UK Politics

Rules for Labour leadership election explained

The race is on to become the next leader of the Labour Party.

Who is standing in the contest?

There are five contenders. Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, his brother and former Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, former Schools Secretary Ed Balls, former Health Secretary Andy Burnham and backbencher Diane Abbott, the UK's first female black MP.

How did they become candidates?

Candidates could not simply declare they wanted to stand. Each had to be nominated by 33 Labour MPs in order to get onto the ballot paper. Three candidates - David Miliband, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls - secured sufficient nominations well before the deadline last month but Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott only passed the threshold on the day itself. Another intended candidate, MP John McDonnell, pulled out of the race and encouraged his backers to transfer their support to Diane Abbott to make sure she qualified.

How long will the contest take?

Voting will take place between 1 and 22 September with the winner being announced on the first day of the party's conference in Manchester on 25 September. Party officials believe the contest should not be rushed as Labour must have as full a debate as possible on its future direction. The candidates have been setting out their stalls in a series of hustings up and down the country.

Who can vote in the contest?

Labour MPs, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), party members and members of affiliated organisations, such as trades unions and socialist societies, are all entitled to vote in the election. Nearly a million people voted in the last contested election, in 1994. Anyone who joins the Labour Party by 8 September is eligible to vote.

How is the vote conducted?

The vote is broken down into three sections, known as an electoral college. Labour MPs and MEPs, party members and members of affiliate organisations are all balloted individually and the results from the separate categories each make up a third of the final result. In 1994, Tony Blair won the backing of 60% of MPs/MEPs, 58% of party members and 52% of affiliate organisations. His nearest challenger, John Prescott, got 19%, 24% and 28.4% of the votes respectively. The share of the vote from each category is divided proportionately to get the final result. Mr Blair won the contest with a 57% share of the overall vote. In Labour's 2007 deputy leadership election, it was decided that no-one could win outright with less than 50% of the vote. The candidates with the least votes were successively eliminated and their second preferences distributed to other candidates until Harriet Harman won in the fifth round.

Who is in charge in the meantime?

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman is acting leader until the election takes place. She is taking centre stage at prime minister's questions until then and has led the opposition's response at other big Parliamentary occasions such as the Budget.

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