The battle for Labour’s soul after the election meltdown intensified today – with Jeremy Corbyn’s allies touting Rebecca Long-Bailey.
John McDonnell lavished praise on the shadow business secretary, while she was also endorsed by fellow frontbencher Richard Burgon.
But backbenchers Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips have also revealed they are considering a tilt at the top job after a humiliated Mr Corbyn admitted he must quit.
Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry are also thought to be in the frame, although a former minister warned that the ‘architects’ of the party’s dire Brexit policy should not take over.
Tonight it emerged the next Labour leader might not be in place until March following a leadership election process that is likely to begin in January.
Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby has reportedly written to the Labour National Executive Committee (NEC), saying Jeremy Corbyn has asked for a leadership election.
BBC political correspondent, Nick Eardley, tweeted that this process is likely to start on January 7, the day after n NEC meeting.
Of the three female MPs who recently joined the chase, Long-Bailey has odds of 5/2 to become next leader, while Nandy is at 4/1 and Phillips is on 5/1.
The battle for Labour’s soul after the election meltdown intensified today – with Jeremy Corbyn’s allies touting Rebecca Long-Bailey (pictured at an election debate last week)
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said she was ‘seriously thinking about’ running for the Labour leadership
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured out for a bike ride in Islington today) has doubled down on his support for Labour’s wildly left-wing policies despite the party’s spectacular election defeat
Shadow minister Clive Lewis posted a message on Twitter today suggesting that voters were responsible for making the wrong decision in the election
Caroline Flint – who was ousted from her Don Valley seat on Thursday – insisted the next leader cannot be ‘Corbyn without a beard’.
The jockeying came as Jeremy Corbyn was branded ‘in denial’ for arguing that his hard-Left platform was not to blame for Labour’s worst performance since the 1930s.
Ken Livingstone claims Jeremy Corbyn did not make ANY mistakes in election disaster
Ken Livingstone said Jeremy Corbyn, whose party was dramatically put to the sword by the Tories, was persecuted for being a ‘genuine Socialist’
Jeremy Corbyn did not make any major mistakes in the catastrophic election campaign and simply fell victim to a ‘vile smear campaign’ over anti-Semitism, Ken Livingstone claimed today.
The former London mayor said Mr Corbyn, whose party was dramatically put to the sword by the Tories, was persecuted for being a ‘genuine Socialist’.
Mr Livingstone dismissed fury among the Jewish community at the wave of abuse within Labour’s ranks after Mr Corbyn became leader, insisting only ‘one 20th of one per cent’ of members had ‘tweeted or said something anti-Semitic’.
And he said he was ‘glad’ Jewish MP Luciana Berger quit the party and joined the Lib Dems after being hounded by racists, as she was not ‘really Labour’.
The extraordinary defence, in an interview on Sky news, came after Mr Corbyn was humiliated in the election on December 12, as Boris Johnson swept Labour’s northern strongholds to win a majority of 80.
Instead he said media attacks and Brexit were responsible for the rout and 80-strong Tory majority.
Ms Long-Bailey has emerged as an early favourite, receiving endorsements from shadow justice secretary Mr Burgon and praise from Mr McDonnell.
However, Wigan MP Lisa Nandy revealed she is ‘seriously thinking about’ whether to launch a bid – and could be backed by moderates.
‘I am seriously thinking about it,’ she told the BBC’s Andre Marr Show. ‘The reason I am thinking about it is because we have just had the most shattering defeat, where you really felt in towns like mine, that the earth was shaking.’
Mr McDonnell apologised for the party’s catastrophic election result, saying ‘I own this disaster’.
The shadow chancellor said ‘if anyone’s to blame, it’s me, full stop’, but also cited Brexit and the media for having ‘demonised’ the Labour leader ahead of the dismal defeat.
‘It’s on me, let’s take it on the chin, I own this disaster so I apologise to all those wonderful Labour MPs who have lost their seats and who worked so hard,’ Mr McDonnell told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
Mr McDonnell predicted the leadership change will take place in eight to 10 weeks, tipping Ms Long-Bailey as having the ability to be ‘a brilliant leader’.
He also praised shadow cabinet ministers Angela Rayner and Dawn Butler.
But he made clear he ‘prefers others’ to backbencher Jess Phillips, who has also thrown her hat into the ring. And he dodged saying what he thought of Ms Nandy.
Meanwhile, Mrs Thornberry angrily denied accusations she branded northern Brexit voters ‘stupid’ as Labour tore itself to pieces over the election disaster.
Ms Fint insisted no-one who had a hand in the muddled Brexit policy, which called for a renengotation followed by a second referendum in which Mr Corbyn would stay neutral, should be in the frame to take charge.
Naming shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and Mrs Thornberry, who both represent Remain-backing central London seats, she said: ‘Keir Starmer led us to a policy that didn’t listen to Leave voices who urged caution.
‘He led us down the path of a second referendum.’
Mrs Thornberry angrily denied the allegation from Ms Flint as a ‘total and utter lie’
Caroline Flint – who was ousted from her Don Valley seat in the rout – warned that the next leader cannot be ‘Corbyn without a beard’
On Mrs Thornberry, Ms Flint said: ‘She said to one of my colleagues, ”I am glad my constituents are not as stupid as yours.”
‘I am sorry, that is not acceptable.’
However, Mrs Thornberry flatly denied the claim.
‘This is a total and utter lie. I have never said this to anyone, nor anything like it, and I hope needless to say, it is not something I would ever think,’ she said.
She added: ‘Whatever out differences inside Labour, we should not sink into that gutter.’
It is understood Mrs Thornberry is consulting lawyers, with sources close to the Islington MP saying that while Ms Flint was ‘very upset’ the allegation was ‘not acceptable’.
Mr Corbyn has doubled down on his support for Labour’s wildly left-wing policies despite the party’s spectacular election defeat.
Emily Thornberry (pictured left with Jeremy Corbyn at the Islington count on Friday morning) issued an angry denial after being accused of swiping that northern Brexit voters are ‘stupid’
The outgoing opposition leader grudgingly shouldered some personal responsibility for the catastrophic collapse in votes, but used two newspaper columns to pin the blame on Brexit and the media.
Labour suffered its worst performance at the polls since 1935 after Boris Johnson reduced the party’s Red Wall of traditionally northern strongholds to rubble.
While accepting the result was ‘desperately disappointing’, Mr Corbyn said he was ‘proud’ of the radical anti-rich and spending spree platform he stood on during the campaign.
Insisting his tax-hiking government blueprint was popular, he wrote in the Observer: ‘I am proud that on austerity, on corporate power, on inequality and on the climate emergency we have won the arguments and rewritten the terms of political debate.
‘But I regret that we did not succeed in converting that into a parliamentary majority for change.