This is the third in a series looking at the runners and riders in post-election leadership contests. You can read my article about the runners and riders in a post election LibDem leadership contest HERE and UKIP HERE. I’ll be looking at the Conservatives before May 7th.

In the event of an election defeat, it’s usual for a party leader to fall on their sword more or less immediately. People close to Ed Miliband have already briefed that if he doesn’t win on May 7th he intends to stay put. Obviously the scale of the defeat might have a bearing on this, but whether it’s possible at all is very questionable. While there’s a possibility of entering Downing Street Ed Miliband won’t be going anywhere, but if, in the end, David Cameron stays for a second term, it’s difficult to think how Ed Miliband will be able to cling to his position. The ‘one more heave’ argument isn’t likely to cut too much ice.


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If Ed Miliband resigns after May 7th, these are the most likely leadership candidates…


Age: 45
Political Record: MP for Leigh since 2001, Cabinet Minister 2007-10
Likely to Stand: 100%
For: Media friendly, pugnacious, good looking, popular with the unions
Against: Mid Staffs, only came fourth in the 2010 leadership election, can be chippy, arouses suspicion among Labour MPs, performed badly when he was Shadow Education Secretary
Verdict: Has skillfully promoted his prospects with CLPs and trade unions without appearing disloyal. He is undoubtedly one of the top three favourites but his move to the left may be his undoing.
Odds: 6/1


Age: 46
Political Record: MP since 1997, Cabinet Minister 2008-2010
Likely to Stand: 80%
For: Performed well as Shadow Home Secretary, seen as loyal, media friendly, not seen as right or left, good sense of humour
Against: Ed Balls, schoolmarmish tone in interviews, lack of a Labour party following
Verdict: If she wants it badly enough, she’ll be one of the favourites, but she needs to set out her stall early and define herself.
Odds: 6/1


Age: 36
Political Record: MP for Streatham since 2010, Shadow Business Secretary 2011-
Likely to Stand: 100%
For: Articulate, good looking, has defined himself on the social democratic right,
Against: Lack of experience, seen as too Blairite, perhaps a little too smooth at times, will he appeal to the union vote?
Verdict: Can market himself as a fresh start, but must avoid comparisons with Barack Obama. If he can appeal across the party, he could be a very strong contender.
Odds: 6/1


Age: 48
Political Record: MP since 2005, Cabinet Minister 2007-10, Shadow Chancellor 2011-
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: One of the few big beasts on the Labour front bench, instills fear into Tories, much nicer than his reputation might suggest
Against: Reminds people of the Brown government, couldn’t stand against his wife, seen as too machiavellian
Verdict: Would probably be the best leader, but carries too much baggage and is likely to stand down in favour of Yvette Cooper
Odds: 33/1


Age: 64
Political Record: Deputy Leader of the Labour Party 2007-
Likely to Stand: 20%
For: Ability to annoy Tories, solid record as deputy leader, would get union support, could pitch herself as interim candidate to allow younger candidates to get experience
Against: Age, too much political baggage
Verdict: Unlikely to stand, but could come under pressure. Question is, would she be tempted? I suspect she’d prefer a few months as acting leader, as in 2010.
Odds: 33/1


Age: 40
Political Record: MP for Stoke on Trent since 2010, Shadow Education Secretary since April 2013
Likely to Stand: 50%
For: Media friendly (although won’t be interviewed by me, it seems), can be an original thinker but seems constrained by his portfolio
Against: Indifferent record as Shadow Education Secretary, lack of experience, one or two gaffes, seen as a bit aloof by colleagues, unlikely to get the requisite nominations
Verdict: Competing for the same votes as Chuka Umunna, a competition he’s likely to lose.
Odds: 33/1


Age: 43
Political Record: MP for Leicester West since 2010, Shadow Health Minister since 2010
Likely to Stand: 50%
For: Bright, breezy, funny, good record as Shadow health minister, popular, would represent a break to a new generation
Against: Inexperience, untested outside her area of expertise in health, would struggle to get nominations, fishing in the same pond as Umunna and Hunt
Verdict: May put down a marker for the future, but unlikely to be one of the final three
Odds: 25/1


Age: 42
Political Record: MP for Barnsley since 2011, Shadow Minister since October 2011
Likely to Stand: 75%
For: Military background, track record outside politics, would represent a clean break with the Blair/Brown era
Against: Political virgin, no real Labour party or union constituency, could he get the nominations?
Verdict: If he can get 15% of MPs to nominate him, he could be a strong contender. Might well become a media darling, but does he have the political instincts to be a successful political leader
Odds: 16/1


Age: 49
Political Record: MP for South Shields 2001-10, Cabinet Minister 2006-10
Likely to Stand: 10%
For: Bright, articulate, hasn’t undermined Ed, retained his dignity
Against: Lacks the killer instinct, could one Miliband really succeed another? Would have to win a by-election, unions would do anything to defeat him
Verdict: Very unlikely to stand, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
Odds: 25/1


Age: 44
Political Record: MP for Pontypridd since 2010, Shadow Welsh Secretary since 2012.
Likely to Stand: 30%
For: Superb media performer, doesn’t sound like a politician
Against: Inexperience, would Labour elect a Welsh leader? Could he get the nominations?
Verdict: An unknown quantity to most, Smith is one of the most talented of the 2010 intake. Should stand to put a marker down and get a better job.
Odds: 50/1

UPDATE: Several people have asked why I haven’t included Rachel Reeves. It’s because she categorically ruled herself out of ever standing for leader on my radio show a few weeks ago. And she was so definitive, that I believe her!


This would be a very open contest. Assuming David Miliband decides it’s impossible for him to succeed his brother, the most likely top three are Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna and Andy Burnham. It’s very difficult to predict who would emerge as the winner from that triumvirate, but I’m assuming it would be Andy Burnham as he would get the majority of the union votes. However, if Labour has failed to win the election there may be an appetite for a complete break with the past. Chuka Umunna might therefore pull through, or even possibly Dan Jarvis. Jarvis has the perfect backstory for Labour but is he made for the cut and thrust and hurly burly of modern day political debate? He’s been tested under fire in a military battleground, but in politics he’s a bit of a virgin.

If it were me, I’d be going for Chuka Umunna or Dan Jarvis on the basis that they would represent a new beginning and present the Conservatives with a real problem. Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper are very talented in many ways, but they both have big political downsides which would be gifts to the Conservatives.