With a week left for the Labour leadership candidates to gain enough nominations from constituency parties and affiliates to go through to the next round of votes, the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn is hotting up.
Despite the backing of Momentum, early favourite Rebecca Long-Bailey may fail to gather enough momentum (sorry) to beat Keir Starmer, especially after a national Ipsos MORI survey this week found her in fourth place in a “making a good Prime Minister” poll of the public this week.
Long-Bailey has been dubbed the “continuity Corbyn” candidate, but how great are the differences between the candidates and their politics?
This week every contender for the Labour leadership and deputy leadership signed up to a series of pledges issued by the renationalisation campaign We Own It. The pledges repeat many of the promises made in Labour’s most recent manifesto, including nationalising public utilities, ending NHS privatisation, returning schools to local government control, allowing bus services to again be run by councils and opposing profit-making in the criminal justice system.
The candidates all pay lip service to Jeremy Corbyn’s last election manifesto and many of the policies therein which prove popular in polling. So what does their voting record tell us? How have they voted on some of the big issues on which their leadership appeal may be judged?
How have the Labour leadership hopefuls voted on major issues?
All the Labour leadership hopefuls have expressed a desire to reunite a Labour party that has been perceived by voters as riven by divisions, but how close are they on key issues of concern?
This is what their voting record tells us – and on the vast majority of issues, as you would expect, the candidates have voted very similarly. With some memorable exceptions.
The Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union got through to this round with by far the most votes from colleagues – 86 Labour MPs and MEPs nominated Sir Keir.
Before he became an MP, Keir Starmer was a lawyer specialising in human rights and was Director of Public Prosecutions between 2008 and 2013. Sir Keir Starmer’s voting record begins in 2015 when he became MP for the central London seat of Holborn and St Pancras, succeeding the long-serving Frank Dobson.
Like all the candidates he voted for triggering Article 50 in the third reading of the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill on February 8th 2017. This began the process of the UK leaving the EU.
As shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer has towed the party line on Brexit while having a large role in holding the Conservatives to account over their handling of leaving the EU and its impact on the UK. As part of his role he has made the case for a second referendum and against Conservative EU Withdrawal policies that are damaging to the economy.
Starmer voted against Conservative Brexit deals and for stopping a no deal Brexit. He also voted for amendments to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal to protect democracy, accountability to parliament, workers’ rights and protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals abroad.
Sir Keir has voted against half a decade of Conservative proposals for the NHS.
Sir Keir voted against military action in Syria in 2015, including airstrikes against Islamic State. Leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn said the action would “almost certainly” result in the death of innocent people but gave Labour MPs a free vote.
In 2016 Sir Keir voted against an SNP motion to holding an investigation into the contrast between public statements and private actions leading up to the Iraq war when Tony Blair was PM.
Jeremy Corbyn offered Labour MPs a free vote when the House of Commons voted to renew Trident in 2016. Sir Keir voted to renew Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
Starmer generally voted for higher benefits for those unable to work due to illness or disability, and against a reduction in spending on welfare.
During the 2015 Labour leadership contest, interim leader Harriet Harman decided that Labour should abstain at the second reading of the benefits cap bill and instead make an amendment. Although 48 MPs defied the whip, Keir Starmer and most of the candidates abstained. However all of the current leadership candidates did vote against the bill in its final legislative stage, but the earlier abstention caused a controversy during the Labour leadership election of Jeremy Corbyn.
Keir Starmer consistently voted for equal rights, including crucial votes on gay rights, same sex marriage and abortion to be legalised in certain circumstances in Northern Ireland.
Sir Keir has always voted against harsher measures against immigrants and asylum seekers. He voted against stronger enforcement of immigration rules including voting to ban immigration detention of those who are pregnant and for guidance on detention of vulnerable people.
Sir Keir Starmer has generally voted for measures to combat climate change.
In December 2015 Starmer, as did the other leadership candidates, voted against greater restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas in National Parks, the Broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty, World Heritage sites, and near points where water is abstracted for domestic and food production purposes.
Starmer has consistently voted for a publicly owned railway system.
He was the only current leadership candidate to defy the party whip in 2016 and vote against phase 1 of the HS2 rail link, which was between London and Birmingham. When Phase 2 of HS2-Birmingham to Crewe was voted for in 2019, Sir Keir abstained.
In a free vote against expanding the third runway at Heathrow he voted against the proposal in 2018.
Previous leadership elections
In the 2015 leadership election, Starmer backed Andy Burnham.
In the 2017 failed leadership challenged by Owen Smith, Starmer backed Smith against Corbyn.
MP for Salford and Eccles since 2015 and the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rebecca Long-Bailey was nominated by 33 colleagues. Supported by Momentum, she has stressed her close work with Jeremy Corbyn on the manifesto for the last election during her leadership campaign.
