At least six weeks before leader is named as party reflects on how to connect with voters
Labour faces a summer of uncertainty as a long list of potential successors line up in the hope of following Ed Miliband as leader of the party.
Officials have yet to decide a formal timetable to replace Miliband, who led his party to a humiliating defeat last week. The party was effectively wiped out in Scotland and losses in England allowed the Tories to be elected with a slim majority.
But the process to elect a new leader will take at least six weeks and many are pressing for a longer period to let the party reflect on what it needs to do to recover and choose the right leader in time for party conference in September.
Yesterday, Tottenham MP David Lammy became the first potential candidate to express an interest in taking over at the top of the party, positioning himself as the “London candidate” – the party remains strong in the English capital, with one in four members based there.
However, it is understood former Health Secretary Andy Burnham, who has been installed as an early front-runner, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna are all preparing to enter the ring. Other serious contenders are shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall and former paratrooper officer Dan Jarvis.
Yesterday, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced he would not stand, insisting: “I don’t have the right qualities to be leader.”
Johnson, often touted as a potential Labour leader, again ruled out taking the top job and urged the party to have a “proper rethink” to resolve “deep problems” in what he described as a ten-year task.
He spoke after former cabinet minister Lord Hutton urged Labour to skip a generation of MPs in its search for a leader, and pick a younger challenger who can make an electoral threat to the Tories.
Johnson said: “This is a kind of ten-year task as well, this is a job for the future. We need to have a proper rethink about where we’re going as a party, not just imagine that it was because Ed Miliband was leader or because the way he ate a bacon sandwich or whatever was the problem.
“It’s a much deeper problem I think we have to resolve.”
He added: “The issue of aspiration in people’s lives, we can no longer relate to them as a party of aspiration. And that was one of the big successes that won us three elections.”
Johnson criticised Labour’s strategy of talking down its 13 years in government under Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown, and suggested the party must embrace those years.
Lammy said in a broadcast interview he would be “taking soundings” about entering the race himself. He said: “I’ve been in the Parliamentary Labour Party for 15 years and certainly for people like me it’s absolutely time to step up into a leadership role.
“Now, I have been thinking very, very carefully and indicating that I want to seek the Labour nomination for London mayor.
“But actually, putting together that team, now that we have a proper race to lead the party, of course, me and others are looking very carefully at who is the best leader, and if colleagues come to me over the coming days and say, ‘look, David, why don’t you put your hat in’, I will look at it.”
But privately, senior figures are concerned that a “metropolitan leader” will hasten the demise of the party.
One defeated former MP told Scotland on Sunday: “If we have somebody like Chuka, who will appeal to the party in London we will lose everything north of the Wash like we have lost in Scotland.
“We’re under serious pressure in the north of England and Midlands from Ukip and we need to have a leader who can appeal right across the country.”
Labour’s National Executive Committee will meet early next week to set a timetable for a contest to replace both Miliband and deputy leader Harriet Harman, who will quit that post after steering the party through the interim.
LABOUR LEADERSHIP: THE CONTENDERS
Former Blairite, now champion of the left. The Liverpudlian (middle) is frontrunner but questions over the Mid-Staffordshire hospital scandal when he was health secretary could be a problem.
Half of Labour’s power couple until husband Ed Balls lost his seat. Seen as a likely victor and popular choice but some doubt she has charisma to succeed.
Probably the leading Blairite candidate (bottom). Elected in 2010 following a successful business career. Critics argue that he has no guiding philosophy, and there are concerns over whether he could appeal across the whole of the UK.
Has an impressive back story as a former officer in the Parachute Regiment (top). Would be a clean-break candidate but no real front bench experience.
Highly capable, shadow education secretary wants Labour to move back to centre ground from left. Seen as too right-wing by many in the party who also do not like his private education.
Extremely competent shadow minister for care. An outsider, but seen as someone with appeal across the party.
A leading voice for Labour on social issues. He would also have the backing of the powerful London party. Faces doubts about his ability to handle pressure.