With less than 10 minutes to spare before nominations closed, the Shadow Foreign Secretary joined Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips in the next round of the Labour leadership contest.
This was after the four supporters who previously backed Clive Lewis were able to re-cast their nomination, as the former soldier withdrew from the race. Two of his supporters, including Rachael Maskell who was his first public endorsement, announced that they would now rally behind Thornberry.
The former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer, has increased his lead among the parliamentary Labour Party with over 40% of MPs and MEPs backing the member of parliament for Holborn and St Pancras. Ed Milliband is just one of his 89-nominations. The former Labour leader, who contested the 2015 election against David Cameron, claimed that Starmer had “the best experience and vision to deliver 21st century socialism for the country”.
The two northern contenders have also built upon their support. Rebecca Long-Bailey, who was the bookies favourite on Christmas Day, has narrowly held on to her second-place with 33 of her colleagues supporting the Shadow Business Secretary.
However, the shock runner, Lisa Nandy, has continued to grow in popularity among her colleagues. On the opening night, she had received just two nominations, but after a strong performance in the Labour Westminster hustings, her support has grown. When nominations closed the MP for Wigan totalled 31-backers, just two short of Rebecca Long-Bailey’s support.
Unlike all of the other candidates, Jess Phillips has failed to win any additional support from the parliamentary Labour Party. Having surpassed the 22-nominations needed to enter the next round of the leadership contest on Friday night, Phillips will be disappointed that she has only managed to attract one more nomination from the 212 politicians entitled to cast their vote.
Equal to the MP for Birmingham Yardley is Emily Thornberry. The former barrister will undoubtedly appreciate Clive Lewis’ gesture in enabling her to enter the next phase of the leadership race as it helped her surpass nomination threshold and subsequently winning over 23 of her colleagues.
Labour has the historic opportunity to elect their first-ever female leader. Dame Margaret Hodge told The Daily Telegraph that it was “shameful” that Labour has never selected a female leader, especially as the Conservatives selected Margaret Thatcher to lead them into the 1979 election almost 45-years ago. Nevertheless, the bookmakers appear to project that Keir Starmer will prevent Labour from joining all of Britain’s mainstream parties by electing a female leader.
In the concurrent deputy leadership race, only two of the candidates knew that they had passed the first hurdle prior to the deadline day for nominations. The split in support almost mirrors that of the leadership race. Angela Rayner, who was for a long-time touted as a leadership candidate in her own right, tops the bill with 88-nominations. The only Labour MP in Scotland, Ian Murray, has 34-backers.
Three other candidates joined Rayner and Murray by winning over support from their colleagues in a frantic day of internal campaigning. Dawn Butler accumulated 29 nominations, placing her as the third most popular candidate. Rosena Allin Khan, who previously worked as an A&E doctor in Tooting, managed to beat the threshold by one nomination. And the final candidate, Richard Burgon, scrapped through with 22-supporters. The BBC Politics Live programme claimed that the Shadow Justice Secretary had badgered his colleagues outside of the parliamentary Labour Party office in order to pass the first hurdle in the deputy leadership race.
The next stage of the contest is for the five candidates to win at least 5% of support from Labour associations in the 650-parliamentary constituencies or at least three endorsements from affiliate organisations, including two trade unions. The stage must be completed by Valentine’s Day.
The leadership campaign that culminates on the 4th of April will also see seven leadership hustings. Between the 18th of January and the 16th of February, Labour hopefuls will travel to Liverpool, Durham, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Glasgow and of course, London.
The frontrunner, Starmer, has written to party officials complaining that Labour is not visiting each and every region of the United Kingdom. In comparison, the Tories hustings in the summer of 2019 saw now Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and former Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, visit sixteen different locations, including an additional set of online debates. Under the current plans Labour miss out on visiting the East of England, the South East, Yorkshire and Humberside, the East Midlands and Northern Ireland. These are all places that enabled Boris Johnson to re-enter Downing Street, returning the Tories largest majority to the Commons since 1987.