Like Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey has towed the Labour party line on Brexit, including backing Theresa May triggering Article 50 and voting against Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and for amendments to mitigate its damage. She has not made the case for a second referendum however. She voted for amendments to protect the rights of EU citizens currently in the UK as well as workers rights, refugee children in Boris Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Bill, as did the other leadership contenders.
Rebecca Long-Bailey has also voted against Tory proposals for the NHS, including in the last Queen’s Speech plans to extend GP commissioning while continuing to cut admin costs.
Long-Bailey voted against military action in Syria in 2015, including airstrikes against Islamic State. Jeremy Corbyn said the action would “almost certainly” result in the death of innocent people but had given MPs a free vote.
In 2016 Rebecca Long-Bailey abstained in an SNP motion to hold an investigation into the contrast between public statements and private actions leading up to the Iraq war when Tony Blair was PM.
Jeremy Corbyn gave MPs a free vote when the House of Commons voted to renew Trident in 2016. Rebecca Long-Bailey voted against measures to replace the four Trident nuclear missile submarines.
Rebecca Long-Bailey generally voted for higher benefits for those unable to work due to illness or disability and against a reduction in spending on welfare.
During the 2015 Labour leadership contest, interim leader Harriet Harman decided that Labour should abstain at the second reading of the benefits cap bill as the most likely course to succeed would be to make an amendment. Long-Bailey was one of 48 MPs who defied the whip, unlike all the other leadership candidates who abstained. All of the candidates voted against the bill in its final legislative stage.
She has consistently voted for laws to promote equality, women’s rights and human rights, including voting to legalise abortion in certain circumstances in Northern Ireland as soon as the act comes into force; to enable two persons who are not of the same sex to be eligible to form a civil partnership in Northern Ireland; to ensure women and protected groups are not disproportionally impacted by tax and benefit changes.
Long-Bailey has always voted against harsher measures against immigrants and asylum seekers, including voting to ban immigration detention of those who are pregnant and for guidance on detention of vulnerable people.
Long-Bailey has largely voted for measures to combat climate change, including financial incentives for low carbon emission electricity generation methods.
Rebecca Long-Bailey voted against greater restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in 2015.
Rebecca Long-Bailey has consistently voted for a publicly-owned railway system.
Unlike the other contenders, she has voted for the HS2 rail link at all stages.
In a free vote against expanding the third runway at Heathrow she abstained in 2018.
Previous leadership elections
In 2015 Rebecca Long-Bailey supported Jeremy Corbyn and always remained loyal, supporting him against leadership challenger Owen Smith in 2017.
Nominated by 30 of her fellow MPs, Lisa Nandy has a longer voting record than the first two candidates mentioned. The MP for Wigan since 2010 was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Tessa Jowell from 2010 to 2012, Shadow Charities Minister from 2012 to 2015 and Shadow Energy Secretary from 2015 until she resigned in 2016.
When Lisa Nandy resigned along with other colleagues in an orchestrated coup to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn, she was approached to stand against the Labour leader by some colleagues. Nandy declined to stand and instead served as co-chair of Owen Smith’s campaign team. She then insisted that she would not return to the front bench.
Lisa Nandy voted in favour of triggering Article 50 to begin the Brexit process but, despite supporting a soft withdrawal deal, voted against many of the deals on offer.
Unlike the other leadership candidates, Lisa Nandy did eventually back Boris Johnson’s Brexit Bill at second reading. Though she then voted against the Government’s fast-track motion for the Brexit legislation – meaning the Bill did not progress. She also voted against the eventual deal and for all the amendments to protect human rights and scrutiny in Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Bill.
Lisa Nandy has voted in favour of a closer relationship with the EU post-Brexit, backed a UK-wide Customs Union with the EU and supported the rights of EU nationals and refugee children. She also voted against leaving without a deal.
Lisa Nandy has voted against Tory NHS reforms and privatisation measures and instead has been in favour of cross-party talks on reforming healthcare.
Libya, Iraq and Syria
Having voted in 2011 in favour of enforcing NATO’s no-fly zone over Libya and in 2014 in favour of UK air strikes in Iraq to support Iraqi forces’ efforts against ISIL (Islamic State), Nandy voted against any such military intervention in Syria.
In November 2016, when the SNP tabled a motion calling for parliament to hold to account former Prime Minister Tony Blair for misleading the House over the Iraq war, Nandy abstained.
Lisa Nandy voted against replacing the four Trident nuclear missile submarines.
Lisa Nandy generally voted for paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability. She voted against reducing spending on welfare benefits and against the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition measures to reduce the amount spent on support for those who find it hard to afford council tax.
When Harriet Harman was interim Labour leader, she decided that Labour should abstain and propose an amendment rather than vote against the government at the second reading of 2015’s benefit cap bill, although 48 MPs defied the whip to vote against the government, it passed by 308 to 124 votes. Harman’s amendment was defeated too.
