2007 Labour Party leadership election (UK)
The 2007 Labour Party leadership election was formally triggered on 10 May 2007 by the resignation of Tony Blair, Labour Leader since the previous leadership contest on 21 July 1994. At the same time that Blair resigned, John Prescott resigned as Deputy Leader, triggering a concurrent election for the deputy leadership.
Informal campaigning had been ongoing ever since Blair announced in 2004 that he would not be fighting a fourth general election as leader. Pressure for a timetable eventually led him to announce on 7 September 2006 that he would step down within a year. Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) met on 13 May 2007 to decide a timetable. Nominations opened on 14 May and closed at 12:30 UTC+1 on 17 May 2007.
Blair said he expected Gordon Brown to succeed him, and that Brown "would make an excellent Prime Minister". When nominations for the leadership elections opened, Blair was one of those nominating Brown. From the start, most observers considered Brown the overwhelming favourite to succeed Blair; John McDonnell, his only challenger, failed to secure enough nominations in order to get onto the ballot, and conceded defeat. Brown received 313 (88.2%) nominations to McDonnell's 29 (8.2%), making it mathematically impossible for anyone other than Brown to be nominated.
The election process concluded with Brown being declared leader at a special conference on 24 June 2007. On 27 June, Blair resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and was succeeded by Brown.
If Brown had been opposed, Labour Party members would for the first time have directly elected a new Prime Minister.
John McDonnell and Gordon Brown were the only candidates as the election process began with the nominations round. In order to secure a place on the ballot paper, candidates needed to submit their nominations to the National Executive Committee (NEC) by 17 May, each supported by at least 12.5% of Labour MPs (45 Labour MPs, including the candidate themselves). Brown, the only successfully nominated candidate, was declared leader at a special Labour conference on 24 June 2007.
- Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, long the favourite candidate to succeed Tony Blair, received 313 nominations and was successfully nominated.
- John McDonnell, chair of the Socialist Campaign Group, pledged to merge Old Labour and New Labour into what he calls Real Labour, and to "save the Labour government from itself". He was hoping to get the backing of all those who had been backing Michael Meacher, but did not do so; with 29 nominations, he was 16 short of the minimum required number, and was not successfully nominated.
- Michael Meacher (withdrew on 14 May 2007), former Minister of State for the Environment, was a candidate but withdrew after failing to get enough nominations. On 27 April 2007, he and McDonnell announced that whichever of them had the support of fewer Labour MPs at the point of Tony Blair's resignation would withdraw from the campaign and support the other. On 10 May, they delayed their announcement because "levels of support for each were too close to call". Meacher gave his support to McDonnell on 14 May, but not all his supporters switched allegiance.
Nominations and result
|Gordon Brown||Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath||313||88.2%||Yes|
|John McDonnell||Hayes and Harlington||29||8.2%||No|
Only Gordon Brown attained over 45 nominations and was thus elected unopposed.
Suggested candidates who declined to run
During the months leading up to Tony Blair's resignation, media attention focused on a wide range of Labour politicians, most of whom publicly refused to stand:
- Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development, was touted as a possible candidate to succeed Blair. However, he backed Gordon Brown.
- Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary, had insisted he would stand if David Miliband did not, but later softened his position with praise for Brown, also saying that the Labour Party didn't have the appetite for a contest. He indicated that he would like to serve in a future Labour Cabinet; however, he was not offered any position, and went on to lose his seat in the subsequent general election in 2010.
- John Hutton, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, had said there should be a serious opponent to Brown, but on 6 May 2007 declared his support for Brown.
- Glenda Jackson, MP for Hampstead and Highgate and former transport minister, had repeatedly threatened to stand as a stalking horse candidate against Blair from 2005 onwards; however, she backed Brown for the leadership.
- Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Education. In autumn 2006, he was (alongside John Reid) being touted as one of very few serious contenders, but later backed Brown.
- Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, said that she would stand against Brown for the leadership as a leftwing candidate. However, she later backed John McDonnell.
- Alan Milburn ruled out standing for the Labour leadership on 11 May 2007, but previously had refused to rule it out.
- David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Speculation that he would be persuaded to stand was intense during spring 2007, including suggestions that Blair saw him as a possible successor. However, Miliband declined to stand, saying publicly that this had been his unwavering position for three years, and that he would vote for Brown.
- John Reid, Home Secretary, had said he would not reveal whether he would stand or not until there was a vacancy, but on 6 May announced he would be voting for Brown and had decided to leave the Cabinet along with Blair.
- Jack Straw, Leader of the House of Commons, announced on 25 March that he would be running Gordon Brown's leadership campaign. He was appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice in Brown's first cabinet.
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