House of Commons Library

Leadership Elections: Labour Party

Published Monday, September 26, 2016

This Commons Library Briefing Paper sets out the current rules for the election of the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

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This note sets out the current rules for the election of the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. It explains the change of rules in 2014 (from a system where MPs and MEPs, individual Labour Party members and members of affiliated organisations each commanded a third of the total vote to the current system).  It also sets out previous versions of the rules.  It includes details of the results of Labour Leadership elections since 1922.

Leadership election rules

The process for electing a Leader of the Labour Party has two parts.

First, candidates must gain the nomination of the appropriate number of members of the combined membership of the Commons Parliamentary Labour Party and European Parliamentary Party.

The threshold is different depending whether the election follows a vacancy or whether the election is challenging an incumbent leader.

Second, Labour Party members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters are then able to vote in the election. Votes are cast by individual members and are counted on the basis of one person one vote.

The current rules are set out in Chapter 4, Clause II of the Labour Party Rule Book 2016.

2016 leadership election

The Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, faced a vote of no confidence from members of the Parliamentary Labour Party on 28 June 2016. 172 Members of Parliament supported the motion of no confidence, and 40 voted in support of the Labour Leader.  40 voted against.  There were 4 spoilt ballots and 14 did not vote.

There is no provision for the removal of a Labour Leader through a no confidence vote within the Labour Party rules. However, following the vote there was speculation that a leadership challenge would be launched. On 11 July 2016 Angela Eagle, MP for Wallasey, announced she would formally challenge Corbyn for the leadership. On the morning of 12 July 2016 Owen Smith, MP for Pontypridd, also announced he would stand against Jeremy Corbyn.

Following the initial hustings of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday 18 July the formal nomination process opened. The following day Angela Eagle announced that she was withdrawing from the contest.

At the close of nominations for Labour MPs and MEPs, Owen Smith had received nominations from 162 of 231 MPs and 10 Labour's 20 MEPs.

There was some debate about whether Jeremy Corbyn would automatically be on the ballot paper, as the incumbent leader, or whether he too would need to seek the required number of nominations from the Commons and European Parliamentary parties. On the evening of 11 July 2016 Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee debated and voted on the issue. They ruled that an incumbent leader would automatically appear on the ballot paper.

The timetable for the election was agreed by the NEC with the result announced on 24 September 2016 at a special leadership conference in Liverpool, the day before the Party’s annual autumn conference.

Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as leader of the Labour Party; he won 313,209 votes (61.8% of the vote), compared to Owen Smith’s 193,229.


Commons Briefing papers SN03938

Authors: Neil Johnston; Lucinda Maer

Topic: Political parties

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