Emily Thornberry declares she will stand to be Labour leader

Move by shadow foreign secretary sees the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn begin

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has declared that she will stand to become leader of the Labour Party in a move that fires the starting gun in the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

Ms Thornberry, who is from the “soft left” of the party, revealed that she warned the leadership weeks ago that backing a Brexit election would be an act of “catastrophic political folly”.

The party suffered its worst defeat in the election since 1935 with the loss of 59 seats.

Writing in the Guardian, she argued that she already had a record of having "pummelled" Boris Johnson when standing in for Mr Corbyn at prime minister's questions in the House of Commons.


The 59-year-old MP for Islington South and Finsbury blamed pro-Leave colleagues in the shadow cabinet for backing what turned out to be a disastrous general election.

Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, also effectively threw his hat into the ring in a radio interview where he stressed his working-class background and his desire to pursue Mr Corbyn’s anti-austerity agenda.

Mr Starmer, former director of public prosecutions, said he was “seriously considering” running to succeed Mr Corbyn after Labour’s disastrous defeat in last week’s election.

Yvette Cooper, former cabinet minister under Gordon Brown and chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, also told the BBC on Thursday she would "reflect" over the Christmas break whether to have another tilt at the leadership.

Increased membership

Since the election its membership has soared by 24,000, according to party insiders, amid a flood of newcomers seeking to influence the result of the imminent leadership race.

Mr Starmer is regarded as a potential frontrunner in the contest to replace Mr Corbyn, but he is seen by some in the party as too much of a metropolitan centrist.

But in an interview with Radio 4's Today programme he stressed his working-class roots, saying his father had worked in a factory and his mother was a nurse who suffered from a rare disease from an early age and needed constant NHS treatment.

“I had never been in any workplace other than a factory until I went into university,” he said. “I’d never been in an office.”

Mr Starmer was blamed by some northern MPs for pushing Mr Corbyn into embracing a second EU referendum, a policy that they believed cost the party seats in northern Leave-voting seats.

He said that he had been sidelined during the election campaign by Mr Corbyn’s team and that the party had failed to successfully “knock down” Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” slogan.

The race to succeed Mr Corbyn will begin in earnest in January and is due to conclude in late March. Mr Starmer will face strong opposition from Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow business secretary, who is Mr Corbyn’s preferred heir.

The betting odds currently favour Ms Long-Bailey to take over from Mr Corbyn. Other potential candidates include Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019