melanie Onn, the former MP for Great Grimsby.
|Pollster/client||Sample size||First preferences||Final preferences|
|Result||490,731 Labour members, registered and affiliated supporters||27.6%||16.2%||–||56.2%||–||–||–||–|
|21–24 February 2020||Survation/LabourList||1,196 Labour members, registered and affiliated supporters||34%||21%||–||45%||–||–||36%||64%|
|20–25 February 2020||YouGov/Sky News||1,323 Labour members, registered and affiliated supporters||31%||16%||–||53%||–||—||34%||66%|
|13–15 January 2020||YouGov/The Times||1,005 Labour members||32%||7%||11%||46%||3%||–||37%||63%|
|8–13 January 2020||Survation/LabourList||3,800 LabourList readers who are also Labour members||42%||7%||10%||37%||1%||—||51%||49%|
|21–31 December 2019||YouGov/Party Members Project||1,059 Labour members||23%||6%||12%||36%||7%||16%[a]||39%||61%|
A poll was also conducted to garner the prospective voting intentions of the public for the Labour Party under each leadership candidate in a general election.
|Pollster/client||Sample size||Labour Party voting intention under each candidate|
|At present (Corbyn)||Long-Bailey||Nandy||Starmer||Thornberry|
3 February 2020