UK Labour leadership race takes final shape

  • AFP, London
  • Updated: Jun 15, 2015 23:31 IST

Four candidates are in the race to lead Britain's opposition Labour Party after its former leader Ed Miliband resigned in the wake of last month's devastating election defeat, the party said on Monday.

Shadow health minister Andy Burnham, a member of former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown's government, is currently the bookie's favourite.

He has vowed to be "a leader whose voice can carry into all the nations and regions of the UK" following the collapse of support in the party's traditional heartlands, particularly in Scotland, where the SNP triumphed.

Reformer Liz Kendall, 44, is second favourite, despite having only been elected to parliament in 2010.

She has been critical of the party's shift to the left under Miliband, saying "fundamental reform is essential to the future survival of our party."

Yvette Cooper has long been tipped as a potential leader, but her close ties with leading figures associated with Labour's recent losses - including her husband Ed Balls - could count against her.

Veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn completes the line-up after a successful last-minute attempt to secure the support of at least 35 of Labour's MPs -- 15% of the total.

Labour Party representatives, members and affiliates will decide the result, which will be announced at a special conference on September 12.

The rules have been changed since the last leadership election to give less influence to trade unions in deciding the outcome.

Some party supporters have also asked for the possibility to change leader before the next general election in 2020 in case the winner of the current contest fails to measure up to the task.

The party now has only 232 MPs after it was all but wiped out in Scotland by Scottish nationalists and lost voters in its northern working-class strongholds during a general election defeat for which Miliband took responsibility.

The party is now locked in debate about whether it should maintain its leftward shift, or return to the centrist platform of former leader and three-time election winner Tony Blair, and how to counter the image of the party's leadership being dominated by its London-based members.

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