More than half-a-million Labour Party members, affiliates and registered supporters will start receiving their ballot papers on Monday morning, with polling closing on April 2 and the next leader announced two days later. The vast majority of ballots will be sent out via email and therefore can be returned instantly, with party insiders expecting up to two-thirds of eligible voters to take part. Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer remains the clear favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn, having won the support of most Labour MPs as well as 60 percent of grassroots parties.
Speaking on BBC’s Today programme later this morning, he will promise to “unite” the fragmented party, which suffered a disastrous general election result only two months ago in December.
But Ms Long-Bailey, the “Corbyn continuity candidate”, is now under huge pressure following reports of deepening cracks emerging in her leadership bid.
Politico has reported there have been “deep divisions” inside the camp of the Shadow Business Secretary around how best to attack Sir Keir over the past few weeks in a desperate attempt to reel him in.
Some aides wanted her to go on the attack against the leadership frontrunner in the first televised debate on BBC Newsnight earlier this month.
They felt a televised attack on Sir Keir’s much-publicised Remain credentials, suggesting he was partly responsible for the loss of Labour’s Northern heartlands, could have been the “game-changer” that could have blown the contest wide open.
But several others from within her camp – including Ms Long-Bailey herself – relented on such an aggressive tactic.
One Labour source told Politico: “The feeling was that we’re all going to need to work together after this is over.”
This is the latest blow to Ms Long-Bailey’s bid to replace Mr Corbyn as Labour leader after claims she is heading for a humiliating third place finish.
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She has been heavily endorsed by both Mr Corbyn and outgoing Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell over recent weeks.
But the Mail On Sunday has reported party she is trailing behind Lisa Nandy and Sir Keir in a private survey of those entitled to vote in the Labour leadership contest.
A Labour source told the newspaper: “It may be that Keir’s Leftie bank manager-style campaign is unstoppable, but it’s embarrassing for Long Bailey if she can’t beat Nandy given all the advantages she had.
“She’s been Corbyn’s anointed heir for years but it looks as though she’s blown that.”
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Ms Long-Bailey’s camp has denied she is trailing in third place, claiming she is actually closing the gap on Sir Keir in first position.
But the Mail on Sunday has also reported the Shadow Business Secretary’s leadership campaign is falling apart so badly she is now being shunned by close ally and friend, deputy leadership candidate candidate Angela Rayner.
She is said to be cutting back on appearances with Ms Long Bailey over her weakening campaign.
Last week, Mr Corbyn said he would join Ms Long-Bailey’s shadow cabinet after she guaranteed him a role should she win the contest.
Mr Corbyn said although he finally acknowledged the party had catastrophically lost the election in December, he still felt he had a strong role in Ms Long-Bailey’s cabinet.
When asked if he would join a cabinet team led by Ms Long-Bailey, Mr Corbyn said: “I’ll see what it is, I didn’t know I was going to be offered anything.
“I’m happy to serve the party in any capacity.
“My whole life has been about making my contribution in Parliament, holding the Government to account and for speaking up in policy areas.”
Ms Long-Bailey had previously said she would give the outgoing leader a top job in her Cabinet.
The Labour leadership hopeful told supporters at a rally she would hand Mr Corbyn a key position if she were to win the contest.
The Shadow Business Secretary said: “I’d like to but I don’t know whether he wants to do it because he said not.
“It’s up to him. I love him so.”
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