UK Politics

Labour leadership contest: Voting ends

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn ended the last full day of campaigning speaking to supporters

Voting has closed in Labour's leadership contest after Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith made their final pitches for support.

A total of 640,000 people were eligible to vote, an increase of more than 80,000 from the 2015 contest.

The result will be announced in Liverpool on Saturday.

Mr Smith thanked his team and said he had "enjoyed every moment", while Mr Corbyn told supporters: "Together we are very, very strong."

The electorate was made up of 343,500 full members, 168,000 union affiliated supporters and 129,000 registered supporters, who paid £25 each to vote.

Each category has increased in size since last summer's leadership contest, which Mr Corbyn won on a landslide.

Polls carried out have shown a substantial lead for the Islington North MP, who is the overwhelming favourite with bookmakers to retain the leadership.

Mr Smith, however, has said he came top in the only vote held during the campaign, by the GMB union.

The contest has exposed stark divisions between the leadership and most Labour MPs, and both candidates have spoken of the need to bring the party together after the result is announced.

Rule changes

In an "open letter" to Labour supporters, Mr Smith said he had been "inspired" by the members he had encountered during the campaign and was "proud" of the policies he had put forward.

He said the Conservatives were following a "hard-right agenda, which could do untold damage to our country", adding that "unless we have a radical, credible opposition to the Tories then we won't be able to stop them - now or at the next election".

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Owen Smith is a former member of the Labour shadow cabinet

"That's the straight talking, honest truth. I regret the state we are in but I don't regret being the one to say it," he said.

Mr Corbyn visited volunteers who made 10,000 phone calls to party members on the final full day of campaigning.

Mr Corbyn said his supporters had been "reaching out, involving people in politics that matters".

"When we're campaigning we're reaching out to people to say: 'Austerity - doesn't have to be, student fees don't have to be, homelessness doesn't have to be, inequality doesn't have to be, discrimination doesn't have to be'.

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Media captionMr Corbyn's ex-wife Jane Chapman says she voted for Owen Smith in Labour's leadership election

"Whatever the result is, we - all of us - have mounted the most incredible campaign, mobilised a lot of people, and we've actually changed the political discourse in this country."

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who also met supporters on Tuesday, was bullish about Mr Corbyn's chances, saying: "I think we're going to win."

Voting closed at midday on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, another battle - over the party's internal rules - took place at a meeting of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee.

Deputy leader Tom Watson wants to change the rules so the shadow cabinet is elected by MPs, while Mr Corbyn backs a wider review of party democracy which could include a stronger role for trade unions.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tom Watson said Labour "has to put the band back together"

Members were unable to reach a compromise after eight hours of talks.

Mr Watson said the proposal could help Labour "put the band back together" for a possible early election.

A proposal to decide on the details of the plan ahead of Saturday's leadership election result was voted down, by 16 votes to 15.

Mr Corbyn was among those to vote against it, but did agree to further talks with Mr Watson and other senior figures before the next NEC meeting this weekend, at the party's conference in Liverpool.

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