Lisa Nandy was on maternity leave at the time so abstained from the vote but spoke out against it. All of the candidates voted against at the final legislative stage in the Commons.
Lisa Nandy has voted for laws to promote equality and human rights. She voted to legalise abortion in certain circumstances in Northern Ireland, as well as same-sex marriage there. She too voted for an assessment of the impact of Government policies on women.
Lisa Nandy too voted against a harsher immigration enforcement regime and against detention of pregnant and vulnerable people on immigration grounds.
Nandy generally voted for measures to prevent climate change and for financial incentives for low carbon emission energy production.
In January 2015, Lisa Nandy voted for environmental permits to be required for hydraulic fracturing activities. In February that year she was absent for a vote on fracking safeguards.
Yet in December 2015, Nandy voted against greater restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas in National Parks, the Broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty, World Heritage sites, and near points where water is abstracted for domestic and food production purposes.
Lisa Nandy has voted in favour of the public owning Britain’s railway system.
In a vote to pass phase 1 of HS2 – the bit from London to the West Midlands, Labour whipped in support of the legislation and Nandy voted for it. She abstained in a vote on phase 2 of HS2 – the bit from the West Midlands to Crewe.
She voted against a third runway for Heathrow in a free vote on the issue.
Previous leadership elections
Lisa Nandy supported Andy Burnham in 2015 and Owen Smith in his challenge on Jeremy Corbyn in 2017, helping to run his campaign.
Emily Thornberry scraped through to the current round with 22 nominations from colleagues. The Shadow Foreign Secretary has the longest voting record. She has been MP for Jeremy Corbyn’s neighbouring constituency of Islington South and Finsbury since 2005 when Labour were still in power. She served in Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench as Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs since 2016 and Shadow First Secretary of State since 2017.
Emily Thornberry voted for Article 50 to be triggered but against the subsequent Tory Brexit deals, including voting to stop a no-deal exit from the EU. She has also supported measures for further integration with the EU and voted to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK and the amendments to the recent EU Withdrawal Bill supported by the other leadership candidates.
Thornberry was a public supporter of a second Brexit referendum and had argued that Labour should campaign to Remain.
Emily Thornberry has consistently voted against measures to allow more privatization of the NHS and against Conservative reforms. She has also campaigned for cross-party talks on reforming the NHS.
Libya, Iraq and Syria
Thornberry voted in favour of measures to establish a NATO no-fly zone over Libya in 2011. Like Lisa Nandy, she backed UK involvement only if the UN voted in favour of such action during the Libyan civil war.
In 2014 she also voted in favour of UK air strikes in Iraq to support Iraqi forces’ efforts against ISIL (IS).
In votes in 2015 for actions during the Syrian civil war, Emily Thornberry, like her fellow candidates, voted against air stirkes against ISIL.
Emily Thornberry was absent for several votes on whether there should be an investigation into the Government’s actions leading to the Iraq War of 2003.
She did vote for an inquiry to be held in 2009, and against a motion for an inquiry being held by an independent committee of Privy Counsellors.
In November 2016, when the SNP tabled a motion calling for parliament to hold to account former Prime Minister Tony Blair for misleading the House over the Iraq war, Thornberry abstained.
Thornberry voted against replacing Trident.
Emily Thornberry has voted for paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.
She voted against reducing spending on welfare benefits and against the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition measures to reduce the amount spent on support for those who find it hard to afford council tax.
When Interim Labour leader Harriet Harman whipped Labour to abstain and propose an amendment rather than vote against the government at the second reading of 2015’s benefit cap bill, although 48 MPs defied the whip to vote against the government, Thornberry abstained. All of the candidates voted against at the final legislative stage in the Commons.
Like all her fellow leadership hopefuls, Emily Thornberry has voted for laws to promote equality and human rights and to legalise abortion in certain circumstances in Northern Ireland.
Like her fellow leadership contenders, Emily Thornberry has voted against measures to make immigration rules and enforcement harsher. She voted against detaining pregnant and vulnerable immigrants.
Emily Thornberry has generally voted for measures to prevent global warming. Though when Labour was in government, she voted against the Government having power to set greenhouse gas performance standards on power stations in 2008 and against the Government signing up to the goals of the 10:10 campaign in 2009.
In 2015 Emily Thornberry voted for firms to require an environmental permit for hydraulic fracturing activities. But in two votes since, she voted against great regulation of fracking in the UK.
Emily Thornberry has voted for public ownerships of the railways as well as lower fares.
Thornberry voted for the first phase of HS2 – between London and the West Midlands when Labour whipped in support of the legislation. She abstained in a vote on the second phase – from the West Midlands to Crewe.
Emily Thornberry voted against a third runway at Heathrow.
Previous leadership elections
Thornberry backed Jeremy Corbyn in both the 2015 leadership election and the 2017 challenge by Owen Smith.
All above leadership voting records can be found on theyworkforyou.com.